One of the universally puzzling questions facing all of mankind from the dawn of human history, is why is there evil and suffering in this world.
This question overlaps into science, philosophy, and religion because it intersects with the pursuit of human beings to discover purpose and meaning in the universe and in our lives.
Evil and suffering are puzzling because they are totally at odds with the human inner drive to seek life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…being the major impediments that seemingly spoil this pursuit of happiness.
Do away with evil and suffering, and we naturally think that an ideal paradise on earth is within reach.
Why then would God allow evil and suffering to exist in this world, if He is able to prevent them?
More broadly within the scope of a book on science and Christian faith, if modern science today is revealing an Intelligent Designing Agent this precise in crafting the natural world, then if God’s main response to the evil and suffering in this world is to merely compose life-scripts and orchestrate journeys of faith that do not altogether remove evil and suffering, then this seemingly partial solution needs explaining.
If the response by the God of the Bible is to initiate research programs into the knowledge of good and evil as articulated in this book, now better understood through the lens of the modern scientific method, this still leaves the common complaint that if God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere, why then doesn’t He remove evil and suffering?
The argument that the presence of evil and suffering renders God weak and incapable of providing an entirely safe and optimized environment for humans, presupposes that there is not a more important, underlying reason for God allowing evil and suffering to exist on the earth.
The straightforward approach in all avenues of inquiry in science, philosophy, and theology is to dig deeper for some answers.
The biblically honest answer starts by saying that of course the God of the Bible allows evil and suffering to exist in this world.
Then the question is why?
This is a topic that deservedly comes up in every existence-of-God discussion, and should be addressed head-on at the beginning of this book.
One simplistic answer understood by everyone is the reason why parents teach their young children to look both ways before safely crossing the street.
There is an existing reality of the dependent relationship between mature adults who possess the survival information about this world, and developing young children who do not.
The reality of the facts possessed by the mature adults is that the residential streets abutting houses and schools have automobile traffic that poses a danger to uninformed young children.
Looking both ways before safely crossing the street does not apply unless there are automobiles, buses, and trucks driving down the street.
We could make streets, highways, and major freeways safe for children to play on tomorrow if today we eliminated all cars, trucks, and buses from existence, inaugurating walking as the sole means of travel.
But we do not choose to do this because of the positive utility of cars, trucks, and buses for travel, and assume the risk that somewhere a young child will run out into the street chasing after a ball without first looking for cars, and get hit.
Another simplistic answer is that my first bicycle had additional “training wheels” on each side of the rear tire to prevent me from falling over sideways, but I can still remember coasting down our gradually sloping driveway without knowing yet how to use the brakes to stop, with my father chasing after me to catch me before I ran into the garage door.
The training wheels thankfully kept my bicycle upright, but someone in-the-know had to show me how the brakes worked.
A simplistic, starting explanation universally known around the world in every family having young children, and every school having children of all ages, and even on college campuses, is that younger people need adults to supply the information to help them grow into adulthood.
Age, experience, and knowledge give adults the basic position of authority to beneficially pass along to younger people the human do’s-and-do-not’s…being a role that no one else can perform…in a world that has at its extreme edges the potential danger for right and wrong outcomes, and for good and evil to take place.
This is a basic and universal concept that everyone understands.
But we can extend this basic and universal concept even farther by asking why as young children do we attend school?
Learning to read and write, acquiring a full vocabulary, mastering basic arithmetic, studying history and geography, putting into practice the social skills required in a group, and developing the discernment that will be needed to select the right partner to marry for life and successfully raise a family…these are all things that define the essence of what it means to be human.
Something in this remarkable process of human development into maturity should be a tell into the underlying purpose and meaning behind our universe and why we are here.
Like the questioning of the existence of God because of the presence of evil and suffering in this world, mankind could also question the trial-and-error successes and failures that are inescapably a part of human life, and wish for an ideal existence that did not have broken hearts, broken marriages, alcoholism, and the regret of missed opportunities.
But if one other thing is equally certain alongside death and taxes, it is that human beings are incapable of being anything other than what we are…intellectual and moral beings in pursuit of truth.
This reality I would submit eliminates naturalistic materialism as a viable worldview, based upon the mere fact that the line of reasoning in this essay is too complex for matter and energy alone to bring into existence and clear focus.
The brilliant Mind who created this universe also put into human beings this capacity for intellectual and moral reasoning, for a definite and deliberate purpose, and not through random chance, impersonal happenstance.
This is an excerpt from my book Pondering Our World: Christian Essays on Science and Faith.