Why do bad things happen? Whenever we recognize that something is good or bad, we are talking about a moral law. In the previous article, when we asked why did God create bad people, we simultaneously asked the question why are God’s moral laws always violated. Because the bad behavior of people violates morality, we recognize that the moral law within people has been corrupted. In that article, we saw that God created people within the moral law with free choice. Therefore, the bad people that violate the moral laws are a result of that person’s poor choice, not the result of God creating flawed people. Given that we’ve answered that question, we now move from the moral dimension to the physical dimension. Why did God create bad physical laws? In the physical laws, one witnesses cancer, diseases, hurricanes, earthquakes, and the like. On the surface, it looks as though God did a poor job in creating a universe with so many problems that arise. However, as science learns more about the laws of the universe, science tells us that the laws of this universe reveal a hidden secret within. First, science indicates that God created a lawful universe that follows rules, order, and cause and effect. As Physicist James Treil notes, “The laws of nature we discover here and now in our laboratories are true everywhere in the universe and have been in force for all time.” For example, the speed of light always and everywhere travels 186,000 miles per second. Additionally, these laws carry a cause and effect element to them that allows scientists to study and understand the universe. So, this universe is not an anything goes whimsical world. It is structured and ordered. Because it is structured, ordered and follows precise rules science can tell us more about how the universe operates.
Given that the universe is designed in order with the laws, morality then becomes possible. If the universe was any anything goes whimsical creation with unpredictable physical laws, then morality becomes meaningless. If things occurred for no reason at all, then it would be impossible to have a structured moral code. For example, in a whimsical universe one day shooting a gun would cause a negative affect (damage to the body), but the next day shooting a gun would have a positive affect or no affect to the body. If this were the case, then you could never say that shooting a gun is good or bad because in a whimsical universe the end effect is unknown and constantly changing. Additionally, if 2+2=4 one day in the whimsical universe, and 2+2=5 on another day, we wouldn’t be able to gain any knowledge about this universe. So, thank God we don’t have an erratic constantly changing universe. Instead, we have a universe that is designed in laws and structure. Because of this order, we have access to the moral laws and the physical laws.
Moreover, as scientist study our ordered universe, they have discovered that this universe seems to be set with very precise constants within these physical laws. If these constants were altered by even a hairs breath, the result would be that the universe would not be capable of human life. For example, physicist Stephen Hawking notes, “If the rate of expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have re-collapsed before it even reached its present size.” Also, if the speed of light were slightly faster or slower than 186,000 mps, then human life would not be possible. The same holds true with many other laws like the gravitational constant, the strong nuclear force, the mass of the electron, and many others. If these laws were different, human life would not exist. Therefore, science indicates that the universe has to be just as big as it is, just as old as it, and contain just these very laws in it to be able to have human life. This discovery in science is called the Fine Tuned Theory.
Given this principle, there is an interesting theological clue hidden in here. Modern science indicates that for God to create free human beings to exist, these precise physical laws are necessary. If there were other laws, human life would not exist. Now, these laws of nature are like a double edged sword. These laws of nature that bring humanity life also bring pain and suffering. However, without these laws of nature humanity would cease to exist. For example, earthquakes are embedded in these laws of nature, and earthquakes have brought a great amount of devastation. In 2004, an earthquake unleashed a tsunami in Southeast Asia that killed some 225,000 people. However, it is important to understand how earthquakes originate. The reason there are earthquakes and volcanic eruptions is because of plate tectonics. Plate tectonics is the movement of giant plates under the surface of the earth and the ocean floor. In the book Rare Earth, scientists Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee showcase the importance of plate tectonics in order for earth to have and sustain life. They comment that plate tectonics is a “central requirement for life on a planet.” In fact, without plate tectonics, the earth would have no separation of the land and the ocean. If plate tectonics did not exist the water would cover the ground and the earth would be a water world up to a depth of 4,000 feet. As Ward states, “If the surface of the planet varied by only a few kilometers in elevation, Earth would be devoid of land.”
Therefore, as we zoom out on these laws of nature, we can see the people can curse God for making the world with these destructive laws, but ironically science shows that if these laws were different in any way, all of humanity would cease to exist. So, modern science indicates that if God were to make a lawful universe inhabited by free human beings, these imperfect laws are the only way he could have done it. But, I think that these imperfect laws God was dealt with in using, was not a result of God, but a result of mankind’s bad choice (more on this later). Additionally, since all laws and all of creation are built on a giant cause and effect system, all suffering comes from these necessary laws themselves. When I say all suffering I’m referring to the suffering that comes from both people (bad actions) and the laws of the nature (bad laws). In a cause and effect creation, if you affect the moral law, then you will simultaneously affect the physical laws and vice versa.
