God, the universe, tolerance and suffering—Big issues, big questions from a curious seeker
Published: 23 August 2008 (GMT+10)
This weekend we feature a list of questions from UL of Victoria, Australia, which he handed to Dr David Catchpoole at the end of a CMI World By Design conference. UL’s message is first printed in its entirety, followed by an interleaved response by Andrew Lamb.
First at all I apologize to bother you with stupid questions like these. This is driven only by my curiosity to learn more about your model of thinking. The questions are meant neither disrespectful nor aggressive. Having had a chat during these two evenings with some people of your church, I am under the impression, that this church’s community is open minded, tolerant and does respect the freedom of mind. And that’s the best I can say about any community.
- If complexities and the personal weakness to explain those does document the manifestations of god, does this mean that is a manifestation of god? Because I really can not explain this to me and, hey, it’s really complex. (Sorry, it’s bad rhetoric, but maybe a good example for the sub-question: Are things so very complex because they are designed or because we are so stupid?)
- If god is beyond time and space, what is beyond god?
- This universe is big and has many beings–maybe even many planets with life-whichever. Therefore what’s beyond this universe must even be bigger and more impressive. Where in that giant beyond is god? And why just one if it is so big?
- Design requires a creator. It can be assumed, that the creator must be at least similar complex than the creator’s design. That results, that the creator must be complex, therefore designed. Who design the creator? Who designed god?
- Could you very personal imagine having a beer with a black, Jewish Homosexual–and enjoying it?
- There is stabbing in Melbourne, sexual misuse of Children, war etc. Mankind pollutes earth, reduces the amount of animal races. Is this the behaviour of god’s finest? Or could earth & us be just a kind of first try and the really good top designs are somewhere else?
Thanks for having joined you for two evenings. This had been very refreshing and helped me to question my own thoughts.
First at all I apologize to bother you with stupid questions like these. This is driven only by my curiosity to learn more about your model of thinking. The questions are meant neither disrespectful nor aggressive.
You are most welcome, but your questions are hardly stupid. It is the common lot of humankind to ponder ‘existential’ (meaning of life) type enigmas like these. As King Solomon put it ‘God has … set eternity in the hearts of men; Yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to the end’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). It is a pleasure for us at CMI to answer sincere questions on such matters from genuine seekers.
Having had a chat during these two evenings with some people of your church, I am under the impression, that this church’s community is open minded, tolerant and does respect the freedom of mind. And that’s the best I can say about any community.
Hmm. It is kind of you to give a compliment, but it is arguable that much of society’s woes are due to too much open mindedness and too much tolerance. Much behaviour is tolerated today that the Bible declares is criminal. Ideas and practices that the Bible rebukes as shameful are being given respectability. And consider this comment on open mindedness from theologian John MacArthur:
The root of the Hebrew word for “simple” conveys the idea of an open door. A simple person is one who is like an open door—he does not know what to screen out. Everything comes in because he is unlearned, inexperienced, naive, and undiscerning. He may be proud to be “open-minded,” though he is really a fool. But the Word of God makes such a person “wise.” The word translated “wise” basically means to be skilled in the matters of practical godly living. To be wise is to master the art of daily living by knowing the Word of God and applying it in every situation.1
We do not regard the desire to seek explanations as a ‘personal weakness’. Rather, we consider it one of the great strengths of biblical Christian culture. King Solomon said ‘I applied my heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things (Ecclesiastes 7:25) and ‘It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter’ (Proverbs 25:2). In fact the establishment of modern science was directly due to Bible-believing Christians in Middle Ages Europe putting this biblical idea into practice.2 As one secular professor wrote, ‘Christian theology was essential for the rise of science.’3
Some mathematicians have pondered why mathematics works at all, and have argued that the fact that mathematical equations can be formulated and used indicates there must be a Creator.4
(Sorry, it’s bad rhetoric, but maybe a good example for the sub-question: Are things so very complex because they are designed or because we are so stupid?)
