The God of the Bible pays us the deepest compliment on our value and worth by engaging with us on a personal level, because God-composed journey of faith life-scripts are not easy, by necessity and design.
This is comparable to the universal experience of young children going to school, with all of its challenges but also with all of its eventual upside benefits.
The timeless foresight of God knows upfront that we are big enough to handle the challenges to be confronted within God- composed adventures of faith, long before our callings enlist us into the mission-plan destinies of our lives.
Not a single positive person of faith in the Bible quits or gives-up early before fulfilling the overall purpose of their calling.
God knows before we do that we are “man” or “woman” enough to persevere when the going gets tough, that believers encountering evil and suffering in their lives can press forward to be overcomers with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to help us, like Jesus was an overcomer in His uniquely targeted life-script.
But God also knows from eternity past that some aspects of the knowledge of good and evil are too difficult to divide and parse at their deepest subtleties, without some experiential examples actualized through life-events to provide illumination and understanding.
Simply stated, we need experiential data through actual life-events to provide the discerning judgment to close the gap between the limits of normal, everyday human wisdom and the farthest end-points of each of the broad array of moral concepts as divinely understood by God…at the top of the vertical spectrum-line of brilliant pure light and absolute goodness.
This is why in the biblical narrative stories of faith God displaces our ways with His higher ways (Isa. 55:8-9) through life-scripts we could not imagine or orchestrate.
And the God of the Bible is too virtuous and honorable to ask us to do something difficult through basic field research into unraveling the mysteries of good and evil, that He is not also willing to do Himself by first leading the way.
Solve this question of why the Creator God of the universe Jesus Christ is on a cross of crucifixion on Calvary Hill in first-century Jerusalem, and we will have partially come a long way towards figuring-out why there is evil and suffering in this world.
One standard answer satisfying biblical orthodoxy for why Jesus is on the cross is that He is the singularly unique, morally perfect Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for our sins.
But digging deeper, the research into the material workings of the natural world through scientific investigation is similar to the basic field research into the knowledge of good and evil through God-composed journeys of faith life-scripts as patterned for us in the Bible, because both research protocols are difficult to chart a navigational course that reaches absolute truth.
Some of the broad array of moral concepts extended-out to their end-points are too subtle for us to perfectly discern and parse, in the same way that the mysteries of life, death, gravity, energy, the independent decision-making of human thought, and time are currently too profound for us to perfectly unravel through the reach of normal scientific inquiry.
The realization that some realities require digging deeper than mere surface appearances, in both the physically material natural world and in the abstract, non-physical world of ideas and moral concepts, may be part of what is meant when Jesus is quoted as saying: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Jn. 8:32).
The remarkable thing about this statement by Jesus that the truth shall make us free, is that in another place in the gospels Jesus tells us that He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (Jn. 14:6).
We shall know the truth that shall make us free when we have Jesus in our lives, because He is the source of truth in every field of knowledge progressing forward in past centuries leading-up to today.
If there is a genuine God-of-the-gaps, it exists between the limits of human reasoning capacity as non-divine sentient beings, and the divine reasoning capacity of God.
This is evidenced through modern science today that reveals the easily discernable differences in the organized complexity in the workings of the natural world compared to the brilliant yet far simpler manufactured creations by human ingenuity.
The bottom-line lesson from modern science, philosophy, and biblical theology at the fundamental level of ultimate reality, may be that at every level of human existence we need to not impulsively jump at the first thing that sounds good on the surface, but to apply some amount of critical thinking and questioning, dig deeper, and research the facts whenever and as far as we can.
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden did not have to impulsively go with the option being presented by Satan in the beguiling, spiritually holographic apparition of a talking serpent.
They could have answered simply by saying that what was being proposed sounded appealing, but that they next wanted to dig deeper by asking God in person why He told them not to eat this fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The entire program behind the creation of this universe may be simply to provide an empirically experiential environment for human beings to discover that we need the divine expertise, wisdom, and knowledge of God as an active participant in our lives (Heb. 11:6)…and that pushing Him away in rebellious self-sovereignty leads to chaos and mayhem.
