Board index Natural Disasters

Volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes—and their place in human suffering

Why did things need to be created the way they are?

Postby Jeff » Sun Apr 24, 2016 3:56 pm

Why did things need to be created the way they are? Why could God not have created a world where we truly, truly had free will yet there was no evil? As we know it right now, in order for there to be free will, there must be both Good and Bad. Why did that need to be the reality created?

Re: Why did things need to be created the way they are?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Jun 28, 2016 8:13 pm

EXCELLENT QUESTION! It’s so good, in fact, that I’m going to give you a long answer. You may want to read it in stages, but I want to be thorough. It’s a fantastic question, and I want to do it justice.

I’m going to answer in four aspects:

1. Free will
2. Problem of evil
3. theodicy
4. dynamic world

Some of this I may have already said, but I want it all in one place for you to read, so there may be some repeats. I would say as an overview: This is the best possible world. Let me explain.

FREE WILL. First of all, our ability as human beings to reason is grounded in free will. Reasoning involves deciding if something is true or credible by equating it to the reality to which it refers, then comparing it with competing ideas, and finally choosing which idea best fits reality. Without free will and the legitimate ability to choose, the role of reason itself in any intellectual discipline is suspect—there is no mechanism for evaluating information and deciding on plausibility. Without free will, then, science itself is an illusion, all conversations are meaningless, and our thoughts are unreliable. Our lives are irredeemably incoherent.

We study our natural world (the sciences) as if self-awareness, self-direction, and reason are real. We can evaluate that there are realities outside of ourselves that we can observe and draw true conclusions about. The notion of truth takes us beyond mere biological determinism, which is only concerned with survival (food, flight, fight, and reproduction). We act as if we honestly believe that we can ask "what if..." questions, assess the possibilities, make authentic decisions, and conclude truth. All of these are evidences of free will, reason, and objective truth, all of which show that we live and function as if these things are real, reliable, and even have a facet to them that could be considered "true."

Second, without free will, the characteristics that most make us human are impossible: love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and kindness, to name a few. If I have no choice but to love you, it’s not love at all. Love requires the will to choose. If the only reason I forgive you is because I have no other alternative, then I have not forgiven you at all, but only followed an irresistible force. Without free will, I am a determined animal, perhaps even robotic, but I am not human.

Third, without free will there is no such thing as justice. I can neither find nor enforce justice in a court of law if there is no self-direction, either on the criminal’s part (he can’t be held accountable if he was determined to do it) or on the judge’s part (he can’t make a rational decision if there is no such thing).

One cannot have free will without self-direction, one cannot have self-direction without self-awareness, and one cannot have self-awareness without consciousness. The evidences are convincing that we have all these things. I have consciousness, therefore I am self-aware, and therefore I am self-directed. Both reason and experience tell us these things are so. Everything about humanity and reason point to the necessity of free will.

There is no better choice than to invest humankind with free will.

THE PROBLEM OF EVIL. But if I honestly have free will, I must have a legitimate choice for good as for bad, because if I am restricted to only the good, it’s not free will at all. For free will to be free will, when I compare competing ideas, I must be just as eligible to choose wrongly as rightly, or I do not have free will. For science and reason to be real, there must always be the potential for error and wrong. To take away the possibility of evil is also to steal away all the good.

But even the possibility of evil is not strong enough to deter giving humans free will, because, as any surgeon will tell you, pain and suffering are sometimes necessary to produce morally good results. It’s just not true that real good always works to eliminate evil as far as it can. The pain is part of the good a surgeon does, and one can’t eliminate the pain without eliminating the benefit. So “good” and “pain” (suffering; evil) are not automatically contradictory. God can be perfectly good and still allow evil to exist. That our ability to choose includes the reality of suffering and evil makes our ability to choose even more important, because we can even at times choose to suffer if we expect a greater good as a result (surgery, for instance). But beyond surgery, we all know that nothing worthwhile is easy and involves some detriment to accomplish the benefit. This is the best choice for achieving true moral good in the world (for true morality is also grounded in choice, not coercion).

THEODICY. What would a world look like where God stopped all evil, pain and suffering? Why doesn’t God at least stop evil from happening? It's most likely a common thought that we want God to stop all kinds of things. OK, so God can’t possibly have created without evil, as I said before, so why doesn't he at least use his power to stop it? God should stop every random act that would cause harm, pain, or hurt, should stop every act of every person that would have a negative effect, should stop every thought that would result in a harmful action, should stop every disease, should stop every problem.

If he did that we would have no more too hot, never too cold, no illnesses, no mean thoughts, no harsh words, no anger, and no unpleasantries. Any hand raised to strike another would be frozen in place, or God would purge the thought so the hand wouldn’t be raised. It could never rain when anyone planned a picnic. It could never be too cold for our planned day at the zoo, because that would cause bad attitudes, disappointment, and suffering. What are we left with here? First of all, there would be no more science, because there is no cause and effect. Everything but everything would be unpredictable. There would be no more reason, because nothing would really make sense. We would just walk around, doing our business, greeting each other with smiles. There wouldn’t be any love, because you have to CHOOSE love for it to be real and meaningful. There wouldn’t be any real relationships because we’d all be sappy to each other all the time. This is a pretty lousy world I’m thinking of, and not real. In ways it may be preferable to a world of suffering, but in ways lacking in some of life’s most treasured realities. I’m not sold on a world without suffering. Maybe I’m thinking too shallow, but it just doesn’t make sense to me. That’s not a world. That’s not life. I just can’t get around it.