An analogy that might be helpful to understand this concept is comparing the entire creation to a book. The book has two elements to it; the words of the book and the meaning of the book. The physical words of the book would be like the physical laws of the universe, and the non-physical meaning of the book would be like the moral laws of the universe. If you change the words of the book, you also change the meaning of the book. Additionally, if you change the meaning of the book, you simultaneously change the words of the book. Here, we see the intrinsic inner connection that the moral law and the physical law are linked in that their negative effects come from the same negative cause. In other words, when we say there are bad people we are saying that the moral laws are messed up, and when we say bad things happen in nature, we are saying that the physical laws are also corrupted. Now, given that in the previous article, we see that the bad behavior in morality comes from a flawed choice of humanity, it is also likely that defective physical laws come from mankind’s regretful original choice. It is almost like God is telling the human race, “These are the laws all people wanted. Do not blame me if people do not like them. Blame mankind’s bad choice.” So, what was this bad choice?
Why do both laws come with pain and suffering?
As we move closer in exploring the connection between the physical laws and the moral laws, one now comes to the beginning of the story in Christianity. The yearning question of mankind is why is there pain and suffering? Since God created his creation with these laws, why do both laws (moral and physical) come with pain and suffering attached to it? Christianity explains this question by pointing to the beginning of the story. It is appropriate to look at the start of the story as humanity is asking the pain and suffering question from the middle of the story. Just like if Kevin walks into the middle of a movie and asks what is going on in the movie, the others who are familiar with the story will begin to explain what is going on by first describing to Kevin what happened in the opening scene of the movie. The opening scene in the Christian story is the fall of man in Genesis. In the beginning, God and mankind enjoyed an intimate and perfect relationship in Eden. Everything worked well at first in Eden. In Eden, there was no pain and suffering. There were no hurricanes, cancer, or anything of that like. God’s creation was in its perfected state. Also in Eden, God gave the human race a choice; either to participate in God’s creation (love God), or refuse to participate in God’s creation (love yourself). Recall in the last article that love has to come with a free choice. By asking his creation to participate with him, God is asking his creation if they want to love him – or if they prefer to love themselves. As God was giving instructions to mankind much like a father, God indicated: “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). In this story, the tree and the fruit are most likely an allegory the ancient author used to describe the teaching of knowledge in the moral and physical laws. Notice that the tree is called the knowledge of good and evil. Here, the author is poetically describing God’s instruction to man about the intrinsic connection of the physical law and the moral law. After all, the words both “good and evil” are a description of the moral realm and the word “knowledge” is a clue to the totality of the physical world. Then, as the story unfolds, an outside entity that was craftier than man, tricked them into believing the knowledge of good and evil would not hurt them. In fact, this outside “thing” indicated that going to the teaching of knowledge of good and evil would bring man pleasure, power, and be like God.
Then, the story describes that they saw the fruit (teaching) “pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom” (Genesis 3:6). However, after the man and woman ate the fruit, their eyes were open, and they realized what they had done. With this story, the moral laws and the physical laws combine to illustrate the origin of the problem with both laws. The problem lies with humanity’s bad decision not to obey their Creator. Then end result is that sin, pain, and suffering enters the human scene and ruins everything.
