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← Intelligent Design and the cruelty of nature

Ella's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by Ella

In my view, there would be little to be gained in bringing up this sort of argument with a Christian because there is quite a simple, standard response: we live in a fallen world. Basically all the suffering in the world is a result of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. I used to be a Christian and a young-earth creationist (though I wouldn't have described myself as such at the time) and back then I would simply have pointed out that in Genesis 1:29 it's clear that in God's original design all animals were only meant to eat plants – no suffering, no cruelty. The parasitic wasps and whatnot wouldn't have operated as such in God's perfect design. The cruelty in nature is a result of living in a fallen world due to man's sin. And why should man's sin affect every other inhabitant of the earth so drastically? Because in Genesis 1:28 God gives man dominion over everything else. Man is the only creature made in the image of God, for 'His' glory and to have communion with him. Man is special, and everything therefore turns on man's actions and relationship with God. So in Genesis 3:17-19 when God cursed the ground as punishment for Adam's sin, this affected how the world operated for the rest of it's inhabitants too and thus was founded the predatory behaviour that we observe in nature in today's fallen world.

Clearly this is all nonsense but it really is the conversation we would have had if the OP argument had been presented to me when I was a Christian. I always struggled with the question of how a loving, kind, and most importantly, omniscient God could have let the world degenerate from Garden of Eden perfection into the cruelty we see everyday. I was told that there is a difference between God's perfect will and God's permissive will and that the fallen world wasn't what he intended in his perfect design but rather what he permits because of our bad choices. Suffering is therefore a result of our free-will. You can't argue a good Christian out of these ridiculous ideas. And assuming that people who believe these things must be crazy or stupid isn't very helpful either. Inside that world view it does make sense. I always questioned the things I was taught but there was always an answer; not enough to completely squash the cognitive dissonance but certainly sufficient to sustain belief and maintain faith that all the answers would become clear someday in heaven. What got through to me in the end was education. I learnt about evolution in school for the first time when I was about 13. It shook my whole view of the world but because my understanding of it was incomplete at that time I soon managed to reconcile the belief in an old-earth and evolution with my (fairly fundie, evangelical) Christian beliefs. I continued being a Christian for another decade before the cumulative effects of a good education and other life experiences showed me how disconnected my beliefs were from reality. And once it was clear how irrational it all was I was finally able to abandon that belief system.

Wed, 16 May 2012 04:04:21 UTC | #941764