By my understandings, God created the only possible world that could be created, and then he entered that world to redeem the things that by necessity had to be there but were undesirable. He doesn’t stop them, because it would deprive us of life, ultimately. So instead he offers redemption in the midst of it, or after it. He offers us life on another level, and that’s something He CAN do. It’s the only choice He has, and to be fair He offers it freely to all.

I think you would admit that the natural world is dynamic, with a large number of systems that interact, balance, and even depend on each other. Some exhibit characteristics more like chaos (though that is a scientific category of a dynamical system) and other more like order and purpose. It is within these two categories that natural systems cause what you seem to regard as natural evil.

Have you ever tried to balance a broom handle on the palm of your hand? You can do it for a while, but eventually something (distraction, wind, your movements) causes it to become less stable, and it falls. This principle was posited by a meteorologist in the late 60s, who wrote a paper titled, "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wing in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?" This thought was so important, we now know it as the Butterfly Effect. Even if we had delicate sensors in every square foot of the globe and its atmosphere, we would still not be able to reliably (100%) predict the weather. The "Butterfly Effect" would always be present.

Our world seems to manifest a huge number of interacting chaos systems: weather patterns, electrical impulses, the firing pattern of neurons in the brain, ecosystems, etc. And they behave occasionally in wild ways (the Zika virus). And they result in natural evil: drought, earthquakes, volcanoes, disease.

Should God stop all of that? I contend that a dynamic world in which free creatures can exercise genuine creativity, thereby bringing about truly novel effects, is a better world than a static world. A consequent corollary is that God would want to crate a dynamic world. For instance, since both our circulatory system and nervous system are beneficial chaotic systems, there is strong empirical evidence to say that dynamical systems are beneficial to life. The heart can recover from occasion arrhythmias; our brains can recover from some injuries. In addition, if the brain were static, creativity wouldn't be possible. If the natural system were just linear and status, natural processes (trees, snowflakes, clouds, shorelines, faces) couldn't produce novel outcomes.

Hopefully you can see that while God might have created a static world of nonlinear dynamical systems, eliminating all reason, creativity, and scientific inquiry, and he might have created a world where his sovereignty overrode all possibilities of evil, also overriding all possibilities of good, this would not be a desirable world. Natural science, engineering, and education would be vapid, courage and excitement would be absent. Careful structural design would be meaningless (no earthquake or tornado would ever be allowed to hit a building, and God would stop any building from ever collapsing on a person). Medical arts wouldn't exist, since disease would never harm or kill.

Therefore, God cannot make a dynamical world in which natural evil can't occur. It's self-contradictory, and ultimately intensely undesirable as a form of existence.

Add to all this the profound truth that adversity builds character. People grow significantly through serious traumas, and psychologists agree with Scripture that there can be profound benefits to personal tragedy. Tragedy leads to courage, evil leads to spiritual awakening, and pain motivates us to both cure and compassion. As a matter of fact, our goodness and morality as humans depends on overcoming life’s struggles. It is these situations precisely that cause growth of character. In a world where all might be pleasure and ease, where would we ever learn kindness, forgiveness, grace, love, joy, peace, patience, and goodness? We have these qualities because we must respond to sin and suffering. Perseverance is only possible where there is a impediment to overcome; courage is only developed where there is danger; forgiveness is only necessary where a wrong has been committed, and so also for patience, love, mercy, self-sacrifice, faith, and hope.

In a world devoid of suffering, the greatest human achievements of the sciences, arts, culture and civilization would never have some. Without obstacles, where would be medicine, science, law, criminal justice, construction, personal growth, morality and character? These benefits are all Scriptural teachings: James 1.2-4; 1 Peter 1.6-7; Romans 5.3-4; 8.17, 18; 1 Peter 4.13.

I’m arguing that God created the best possible world. In addition, all of these things were necessary for us to carry the image of God. As bearers of His image, we must by necessity have free will, experience true love, exercise compassion and forgiveness, know reason (sciences, math, arts, etc.), validly observe cause and effect, engage in genuine relationships, and have souls!

It’s not possible to have free will, but not be allowed to choose freely. It’s not possible to have true goodness and morality without the presence of evil and suffering. A world without the negative realities would also of necessity abandon all goodness.

In conclusion, some may wonder, “Then how is heaven possible?” It is possible because after I chosen the good, God can grant a world of good without interfering with my free will. It is possible because once my character has been completely sanctified by Christ on the basis of my choices, the abolition of suffering is possible because it is not longer needed to produce character in me. None of this could have been possible ahead of time, but only by process, choice, and new creation based on the redemptive work of Christ, salvation, faith, sanctification, and glorification.

Sorry so long. Feel free to respond.

Last bumped by Anonymous on Tue Jun 28, 2016 8:13 pm.
Site Admin
Posts: 5814
Joined: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:28 pm

Return to Natural Disasters

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest