Why did God create us into a world like this?
Regular Network Ipswich columnist James Knight asks why a loving, all knowing God created us into a corrupt and evil world.
A question often asked by some Christians, but mostly by unbelievers, is this: why did God bother to create us in this earthly existence with all the travails and suffering when He could have created us into a world of perfection if He had so wished? In other words, why didn’t He create us to be instantly perfect in Heaven, experiencing the rich magic of perfect happiness from the start; why bother putting us through the many trials and tribulations that life hands us? But when considering the above question, one might ask the corollary question: if God is all powerful, all knowing and perfect, why bother to create us at all - that is to say, what could an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect God gain from creating imperfect creatures that would inevitably mess things up?
I think the answer to the question can be summarised thus: He created us because He wants to love us; He wants us to grow into a state in which we can become prepared for Heaven, and in doing so, reciprocate as best we can the love He has for us. Our life on earth with all its pleasures and displeasures; all its moments of joy and pain, laughter and sorrow, relaxation and tumult, instinct and rumination - the whole encapsulated event that is ‘life’ is God’s first gift to us - and it will turn out to be very different to the Heavenly gift thereafter; for there are many pleasures which occur in this imperfect world which cannot occur in a perfect world. That is why I talk of the first life as a gift - it is something wholly different from the Heavenly life - it is a preparation with its own distinct rewards and pleasures. The world is God’s first amazing gift for us, and I think the more that one sees this life as God’s precursory gift (before the real Heavenly eternal blessing) the more one will make the most of it.
It is true that God has created the universe through a lengthy process which will eventually end with something glorious; something that God could have created initially with instant perfection. I suppose the reason He chose to do it the way He has is because He is a giver; and the best thing He has to give is Himself. To receive the daily renewal and daily growth is a blessing that He saw fit to bestow upon us - a blessing in which He can continue to give us more and more of Himself through the things He has made. The process of growing must have pleasures that we will only understand retrospectively. It is, I presume, a bit like a writer sweating through the gritty, fatiguing process of writing a novel only to delight in the finished work so as to render every drop of sweat a pleasure - a retrospective pleasure.
Part of this lucid realisation is that we must not catch ourselves formulating philosophies based on what we think the word should have been like, or by eliciting some utopian alternative that we picture as being ‘better’ - for we always arrive at better conclusions if we leave behind all these contingencies outside of the actualities - contentions suggesting how it might be better if all were good, or all were saved, or if the world did not have ‘this’ in it or ‘that’ in it. This type of thinking has been prevalent in every sceptic that I have met. It is no good, we do not know any better than what we currently are. You can only comment on situations inside of the actuality, and even then you do not know for sure if you are right. Everyone agrees that, say, World War Two was a terrible thing, but it is quite reasonable to suspect that if World War Two had not happened quite as it did, something far worse might have happened - a Nazi world dictatorship (for instance). Every alternative you can picture might have behind it a correlative event or set of actions that one would not wish for with hindsight, thus we must take the realities of God’s world ‘as is’ as opposed to ‘as we think it should be’ - for you can be sure that He is working behind the scenes of every event or action in ways that we cannot comprehend.
When we formulate ideas about a world which could have been made in different ways (we usually mean better than this one), we are not only carrying thoughts which take their impossibilities within themselves, we are feeding off other impossibilities even further from an actuality. There should be no ‘what if?’clause in the contract. Thus you meet some careless thinkers who say that because God is all-powerful and all-knowing there is nothing that cannot be done - there are no impossibilities. This is nonsense, of course; He can do miracles, but even God cannot play around with nonsense. He cannot under any circumstances make two and two add up to seven; He cannot make a creature that is both an all brown snake and an all grey elephant; He cannot give a man a full head of hair and simultaneously no hair at all. We can mess about with words all day long, but they do not suddenly become valid arguments if they belong to nonsense. With this in mind, it is perfectly obvious that even God cannot create creatures with free will and at the same time eradicate all the inexorable results of creatures with free will living together on earth.
He wanted to create us unrestored, and it must be because being restored involves our voluntarily coming to Him in order to receive His love and grace more fully, and that can only occur with creatures that were given the freedom to choose. Restored man must be something more glorious than our imagination can comprehend, and God clearly thought it was worth it to see such glorious transformation. The Christ, the second Adam, must be able to offer us things that unfallen man could not in any way take into himself. And the more our volition causes us to fall away from God, the greater His grace is in bringing us back. The story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) shows us how unrestored man can fully partake in the deep mercy of his Creator. Our restoration will be more illuminating than anything into which unfallen man could, by himself, be taken. We will see that the moment the Devil corrupted mankind was the same moment that God’s Divine restorative grace poured onto his creatures.
Why the need for the Devil?
This was one of my biggest issues when I was a non-Christian - if we are bad enough by ourselves to warrant salvation, why the need for the Devil? In other words, if God created us as fallen creatures, free to come to Him volitionally and receive salvation through His love and grace, why did he have to make it so much more difficult by creating the Devil and all his malevolent demons? Well, being creatures that only sparsely sample God’s creation, there are bound to be spiritual battles that we cannot yet understand. But I think we sometimes forget that the Devil was once an angel too - thus ‘falling’ must be part of the spiritual realm as well as the human realm - and this in the end gives me more comfort because it shows God to be an even greater Supreme Power. Humans will fall, angels will fall, but it reinforces the fact that God is Supreme. We can talk of a world without fallen angels, we can claim to understand which parts of God’s creation are mutually necessary; we can understand a little bit about the distinction between corporeality and that which transcends it; but as I said earlier, if we start to play around with possible alternatives, we are in danger of ascribing to God’s acts hints of anthropomorphism.