Jesus Christ is on the cross at Calvary because that is the one and only way for Him to extend justified immunity from condemnation for us, taking our place of punishment in divine non-rebellion for our obstinate rebellion, to be able to embark on a genuine research program into the knowledge of good and evil while inhabiting the earthen vessel (2 Cor. 4:7) of a fallen yet redeemed, imperfect moral nature.
Some skeptical atheists have referred to the cross and the resurrection as being petty.
This response to evil and suffering through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ is anything but petty.
There is more to reality than physically material things we study through science.
I would again submit here that the mere existence of this discussion over the origin and causation of evil and suffering being debated by intellectual and moral reasoning human beings, must argue for the existence of God outside of and transcendent above the matter and energy universe.
I would suggest that the question of why does God allow evil and suffering in this world, should be turned around to the question of how is it that there is exceptional goodness and brilliant virtue exhibited in human nature and in human history?
Can exceptional goodness and brilliant virtue immerge out of an environment that does not have evil and suffering?
How much evil and suffering would we choose to moderate if this also carried a corresponding reduction in the potential for exceptional goodness and brilliant virtue to actualize in response to evil and suffering?
It is part of Christian theological orthodoxy that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, displays absolute goodness at the highest imaginable level of intellectual and moral reality.
What quality of madness would eliminate through Roman crucifixion a person capable of multiplying a few small fish and loaves of bread to feed a multitude of people sitting on a hillside, or is capable of instantly calming a dangerous storm at sea?
What quality of poor judgment would eliminate through Roman crucifixion a person who is healing a large number of sick people in and around Jerusalem from serious illnesses, diseases, and physical injuries?
What degree of insanity would eliminate through orchestrating the crucifixion of a person who might otherwise be interviewed as to possible measures to improve international trade, or to even broker a deal with Rome that would lead to Jewish autonomy without going to war?
There is no stronger argument that evil and suffering are needed as factors in the equation of reality in this world, that the demonstration of the subtlety of parsing truth from error within the broad array of moral concepts requires discernment at an advanced level…than the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the capital city of Jerusalem in the first-century.
Jesus Christ on the cross not only provides for forgiveness of sins and the impunity to embark on a God sanctioned research program into the knowledge of good and evil, but equally important Jesus on the cross demonstrates in actualized empiricism what went wrong for human beings in the temptation in the Garden of Eden.
What is so dangerous about Satan in the holographic, spiritual form of a beautiful talking serpent, is that what he is asserting in this temptation in the Garden of Eden is partially true.
God does know that if we eat this fruit we shall become as junior gods knowing good and evil.
But this is a half-truth, placed somewhere between absolute light at the top of the vertical spectrum-line of moral goodness and absolute darkness at the bottom.
Satan as a fallen angel is not absolutely evil. There probably isn’t anything or anyone that is absolutely evil. Evil is a corruption of goodness, a degrading of brilliant pure light into lower shades of gray still having some measure of light.
At the outer limits of the broad array of moral concepts within the knowledge of good and evil, our discernment needs a booster shot of divine wisdom to be able to accurately parse and divide right from wrong, and truth from error.
This is the strongest rebuke to the false notion that we are capable of going it on our own according to the worldview of humanism, without the divine wisdom and council of God (Isa. 53:5-6), because we can be deceived by the false narratives of half-truths.
That the way, the truth, and the life…that the eternal Word of God is crucified at Calvary…tells us that the discernment of good versus evil is a component that needs addressing within the context of this world, if eternal life is to proceed through voluntary self-government by the personal choice of virtue rather than rebellion and chaos.
God does not want a kingdom for eternity wherein He has to impose virtue from without to keep everyone in check.
Virtue, like love, cannot be imposed by force. To have any meaning love has to be freely extended and reciprocated from one person to another.
Virtue stems from the highest form of self-imposed government wherein people voluntarily choose to do the right things, because they believe in virtue as the best possible way to live.
Nothing illuminates the need for people of good-will to know the truth that will set us free than the utter human failure of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
This is an excerpt from my book Pondering Our World: Christian Essays on Science and Faith.