Complexity and stupidity are relative terms, not absolute. Compared to garden tools like secateurs or a shovel, the space shuttle is extremely complex. But compared to a living organism like a bacterium, the space shuttle isn’t even in the race, complexity-wise. After all, it cannot even refuel itself or repair itself, let alone reproduce itself as even the most basic living creature can.
Intelligence/stupidity is likewise a relative thing. Humans are incredibly intelligent compared to other living creatures. God presented the various animals to Adam, but none were suitable as a companion for him (Genesis 2:18–20), and their inferior intelligence would have been one of several points of obvious unsuitability. But compared to God’s intelligence, our fallen human intellect is as nothing (Isaiah 55:9).
But when we discuss evidence for design, we are referring to specified complexity, i.e. combinations of components that cannot be explained either by natural law or by chance. This is separate to the complexity of a mathematical equation.
2. If god is beyond time and space, what is beyond god?
Just because God has existence beyond time and space, it does not automatically follow that there must be something beyond God. I will explain, but first let me give some background.
God suffuses the universe—in Him we move and have our being (Acts 17:28). God also has existence independent of the physical
universe He created (Colossians 1:17). He is omnipresent within the universe
(Psalm 139:8; Jeremiah 23:23–24), He existed before the universe
(John 17:5), and His existence is not limited to the universe
The universe has not always existed. The creation of the heavens in Genesis 1:1 is the creation of the universe, with its time and three-dimensional space. God has existence outside of this temporal space-time universe He created.
The phrase ‘In the beginning’ (Genesis 1:1) indicates that there was a beginning of time, and the laws of science indicate that space, matter, and time are inextricably bound up with each other. For example the famous equation E = mc2 links time (c is a speed, and any speed is a distance per a unit of time) and matter. Thus time as we experience it is something intrinsic to this physical universe. But God the Creator already existed outside of the universe that He created. We can think of this realm as eternity.
Now, to answer your question, things that have a beginning need a cause, and the universe had a beginning (Genesis 1:1), therefore it must have had a cause, a Creator. But God is eternal, without beginning, and therefore needs no cause.
God sustains His creation through what we term natural or physical laws, which describe the way things are observed to operate within our universe. (God can also intervene supernaturally at will, to exercise His creative power in ways not in accordance with our recognized laws of physics—the Bible records various occasions (miracles) on which He has done so, which are really additions to natural law.) But there is no reason to suppose that these laws of physics etc. have any relevance outside of this universe, in eternity.
Consider also this comment from theologian C.S. Lewis:
‘Another difficulty we get if we believe God to be in time is this. Everyone who believes in God at all believes that He knows what you and I are going to do tomorrow. But if He knows I am going to do so-and-so, how can I be free to do otherwise? Well, here once again, the difficulty comes from thinking that God is progressing along the Time-line like us: the only difference being that He can see ahead and we cannot. Well, if that is true, if God foresaw our acts, it would be very hard to understand how we could be free not to do them. But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line. In that case, what we call ‘tomorrow’ is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call ‘today’. All the days are "Now’ for Him. He does not remember you doing things yesterday; He simply sees you doing them, because, though you have lost yesterday, He has not. He does not ‘foresee’ you doing things tomorrow; He simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not there yet for you, it is for Him. You never supposed that your actions at this moment were any less free because God knows what you are doing. Well, He knows your tomorrow’s actions in just the same way–because He is already in tomorrow and can simply watch you. In a sense, He does not know your action till you have done it: but then the moment at which you have done it is already ‘Now’ for Him’.6
3. This universe is big and has many beings—maybe even many planets with life—whichever. Therefore what’s beyond this universe must even be bigger and more impressive. Where in that giant beyond is god? And why just one if it is so big?
