If the world we live in is imperfect today, can we say that it was ever once perfect? Can something be considered perfect if it has the potential to become imperfect? Wouldn’t true perfection permeate all of time and space? Did God create an imperfect world then? Is God responsible for the imperfection in the world? Or is humanity responsible for the brokenness of God’s creation? If I were to create an artificial intelligence indistinguishable from a human, give it the potential to do evil, and then watch while it did indeed do evil, who would then be considered ultimately responsible for that evil, the AI or me?
Why did God create a world in which living organisms must devour one another in order to survive? Why not give every species of life photosynthetic abilities so that no lives need be destroyed? Was this circle of life and death part of God’s plan from the beginning? Did God intend for death to be an integral aspect of the world he created?
But if death didn’t exist, wouldn’t the world become uncomfortably overpopulated in a very short amount of time? Or would life just not reproduce? How then would life adapt and evolve? Wasn’t the very evolution of humanity predicated on the existence of death and reproduction? Why then is the defeat of death so integral to the Christian message, if death is in part the means by which God brings about new life? Are we done evolving? Did we reach a certain branch of the evolutionary tree at which point God decided to cease the evolution of life?
And at what point in our evolutionary history did we become special agents of God? At what point in evolutionary history did God decide to place an eternal soul within humanity? Was there one Homo erectus mother who gave birth to an eternal soul-bearing child who would survive its own death, while its mother would die and cease to exist just like any other animal? Or was there a sort of gradient of soul evolution? If so, how much of those with primitively-evolved souls will be resurrected in the New Creation? Or what fraction of their “selves” are in heaven or hell right now? Was this evolution of life and of eternal beings all part of God’s plan, meaning that death and suffering were also integral facets of God’s plan?
If God created time and stands outside of time, then isn’t God essentially always seeing the same thing? If God created the universe while seeing the entirety of time and space of this creation, then didn’t God essentially create every single circumstance and event that ever happened or will happen in the universe? Hasn’t it all been there in the mind of God for all of eternity?
Why then would God create a world with so much unnecessary pain and suffering? Why would God create a world where famine, plague, disease, and natural disaster ever occur? Why wouldn’t God, upon creating the universe, ensure that sin would never have the potential to be invented or come into the heart of humanity? If the “New Creation” is the end goal, why didn’t God just start with this new creation, thereby avoiding the pain and tragedy of a “fallen” world?
I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things.
Could a perfect being create calamity? Is God responsible for evil? When we say that God is good, what measure are we using to define good? Isn’t God the one who defines what is good or bad? So can God theoretically do anything, and through the very fact that such an action was performed by God make that action good? Could God condone and command genocide, rape, and murder and claim those things to be good by the fact that God himself is the standard for what is good or bad?
And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.
1 Samuel 15:11a
Does God ever have regrets or change his mind? Would a perfect being ever regret its own actions? Can a being who exists outside of time possibly hold a different opinion at one point in time than at another point in time? Could a being outside of time possibly have a changing temperament? Can a being outside of time ever change in any manner whatsoever? Isn’t the concept of change itself only sensible within the framework of time?
But how can an unchanging being ever be in relationship with anything else? Doesn’t a relationship require a dynamic interaction between two or more entities? How can two things relate statically? How can a static entity relate to a dynamic one? How can a dynamic entity relate to a static one? Do we relate to God like an animal relates to the pond it drinks from? Is God just a stagnant well of sustenance? Is this the sum of our relationship with God? How then does God relate to us? How would a pond relate to an animal drinking from it?
How can two sentient beings relate if one is unchanging in temperament and knows everything that the other will ever do? Doesn’t a true and perfect relationship require the joy of being surprised by the one with which you are in relationship, and the ability to react and respond to them?
And how does prayer fit into all of this? What is the purpose of prayer? Is it to petition God to intercede in the world? Would that mean that without your prayer God may act differently than he would with your prayer? If so, would that mean that God’s mind can be changed by prayer? But if God’s mind can be changed, then doesn’t that require that God be in some sense bound by time, since change is explicitly dependent on time? Or did God know that you were going to pray that prayer from the moment he created the universe, and as such has “always” been interceding at that moment in history? If this is the case, then how much free will do we really have, if every one of our actions is already set in stone in the mind of God?
And is this sort of prayer really trustworthy? If you are choking and given a choice between the Heimlich Maneuver or prayer, which one would you opt for? If you are sick with a bacterial infection and given the choice between modern antibiotics or prayer, which one would you opt for? If a starving child is given the choice between being prayed for or being given a loaf of bread, which one do you think this child would choose? Why do we look to prayer most often when something is out of our control, but take matters into our own hands when things are within our control? Is it because we are able to produce more effective results through our own efforts than through prayer?
