Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Problem of Pain

“After the Lord your God has done this for you, don’t say in your hearts, ‘The Lord has given us this land because we are such good people!’ No, it is because of the wickedness of the other nations that he is pushing them out of your way. It is not because you are so good or have such integrity that you are about to occupy their land. The Lord your God will drive these nations out ahead of you only because of their wickedness, and to fulfill the oath he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You must recognize that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not—you are a stubborn people.” Deuteronomy 9:4-6

I have been thinking about the relationship between evolutionary creation approaches to our understanding of God’s activity in the world, and the problem of pain. The presence of pain, suffering, and evil in a good world created and designed by a loving God, is difficult to understand and explain. I have always understood, and still do understand, this problem in terms of the hope of heaven that is available to the follower of Jesus. This world is not designed to be a world without problems and pain, that is heaven. The universe is designed to be a place where we learn to breathe the air of heaven. We are tadpoles who must slowly be transformed into frogs that can survive and thrive in the heavenly environment.

Considering such an understanding of heaven and earth, evolutionary creation adds one more facet to the gem that is our understanding of the universe and spiritual places, both created by God. Evolutionary creation is an approach that sees the struggle of individual species as part of the creation process. Every species must work for its place in the eco-system. Those well-suited to their environment will be able to reproduce and pass on their genes to the next generation, ensuring that the next generation will go on to reproduce once again. This is a dynamic process and species must adapt as environments (micro and macro) change. A gene and its associated protein and structures that was detrimental in one generation may be an advantage in the environment accompanying the next generation. Thus, mutations which occur to change the genome from generation to generation may be helpful or harmful in any given time and place. It is the struggle of the individual and the species, in which creatures of God fight for their place and their opportunity to reproduce, that is a hallmark of the evolutionary creative process.

If we see Israel and the nations Israel drove out of the promised land in light of evolutionary creation, we can then understand the battles as part of the evolutionary creation process and part of how God was preparing his people for the air of heaven. Is this an adequate explanation for the bloody battles and warring tribes of the past and the present? It is hard to say. The problems of pain, suffering, and evil remain. Yet, seen in this way, I can better understand a loving God who is presently preparing a people for life in his presence forever.

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