Astronomers have detected many extrasolar planets, which actually pose more problems for evolutionary theories, but no extraterrestrial life has ever been detected. The widespread belief, despite lack of evidence, in the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial beings (ETs) is a testament both to the gullibility of man and the efficacy of media propaganda. From a biblical perspective it is extremely unlikely that there could be extraterrestrials with human-like (or higher) intelligence, because we know from the Bible that the Curse affected the whole of creation (Romans 8:22; Hebrews 1:10–11), which necessarily includes any such extrasolar planets, and it would be unfair to curse beings with human intelligence for the sin of Adam. Gary Bates makes the following four points:
- The Bible indicates that the whole creation groans and travails under the weight of sin (Romans 8:22). (The effect of the Curse following Adam’s Fall was universal. Otherwise what would be the point of God destroying this whole creation to make way for a new heavens and Earth—2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1) Therefore, any ETs living elsewhere would have been (unjustly) affected by the Adamic Curse through no fault of their own—they would not have inherited Adam’s sin nature.
- When Christ (God) appeared in the flesh He came to Earth not only to redeem mankind but eventually the whole creation back to Himself (Romans 8:21, Colossians 1:20). However, Christ’s atoning death at Calvary cannot save these ETs, because one needs to be a physical descendant of Adam for Christ to be our ‘kinsman-redeemer’ (Isaiah 59:20). Jesus was called the last Adam because there was a real first Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22,45).
- Since this would mean that any ETs would be lost for eternity when this present creation is destroyed in a fervent heat (2 Peter 3:10,12), some have wondered whether Christ’s sacrifice might be repeated elsewhere for other beings. However, Christ died once for all (Romans 6:10, 1 Peter 3:18) on the earth. He is not going to be crucified and resurrected again on other planets (Hebrews 9:26). This is confirmed by the fact that the redeemed (earthly) church is known as Christ’s bride (Ephesians 5:22–33; Revelation 19:7–9) in a marriage that will last for eternity. Christ is not going to be a polygamist with many other brides from other planets.
- The Bible makes no provision for God to redeem any other species, any more than to redeem fallen angels (Hebrews 2:16).
4. Design requires a creator. It can be assumed, that the creator must be at least similar complex than the creator’s design. That results, that the creator must be complex, therefore designed. Who design the creator? Who designed god?
This is similar to Question 2. Yes, the things we observe in this universe are complex, and they must have had an intelligent Creator, but it does not follow that God must therefore have a Creator. God is spirit (John 4:24) and eternal (Deuteronomy 33:27, Romans 16:26), without beginning (since He was there at the beginning (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1–3)), and as stated previously, only things with a beginning need a cause. God is also simple, in that He is not composed of parts. See The old Who created God? canard revisited: Who designed the Designer?
5. Could you very personal imagine having a beer with a black, Jewish Homosexual—and enjoying it?
I don’t know, but there are plenty of white protestant heterosexuals whose company I can not imagine enjoying, regardless of what beverages, if any, were consumed. An individual’s personality tends to have far greater effect on whether someone else will enjoy their company, than does their ostensible membership in some superficial category or other.
Photo by Rita Mezzela, www.sxc.hu
Actually, your question involves an implicit and false assumption, namely that biblical creationists would for some reason be hostile towards people of certain races, religions, or lifestyles. But as Bible-believing Christians, we do not hate anybody.
There are numerous passages of Scripture indicating that what people group one belongs to means little to God,7 and our master Jesus, whom we strive to emulate, was renowned as a friend of those whom the culture at the time regarded as outcasts. Jesus was renowned as someone who would even associate with prostitutes (cf. Matthew 21:31), tax gatherers (Mark 2) and lepers (Matthew 8). To hate blacks, whites, Jews or people leading a homosexual lifestyle would be to disobey what Jesus taught and to fail to follow what Jesus practiced.
Indeed, we have many articles and one book opposing racism, mainly because all humans are really one race: that of Adam. One of our staff is Jewish (a Messianic believer). But unlike black and Jew, ‘homosexual’ is an adjective not describing what one is but what one does. See the articles listed under Homosexuality: What are the biblical and scientific issues? as well as the article False equation: opposing same-sex marriage and opposing interracial marriage by non-Christian Jewish writer Dennis Prager.