There are a couple of points to unpack here. First, notice the place God instructed Adam and Eve not to go to was the knowledge of good and evil. Recall, that morality is based on a choice. Also, the choice morality is based on comes from knowing the data of the physical world. Once a person knows the physical law, the moral law of good and bad becomes clearer. So, free choice in the moral law is dependent on knowledge in the physical laws. For example, once people know that smoking can destroy their lungs, then the moral choice for people to say smoking is bad becomes obvious. What is going on in Genesis is that God is telling mankind that since they do not know, and God does know, people by themselves are not in a good position to accurately understand the moral law. Only through God’s knowledge can people make sense of good and evil. However, what they did in Eden was divorce themselves from the very knowledge they need in order to understand good and evil. This would be like trying to understand morality apart from knowing the physical laws. How can a person say what is good or bad unless he first knows the thing he needs to reference as good or bad? How can a person say heroine is bad unless he first understands what heroine does? Indeed, if one does not have knowledge of what heroine does he is in danger of saying heroine is good. Yet, this is precisely what happened in the fall. Mankind separated himself from the very knowledge he needs to understand both the physical laws and the moral laws. Given that both the laws are interconnected, the result is a disconnect between the physical laws and the moral laws. The choice man made resulted in a creation where both laws would be obscure to man and thus, both laws would be flawed. The Genesis account reveals this idea when it indicates their eyes were open, and they saw they were naked. Obviously, this sentence is not a complete literal description because before the incident, they could see fine and they were naked yet “not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). Therefore, what the author is revealing in “their eyes were open” and they “saw they were naked” is that they realized with their choice they had caused the detachment between the physical laws and the moral laws. Indeed, after they went to this “tree,” God’s response to them in declaring “curse is the ground” and “thorns and thistles it will bring you” (Genesis 3: 17-18) is a poetic way of telling man, now that you’ve made this lousy decision, both the physical laws and the moral laws will now be corrupted and flawed. In the fall, God’s soul went from front and center to mankind to now hidden within their conscience. The feeling of Adam & Eve being ashamed was a trigger to them from their conscience of the problem they created in the moral and physical laws. Adam and Eve also realized that this decision resulted into sin – which is the slow death of their soul from divorcing themselves from God.
The fall gave human beings bad behavior (sin) in the moral dimension and destruction in the physical dimension. The greatest of sins is pride. Pride is the decision in which mankind trusted themselves over God. Imagine an author creating a story for the characters in the novel. Being the creator of the story, the author has all the knowledge of the entire story. Now, imagine the author wants the characters to participate in making this great story with him. However, instead of following the author’s instructions, the characters tell the author to leave. Then, the characters attempt to make the story themselves from their limited vantage point. What would we think if half-way through the story, the characters started to complain how bad the story was turning out, and instead of blaming their bad choice, they instead blamed the author they chose to kick out. What would you think of this? Given the book analogy we know see what happened. In the fall, the character of the story wanted to change the author’s meaning of the book (moral choice). However, by changing the meaning of the book, they simultaneously altered the words of the book (physical laws). If the choice to change the meaning of morality was flawed it necessarily follows that the physical laws of this creation becomes flawed. So, all the defective elements of creation (cancer, hurricanes, flooding) is a result of the character’s (people) bad choice to change the meaning of the book. Therefore, pain and suffering is the character’s doing; not the author’s (God) doing.
As C. S. Lewis said, “They wanted some corner in the universe of which they can say to God ‘This is our business.’ Pride said that the knowledge of both the physical and moral laws comes from mankind, not from God. But, given that a choice needs knowledge to make that choice, and man selected his limited knowledge over God’s infinite knowledge, the result of this decision would be a bad effect. Man is selecting limited knowledge (his way) over ultimate knowledge (God’s way) to make a choice (I will eat) that overrides the instructions of ultimate knowledge (don’t eat). This is literally the most inept decision in human history. This incompetent choice comes with a heavy price tag. The result is death of the human soul. Additionally, given the Fine Tuning of the universe, the other result is that this cause and effect creation that will produce flawed human people will also contain pain and suffering embedded in the physical laws. This human selection of pride, which shouts out my way – brought about the pain and suffering humanity now experiences in the physical world in diseases and natural catastrophes.
Now, lest we get completely down on the human race, there is some good news that comes out of this choice. We’ve been making a deal that this decision to divorce the divine author was highly inept. However, I should point out that man didn’t make this choice completely on his own. He made this bad choice because he was duped by an outside source. The creation story reveals that man was tricked by the serpent, and this dark entity was “most cunning of all the creatures” (Genesis 3:1). Therefore, man’s corrupt decision was highly influenced by another party. He was, in a sense, hypnotized and tricked by a dark force much like the which tricked Snow White to eat the poisonous apple. So, the real cause of all the destruction in the world is certainly not God. While some of the blame can be shoved over to humanity’s bad choice, the root cause of this choice is, in fact, a demonic source.
However, the good news is that God became a man and took on the effects of our bad choice so that he can usher us back into Eden with Him – as it was in the beginning. So, all the problems humanity faces from hurricanes to violent crime should be a reminder to us of the problem we created at the beginning of the story, but also the solution God provides us at the end of the story.