Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Perfection? or Purpose?

Many people are troubled by the pain and suffering caused by natural tragedies such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and earthquakes. Some even ask how God could permit such incidents to occur with their resulting loss of life. To those affected adversely by such horrific and violent events, any explanation may seem unsatisfying. But viewed against the backdrop of God’s purpose for this created realm, we may be able to perceive a broader picture.

From the moment God created our universe with its dimensions of space, time, matter, and energy, the universe has been subject to a Second Law of Thermodynamics overlay. It is also called the Law of Entropy, or the Law of Decay. This means there is always a natural flow from a higher energy state to a lower state. In an easy-to-understand example, a cup of hot coffee, left to itself, always cools, never warms. Some difficult or unfortunate effects result from the Second Law, but in countless ways there are also wonderful benefits for our life and home on Planet Earth.

Let’s use an example from the world of weather. Our sun, in existence for over four billion years, radiates its energy in all directions. One billionth of the sun’s heat energy reaches earth and becomes the driving force behind earth’s weather. The sun’s heat falls more directly on regions around the equator, less directly on polar regions. Equatorial regions, therefore, receive more heat. Obeying the Law of Decay, earth’s warmer areas interact with cooler ones in an effort to correct this imbalance. Earth’s rotation adds interesting complexity to the picture. Every feature of our weather is driven by these factors, ranging from cloudless spring days to beneficial rains to occasional violent hurricanes. What lesson may we take from this? Second Law-driven weather is a life-nourishing feature of our home on Planet Earth!

What may we say, then, about the infrequent but highly publicized weather disasters which take lives? In a perfect world, some would say there would be no inconvenience, no pain, no hurricanes, and no death. Perhaps that is true. God pronounced His creation very good (Gen. 1:31). He did not pronounce it perfect. When we apply God-given wisdom, such as heeding forecasts, obeying building codes, and shunning hazard-prone areas, we are able to avoid most disasters. A perfect world of man’s design would likely be a disappointment in many ways. But God’s design for our world fits His purposes. For humanity and all God’s other created life on this planet, it is a very good world.