If all meanings are fixed, then ambiguous meanings are not meaningful at all. To eternalism, any potential nebulosity of meaning looks like non-existence of meaning. Any morality that is not black-and-white is just immorality; any life-purpose that is not ordained in the Cosmic Plan is aimless wandering; any uncertainty about who you are is intolerable.
In other words, to eternalism, every other stance appears to be nihilism, more-or-less. Nihilism actually is harmful and wrong—eternalism is right about that. If nihilism were truly the only alternative, perhaps eternalism would be the least bad choice. That is a main part of its appeal.
Increasingly many Westerners have abandoned organized religion, but surprisingly few say they are atheists. They may say “I don’t believe in God, exactly, not as a person, but I believe in something—maybe you could say a higher power, or the universe as a whole, or maybe it’s love—it doesn’t really matter what you call it.”1
I think what they are trying to say is that they believe meaning is real; and I think they are right. Theirs is a relatively sophisticated stance: nihilism is wrong, and so are God-based religious systems. But it’s not true that, for meaning to be real, it has to be fixed in place by some other eternal ordering principle.
I will deliver good news: there is a third alternative that includes what’s right about both eternalistic religion and nihilism; avoids the errors of both; is conceptually coherent; and is workable as a way of life.