God’s victory over the Bad One must have relevancies that our imagination cannot quite fully capture; but rest assured, if the Devil’s defeat was not an essential part of God’s overall plan, He would not have created him. And this too, I think, answers the other similar question that is commonly asked - ‘Couldn’t God have created a world with no evil in it?’ I think the answer to that question comes in two parts. In the first place, God has already created a world without evil; it is called Heaven. But we are not yet ready for Heaven - we have to come to know God and then grow with Him into beings that can enter Heaven as restored creatures. In human terms, it does seem on the surface as if it would have been much better if we had just been created in Heaven; that is, if we were all created into instant paradise without all the evil we see. Most men and women would probably agree that that would have been much better than our present existence. But, of course, God, who is Supreme, knows the real situation a lot better than we do. He did it this way because it is actually better for us in the long run, and I think even with our earthly limitations we can understand a little bit of why He chose to create a place to prepare us for Heaven.
As I have said, earth gives us the opportunity to become more like Christ before we enter into His presence, and it is quite easy to see that this applies in everyday earthly terms as well. You must learn to play your musical instrument before you can produce a tune. You must learn it even more expertly if you are to experience the joys of playing with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall. You must learn about companionship, empathy, honesty, kindness and consideration before you can appreciate good friendship. And you must learn much more than that if you are going to experience fully the joys of human love. There are countless examples of what I am talking about; we need preparation for all that is wonderful; and equally we need preparation for all that is Divine.
In the second place, God’s earthly creation does reveal to us the beauties of human creation that will almost certainly not be present in Heaven. There are countless things in this world that are pleasurable (remember God created every pleasure) which can only be experienced as pleasurable because of the imperfect (and sometimes evil) nature of this world. The more we are able to understand God, the more we see that every part of His creation can be used for our own betterment. He created the whole universe for us, and anything that is not part of Him is bound to have some badness or the potential to go wrong. We ask ourselves why the need for the Bad One or for evil or suffering, but when we ask this we often forget that God is not as worried about the things which disturb the equilibrium quite so much as He is concerned about our character. He is not so concerned about how blessed we will be by earthly things (although they are important in earthly terms), He is looking to see how much our heart is ready to accept the Divine; how much we are doing to grow with Christ.
If nature was created for us to know God then the bad things in it must be, in one sense, provisions of God’s love for us; for He knows that we oscillate between contentment and disappointment, that we experience undulating emotions, and sinuous twists of happiness and disappointment. He knows that all these things can be used to alert us to the road that leads to Christ; that we can find Him through all the imperfect moments, through all the hope and through all the despair too.
Parents remember very well when they used to play games with their children - they might make allowances for the child’s errors, they might let their child get away with things that they wouldn’t let an adult get away with, they may even let him win. But all the time they were keeping order, that is, the structure of the game was still in place. This is much the same with God and the Devil (although, of course, it is not a game). God will help you overcome the Devil, but He must keep the structure that was part of His initial creation. He has to play by the rules of creation, just as two and two has to equal four. The Divine structure cannot mean indeterminacy between good and bad, it cannot even mean the complete eradication of pernicious alternatives, not yet, for when we understand the Devil and evil as parasitic, we understand more about goodness at the same time. The very bad is often what gives us the potential to be very good.
To know about an absence of goodness, and to know about the badness that feeds off of it, is to know where our hearts should be. If one is to fully understand the benefits of something then both alternatives must be made known. A sportsman can only appreciate and enjoy victory if there is a lesser alternative. And I think that is the true answer as to why God allows the Devil to do his worst; He cannot yet arrest the process any more than He can make two and two add up to seven. Do not misunderstand me, God can intervene at any moment, but He cannot yet eradicate evil at its source because evil is not an original thing - it is a parasite, one which He will make use of to help creatures see their need for Him and become more like Him.
If God created a world with no badness or no need for doubt or concern, I presume there would be no tangible course towards ultimate attainment (Heaven). Equally, if He created a world where we were all wise enough to know what was best for us at all times, there would be no structural goal towards achieving Divine freedom. The choice in front of every one of us is whether we accept God as Lord of our life or reject Him. There is no in-between - Jesus Christ says that if you have seen who He is you have seen our Heavenly Father (John 14:7). He also says that those who are not for Him are against Him (Matthew 12:30) - therefore all who want to receive God’s plan for each of us need only recognise His two principal acts of grace, first in creating us, and secondly, in dying for us on the cross so that we could have eternal salvation in Heaven. That is how important this recognition is, even indifference and procrastination are seen as our being ‘against Him’. He created us so He could give us the two greatest gifts imaginable, the gift of life on earth and the gift of Heaven, both of which are underpinned by His love and grace, and both of which are there waiting for anyone who accepts them.
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James is a Norwich local government officer, author and Proclaimers church member in Norwich. You can access his current collections of columns here
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