From a naturalistic perspective, the pain, death, decay, and evil that humans and all life experience serve no real purpose. They simply are the consequence of a random set of cosmic coincidences that permit life to exist.
In countless publications and lectures, naturalists assert that the Christian explanation for the origin, structure, and history of the universe--a biblical creation model--cannot be correct. For a God as powerful, caring, and knowledgeable as Christians claim would have done a much better job of creating. "Your God has other options," they complain. "He could have built a better universe, one without these things in it."
God's Purposes in Creating
The first fallacy I see in this complaint lies in its assumption that God's sole purpose in creating the universe would (or should) have been to provide a perfectly comfortable environment for life, and especially human life. A second fallacy lies in the assumption that God intended this creation to be it, the one and only permanent home for humanity, that is, paradise or utopia.
From a Christian perspective, God could have innumerable reasons for creating the universe, Earth, and life in the manner that He did. The Bible declares one reason (number 1 below) and infers at least six others:
- to manifest and declare the attributes of God, specifically His glory, power, righteousness, wisdom, involvement, and love;
- to provide a suitable habitat for a variety of physical life and for human beings in particular;
- to provide the physical and historical context for God the Son to take human form and accomplish the reconciliation of man to God;
- to provide the necessary resources for the human race to rapidly develop civilization and technology and to achieve global occupation;
- to provide humanity with the best possible viewing platform for discovering--even measuring--expressions of God's glory, power, wisdom, and love;
- to provide a theatre for the rapid (in astronomical terms), efficient conquest of evil; and
- to provide human beings with the preparation and training they will need to fulfill their purpose and fully enjoy their reward in the new creation.
While these themes offer some insight into God's purposes in creation--especially that Christ would accomplish redemption--a complete biblical creation model is unattainable, and no one should be surprised that a few puzzling features remain incompletely explained.
The key point, however, is that everyone should stand utterly amazed that God could create a single universe that can accomplish so much--and with such effectiveness and efficiency. The skeptics who claim they could do better would do well to ponder what it takes to design a universe that can simultaneously fulfill even a few of the purposes mentioned. I sometimes challenge them to try.
A critical distinctive of the biblical creation accounts compared to other creation scenarios is the promise of a new creation that will some day replace the present creation. This new creation goes beyond paradise restored. It is a radically and gloriously different creation governed by different laws and framed by different dimensions.2
According to Romans and Revelation, the universe in which we presently reside awaits deliverance from its current limitations, including the presence of sin and its consequences.3 When God's plan--through Christ--to redeem the full number of fallen humans has been accomplished, this universe will have fulfilled its purposes. At that time, God will remove this universe from existence and introduce us to a far superior creation. To put it another way, the present creation is the perfect creation for God to accomplish His redemptive plan and to conquer evil in the process. The new creation that will follow is the perfect creation in which God can lavish His love upon those humans who have accepted, by His grace, the offer of redemption from sin.
The promise of a new creation to replace the present creation implies that God has purposes for humanity beyond those listed above. Thus, while human beings are equipped to value and enjoy the present creation, in the new creation they will need new and far greater capacities for love and delight.4 In 1 Corinthians 2:9 the apostle Paul reminds us that "as it is written, no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him."