Or is prayer just for the purpose of communing with God and allowing that to transform us and shape our character for the better? Is God that sort of unceasing, unchanging, unaffected spring of renewal that we drink from periodically for our own sake? Do we sing praises to God purely for our own sake, if indeed God is static and unchanging? Do we give glory to God purely for our own sake, if indeed God cannot be affected by our actions?
But isn’t the Bible pretty clear on the fact that the actions of humanity do affect God? Isn’t the Bible clear on the fact that God’s temperament can change as a result of human choice? But how can this be if God is seeing all of time at once? If God is outside of time, how can he change temperament from one moment to the next? Isn’t there only a single unchanging moment outside of time? How can one become pleased, grieved, or angry outside of time? Wouldn’t God always be all, some, or none of those things at once, if indeed God exists outside of time?
But would God be God if God were to be bound by time? Would God be God if God didn’t know everything that was going to happen in the future? Would God be God if God were not all-powerful and in control? Would God be God if God made mistakes, had regrets, and created an imperfect universe that he had to then work to correct course? Are we more like God than we think?
Or does God simply limit himself in order to be able to relate to our limited minds? Does God step into time in some sense and thereby become capable of change? Didn’t God limit himself and come to earth in the form of a man? Didn’t Jesus the man exist within the bounds of time? Wasn’t the creator of the universe tortured and put to death at the hands of humanity? Was that the same all-powerful God who exists outside of time? Was this an effort on God’s part to reveal his nature to humanity? Is this the picture of God that God wants us to have? Is a helpless God nailed to a cross a more accurate representation of God than what the Jewish scriptures indicated?
And why did Jesus die on the cross? Was Jesus a ransom payment to Satan to free humanity from Satan’s clutches? Why would the creator of the universe need to go to such lengths to free humanity from its slavery to Satan? Why not just destroy Satan with a snap of God’s fingers? Why couldn’t Aslan have slayed the White Witch immediately and thereby freed Edmund and all of Narnia, rather than sacrificing himself in Edmund’s place, coming back to life, and then killing the White Witch? Why did Aslan allow the White Witch to control Narnia to begin with? Is it because it would have made for a rather uninteresting story otherwise? Or is God bound by some law that requires certain legal transactions to accomplish certain things? Why did God even create Satan in the first place? Is all this really the good news of the Gospel?
Did Jesus defeat death and evil when he rose from the dead? Is this why he died? Why is there still death and evil? Was it merely a process of defeating death and evil that Jesus put into motion? Would the God of the universe need to come to earth, die, and come back to life in order to defeat death and evil? Why not just speak the words and make it so? And why create a world to begin with in which death and evil were even remote possibilities? Isn’t death essential for the evolution of life? Is all this the good news of the Gospel?
Was Jesus the ultimate atoning sacrifice before God so that we would no longer have to make animal sacrifices to atone for our sins? Is the Christian story really a story of a violent human sacrifice meant to appease an angry God? Wasn’t Jesus himself God? Did God sacrifice himself to himself to appease himself? Did the benevolent creator of the universe take out his simmering wrath on his son so that he wouldn’t have to do so on humanity? Is that the good news of the Gospel?
Did Jesus die to take the penalty for our sin so that we could be forgiven of our sin and therefore wouldn’t have to die? Is such a transaction just? Would a just God punish the innocent and let the guilty go free? And considering Jesus rose from the dead three days later, was this punishment really all that significant for Jesus to take on? Why did Jesus need to come back to life if it was just about taking our due penalty? And if death is the penalty for sin, and only humans are capable of sin, then why was there death before the evolution of Homo sapiens? And if Jesus had to die in order for God to forgive us, isn’t that missing the point of forgiveness? If you forgive someone’s debt only after another has paid it, is that really true forgiveness? And must we all additionally accept this truth in order to actually be forgiven? Is forgiveness so conditional? Is this the good news of the Gospel?
Or was Jesus the sort of symbolic Adam-made-perfect, succeeding where Adam failed? Was Jesus the start of God’s plan to reconcile his creation to himself? If so, why wait till then? Why not do so the minute humanity turned from God? Is God just playing one big game with humanity? Is this the good news of the Gospel?
Or was Jesus simply meant to influence the world in a positive moral sense? Is the concept of God coming and dwelling and suffering with humanity supposed to be the source of radical inspiration that would spark moral transformation and progress for humanity? Did God really succeed with this? Why not do this sooner and prevent all of the suffering that occurred at the hands of the morally delinquent before Jesus came to earth? Why create a world in which there was the possibility of even needing such a “fix” to creation at all? Did God really make a mistake and use Jesus as the fix? Is that the good news of the Gospel?
