Why didn't God do it better?

One of the frequent challenges that comes to us is the question "if God created the creation, why did He not do a better job?" People look at the world around them and they see a lot wrong with it. Babies are born with birth defects, people die tragically of cancer, leukemia, and a variety of genetic diseases over which they have no control, earthquakes kill thousands of innocent people, people battle depression, loneliness, all kinds of mental illnesses and disorders, drought, insect infestations, war, things like September 11--the list is endless. The little girl on our cover radiates the pain that is all around us. Why did not God create an earth where so many bad things and so much misery and pain could simply not happen?

We have sometimes stated the words of a teacher (whose name has been lost) in the past in this journal who said, "If I can know the mind of God, then God isn't God." Anyone who claims to have all the answers is a person to stay away from, and we certainly have no interest in attempting to pretend to be God in this article. The fact is, however, that even with our limited human wisdom we can see answers to the questions about why God created the cosmos as we see it, and why man's lot is what it is.

Natural disasters are not evil or a failure of God. One of the problems man has in understanding why the world is the way it is revolves around our ignorance. Mankind has been very slow to recognize the dynamics of the planet on which we live, and how processes operate on the earth. A classic example of this is the earthquake. An earthquake causes massive damage to humans and can result in extreme losses of life. The fact is, however, that earthquakes are a part of the processes that keep the earth living and suitable for life. Land masses wear down with time. Rain, snow, freezing, heating, glaciers, landslides, and other products of gravity wear down the land. If there was not a method that lifted the land to replenish the worn away parts, it would be a relatively short time before all land on the earth would be under water. Because the earth is liquid inside, land is constantly being lifted to replace the land that is worn down. Places like California actually are going up by these forces, and that allows life to flourish and prosper. Volcanoes do the same thing; but in addition, they add new elements and nutrients to the earth, making plant growth accelerate and the food chain to be sustained.

Man's problem is that rather than understand these processes as natural and beneficial, man has tended to worship these forces and ignore the common sense lessons all around him. If you build your house in the mouth of a volcano you have no complaint when it erupts. Man has continued to ignore the warnings of nature and the lessons of the past and the results are frequently catastrophic to man. There have actually been cases where humans have pumped fluid materials into faults in the earth's crust, precipitating earthquakes. Draining wetlands, building huge structures that alter climate, and placing massive structures over fault zones in the earth have also resulted in tragedy for humans.

When God placed man upon the earth, one of the things that God told man was to take care of the earth--to dress it and keep it (see Genesis 2:15). A part of that is not to abuse the earth, but to use it wisely and carefully so that man can be at peace with his environment. Western civilization has all too frequently allowed greed and selfishness to be the guiding force, rather than a love for what God has created and a desire to take care of it and live at peace with it.

Man's effects on nature are not the fault of God. Closely related to the beneficial nature of things in nature that may be considered to be disasters by man is the fact that frequently man is the cause of things that are blamed on God. It is a major irritation to me to hear the news media refer to a flood as "an act of God." The problem is that almost all floods are due to the acts of man. It is man who has paved thousands of acres of dirt making it so that water cannot soak in. It is man who has drained wetlands, straightened rivers, and built shoddy containment structures that can fail.

Floods are just one of countless areas where the acts of mankind are being understood as the cause or at least the catalyst of things that bring huge pain and problems to mankind. Cancer is now known to be caused to a huge extent by man-made carcinogens in the environment. These same agents are a major cause of birth defects. Alcohol, smoking, and drug use are major contributors to mental problems and physical problems in children.

Even man's behavior is a major cause of pain to mankind as a whole. In 41 years of teaching, I worked with many children who had severe behavioral problems, and a massive percentage of them were kids who had sexual abuse, neglect, and verbal abuse at home. There can be no question but that sexual abuse is a major contributor to aberrant sexual behavior. "Why did God make me this way?" is a question I have heard many times in working with people with behavioral problems. Almost universally it has become obvious that what they are is a product of human activity, not because they were programmed to be something they do not like. This also is a part of the global human suffering issue. It is a sad fact that much of the world's population goes to bed hungry every night. The problem is not that there is a deficiency in the earth's design that is producing a shortage of food. If the money spent on military preparation by all of the earth's people for one week was put into the production of potable water for the earth's people, the food shortage would be over. Once again it is man with his greed, selfishness, desire for political power, and stupidity that is the cause of hunger--not the failure of God's system.