There are other problems with your question too. For example regarding the issue of enjoying something. Sin can be enjoyable, on one level. Christians still have many of the same sinful fleshly lusts as non-Christians, only they have the Holy Spirit with the promise of power over these.
Image by Linda Bucklin, www.istockphoto.com
6. There is stabbing in Melbourne, sexual misuse of Children, war etc. Mankind pollutes earth, reduces the amount of animal races. Is this the behaviour of god’s finest? Or could earth & us be just a kind of first try and the really good top designs are somewhere else?
You did not propose an alternative. Perhaps you think God should have created us as beings who could do no wrong, who could not choose between right and wrong. But would such beings really be ‘God’s finest’, or just robots? God is quite capable of creating such beings, but could they really love God in return? Only by giving us the capacity and opportunity to reject Him can there possibly be real love between us and God. God created our first parents Adam and Eve with this power of contrary choice, which they misused. So the default state of Adam and Eve’s descendants is rejection of God, and the vast majority of those descendants refuse to accept Him (Matthew 7:13), and instead exclude Him from their lives and from society. That is why there is so much death and suffering. But a few choose the narrow way, and respond positively to God’s love. That would not have been possible if God created us as mere biological machines, impeccably-behaved but incapable of loving or hating.
Thanks for having joined you for two evenings. This had been very refreshing and helped me to question my own thoughts.
And thank you too. We are glad you enjoyed Tas Walker’s and David Catchpoole’s World By Design presentations, and we are gratified by the many complimentary feedbacks we have received from people attending our WBD talks.
- John MacArthur, Think Biblically! Recovering a Christian Worldview, p. 30, Crossway Books, 2003. Return to text.
- See The basis of modern science,
and The Christian origin of modern science, and
Christians and the foundation of science. For more, see:
- Douglas Kelly, Theology and the Rise of Science, pages 30–32 in: Creation and Change, Mentor, 1997.
- David Malcolm, Contribution of the Reformation, pages 169–170 in: A philosophical attempt to define science, Journal of Creation 11(2):167–180, 1997.
- James Porter Moreland, Christianity and the Nature of Science, Baker Book House, 1989.
- Henry Morris, Creation—The Foundation of All Truth, pages 303–312 in: The Long War Against God, Master Books, 2000.
- Henry Morris, Biblical Backgrounds of Science, pages 21–24 in: The Biblical Basis for Modern Science, Master Books, 2002.
- Carl Wieland, Culture Change: The Creation Background, chapter 5 (pages 137–161) in: When Christians Roamed the Earth, Master Books, 2001.
- Alex Williams, The biblical origins of science, A review of For The Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the end of slavery by Rodney Stark, Journal of Creation 18(2):49–52, 2004.
- Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts and the End of Slavery, p. 123, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2003; cited in 15 Reasons to Take Genesis as History, page 26. Return to text.
- See James Nickel, Why does mathematics work? Journal of
Creation 4(1):147–157, 1990. See also:
- Fergus McGinley, Instrumentalism, mathematics and science, Journal of Creation 13(1):64–66, 1999.
- Stephen Ferguson replies, Journal of Creation 13(1):66–68, 1999.
- David Malcolm, Humanism and modern mathematics, Journal of Creation 12(1):40–41, 1998.
- Stephen Ferguson, Humanism, foundationalism and modern mathematics, Journal of Creation 12(1):107–114, 1998.
- David Malcolm, Humanism and modern mathematics, Journal of Creation 3(1):49–58, 1988.
- Henry Morris., The Eternal Future of Time, Space, and Matter, Back to Genesis, No. 187, July 2004. Return to text.
- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp 145–146. Return to text.
- For example:
- There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
- Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:11)
- Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him. (Acts 10:34–35)
- Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. (1 Corinthians 7:19)
- For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. (Romans 10:12)
- And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:9)