Was Jesus a combination of all or some of these things? Was Jesus “necessary” for God in some sense? Does it stand to reason that God would “need” anything? Wasn’t Jesus himself God? Would God need himself as a man on earth? Was Jesus “necessary” to humanity then? If Jesus was supposed to be the “fix” for humanity, why do we still see so much evil, pain, and needless suffering in the world? If the work on the cross was simply the seed planted for a long ongoing work of God, is that really the most optimal way for God to restore his creation? Does God work in painfully slow ways, across millions of years, while conscious creatures suffer continuously? Is that the good news of the Gospel?
Is the Bible itself even clear on what the Gospel is? Is the fact that there are over 40,000 Christian denominations in the world any indication of how trustworthy the Bible is? Can a book that is so wildly open to interpretation be taken to be the “literal” Word of God? Does the fact that God commands, condones, or enacts murder, rape, or genocide raise some concern about the truth of the Bible? Can we be sure that the humans involved in compiling the Bible, whether the Catholic or Protestant Bible, did so without the interference of their fallible nature? Can we be sure that the humans involved in writing the Bible didn’t misunderstand the nature of God, humanity, or the cosmos?
And does it stand to reason that because the Bible claims to be God-breathed that it actually is God-breathed? Does God-breathed even translate to inerrant? Isn’t the entire universe God-breathed? And haven’t we well-established that this God-breathed creation is so evidently fallible? Can’t certain actions or works of art be “God-breathed” or divinely inspired, while still being subject to human fallibility and errancy? In any case, wasn’t this verse referring specifically to the Jewish scriptures, considering the New Testament hadn’t been compiled or even written at that time?
And why would God use a book that is open to any level of interpretation as the means by which to communicate his perfect word, will, and nature? Why couldn’t God reveal himself to everyone in a way so explicit that no one would be able to deny his existence? Why isn’t God dwelling with us at this very moment in a way no one could possibly deny? Is it because sin separates us from God and so God cannot dwell with us, lest sin be consumed in his presence? Is it because God cannot stand to be in the presence of sin? Is sin such a great offense to God? But didn’t Jesus stand in the presence of sin, all the while freely forgiving sin? Didn’t Jesus eat and drink with sinners? Wasn’t Jesus God in the flesh?
Are humans responsible for sin because of free will? Did God give us free will because a relationship requires freedom? But is sin really a choice? Isn’t it within our very nature to sin? Is there anyone who doesn’t miss the mark to some degree? Has anyone since Adam had the perfectly free choice to not sin? Is it just on God’s part that every human suffer as a consequence of one man’s transgression?
Is sin instead a sort of involuntary sickness that has infected humanity? Is Jesus supposed to be the cure for this sickness? Is God the Great Physician rather than the judge? How did we acquire this sickness? Why did God allow us to acquire it? Why didn’t the Great Physician develop a vaccine against sin in order to prevent the sin epidemic altogether? If God is the creator of all, is God not ultimately responsible for human sin? Are we perhaps not responsible for the nature that was given to us?
And can free will even exist from a physics or scientific standpoint? If any muscle contraction is caused by electrical impulses traveling from the brain to the cells of that muscle, then what starts the initial propagation of this electrical signal in the brain? Don’t Newton’s laws of motion state that anything at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force? In order for an ion to move and start this propagation of an electrical signal from the brain, doesn’t an electromagnetic force have to act on it? And wouldn’t an electromagnetic force have to originate from some other physical entity in the brain?
What and where is the “I” that is supposedly controlling my actions? How does this “self” manipulate the physical contents of my brain, causing me to clench my fist or to open my mouth? Isn’t every living organism made of cells simply performing what they’ve been programmed to perform according to natural selection by way of the laws of physics? Isn’t my entire body just one unfathomably complex biological machine governed by the laws of physics? Or did God somehow intervene in the evolutionary process to insert free will into human biology? Was this at the same time God implanted an eternal soul into humanity? Do non human animals have any degree of free will then? Are they simply machines governed by physics?
Why is it that we always consider humanity to be the special form of life, made in the very image of God? Is it perhaps because we ourselves are human? Wouldn't a horse imagine God to have the likeness of a horse, could a horse imagine such a thing? Is it through the blindness of our own arrogance and wishful thinking that we suppose we are of special interest to the creator of the universe?
Are we not a single species of primates inhabiting a speck of dust, orbiting a rather insignificant star, in one corner of a galaxy that is only one amongst hundreds of billions of galaxies within a universe that at the speed of light would take at least 92 billion years to cross?
Are we not a single life form that has only inhabited the world for roughly 0.0007% of the universe’s history?
Isn’t the average human lifespan only 0.0000005% of the universe’s history?
Does it matter that the percentage of the universe that is actually inhabitable by humans is just 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000003%?
Are we not incomprehensibly insignificant on such a scale?
How does one reconcile all of this with the Christian worldview?