The purpose of man's existence is a major factor. Any attempt to understand why God has functioned as He has in the affairs of man has to include a recognition of why we are here. Man is not here for physical, national, political, or sexual reasons. The purpose of man's existence is connected to the struggle between good and evil. It is interesting that we see and accept some version of this in almost everything we do. Science fiction writers and novelists have built their fantasies and stories around the theme that there is an ongoing struggle between good and evil. In film programs like Star Wars, evil is portrayed in the most negative and menacing way possible--seen especially in the construction of Darth Vader. Stephen King is a master of portraying this struggle in a way that captivates the reader. Almost all literature and theater have a good guy versus bad guy theme, which basically is a version of the good versus evil theme.

In the real world the struggle between good and evil is not entertaining to normal stable people. The role of God in the creation of the physical universe is spelled out biblically, but also makes sense on a logical level as well. Evil is not a created thing, but a consequence of the existence of good and love. In order for there to be good, there has to be the absence of good which is evil. In order for there to be love, there has to be the absence of love. Evil in and of itself has no force, but when creatures who are free moral agents choose evil the results of evil come to fruition. The reason for God creating free moral agents who can choose between good and evil is so that love can exist. Love is not possible unless there is choice. If you doubt that, ask yourself what sexual love is without choice? The answer of course is that it is rape, and it has nothing to do with love. It is the malicious, deliberate, abusive exploitation of another human being.

We may not understand all of the reasons why God has created beings of free moral choice but the capacity to love and to have love in the cosmos is certainly one of them. The Bible tells us that angels have sinned (2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6, etc.). The Bible also tells us that there is a war going on between the forces of evil and the forces of God (good) throughout all of existence. In Ephesians 6:12, we read:

For our fight is not against any physical enemy but against principalities, powers, and against the rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil (Phillips translation).

Similar messages are given in Ephesians 3:9-11 and in the book of Job.

God's creation of man and man's purpose in existing is spelled out for us in Job 1 and 2, and the remainder of the book gives us a chance to watch humans struggle with this issue. There are a number of points made in the book of Job that are interesting to consider:

1) It is not God who brings the problems into Job's life, but Satan. God does not interfere with what happens so that Job can express his human makeup by making a free moral choice, but God is not the one that persecutes Job. We can take Job's name out of the book of Job and we can put our name in place of it, because we are serving the same role that Job did.

2) God does place limits on what can be done to Job. There is a protective element to God's relationship to Job in which Job is protected from certain kinds of abuse. We are also told that there are limits as to what Satan will be able to do to us. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God will always provide a way out for the temptations that Satan brings to us that might threaten us at a level we cannot endure.

3) Our purpose in existence will become more clear as we get closer to the end of our lives and see things worked out. In Job 42:5, Job looks back at all of the things that he has experienced and he says Lord, before all of these things had happened to me, "I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee." Job came to understand his purpose in existing, and he saw that his problems and losses were part of the cosmic struggle between good and evil. We serve that same purpose and function in very much the same way that Job did. The more you see of life, the more you see the battle carried out. The forces of evil can do monstrously horrible things, but ultimately through even the worst of situations good things come out and positive things emerge.

4) God's actions are always consistent with the purposes He has in the creation. It is not logical to expect God to interfere with things that would violate the purposes of His creation. It is also illogical to expect God to prevent the promises that He has made from being carried out. God has told us "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7). God has also promised us "It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment." Many times we feel that God should not allow a death, or should not allow the logical consequences of our actions individually and collectively to take place.

Cover of book, Timothy--My Son and TeacherIt is true that innocent people get hurt as evil things run their course. Can we expect God to prevent a drunk from driving into a crowd? When a mother smokes, drinks, has promiscuous sex, and similar activities can we expect God to prevent the unborn child from suffering from that behavior? I am the adoptive father of a child born with multiple birth defects due to exactly this kind of scenario, and I have struggled with the pain I have seen my son experience (The book is available from Does God Exist?). It is not always easy but it is not inconsistent with the purposes and nature of God.

The challenge that God has done a bad job in the creation is a challenge rooted in ignorance of why we exist. We will never have full understanding on this side of the grave, and I certainly would not view this article as answering all the questions. The fact is, however, that even in our limited abilities, we can see that there are reasons for what happens in the world. When you look at all the good, all the love, all the beauty, and all the promise that we do see in the world we can still glorify God as a wonderful creator who has created with purpose, beauty, wonder, and intelligence. The very fact that we have a purpose in existing lends support to our belief in God and our praise of Him in the creation of all we see.

--John N. Clayton

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