Friday, September 22, 2017

Universal Perfection

“In a perfect world there would be no hurricanes.” Does this pithy aphorism involve a universal truth? Depending on how we define perfection and, in particular, what a perfect world would be, we acknowledge there may be truth to this aphorism. Some skeptics who reject the existence or work of a Creator of our universe may challenge people of faith that a “perfect” God should have created a “perfect” world in which destructive hurricanes did not occur. There would be no disasters or human experiences of any type accompanied by discomfort or pain, they claim.

Both skeptics and Christians idealize what a perfect world would be like. Skeptics  believe they are challenging the notion of God. Within the broad variety of Christian viewpoints, we mention two: (1) Young Earth Creationists believe the Garden of Eden was initially a perfect home for humans, not impacted by weather disasters causing discomfort or injury. Our present world is often described by YEC as a place of brokenness and despair because of the spiritual fall of Adam. (2) Old Earth Creationists and theistic evolutionists generally see the world as imperfect yet “very good.” There are many commentaries about God’s purpose for allowing hurricanes or other disasters. Such phenomena are examples of “natural” evil. 

“Natural” evil is defined as evil for which no human can be held morally responsible. Hurricanes, earthquakes, and diseases causing suffering and death are examples of natural evil. In contrast, “Moral” evil is caused by human activity and needs little explanation. It is the product of the human race’s proneness to sin. Since the onset of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and more recently, Hurricane Maria and destructive earthquakes taking lives in Mexico, we have many powerful examples of natural evil and its impact on human life on Planet Earth. We make no secret of our grief at the results of natural evil from recent severe hurricanes and other profoundly disastrous events. We could cite many quotes from analysts, including theologians who ask, “Is God punishing us or trying to tell us something?” Or, “Are these events forewarnings of Biblical end-times events?” 

We do not condemn people who suggest God’s punishments or forewarnings. They may be correct. God may be telling us something. He has forewarned us concerning many end-times events in early Christian New Testament writings. Some Old Testament writings are also prophetic and relate to our day. In this sense we do not require further warnings. The error occurs when prognosticators set dates for specific end-time events. As we write, a Christian “numerologist” has predicted the world would end on September 23. A very well-known radio commentator, Harold Camping, wrote a book entitled 1994 proposing detailed rationale why the world would end that year. When the event did not materialize he began to promote a day in May 2011 for the return of Christ. After this also failed to come to pass, he finally confessed that, “Of that day and hour knoweth no man” (Matt 24:36). Camping later stated his attempt to predict a date was “sinful.”

Many commentators have been moved to offer their input concerning the meaning of these natural disasters. We must guard against oversimplifying our responses. Secularists often envision a better universe. They fantasize idealistically about a “more perfect world”—the human conception of a “perfect” reality. The perfect creation is a scriptural concept yet to be revealed. According to the opening chapter of Hugh Ross’s Improbable Planet, Baker Books, 2016, our “present universe serves as a launchpad for the New Creation to come—a reality more perfect than any of us can think of or imagine, one that fulfills all our greatest hopes and deepest longings.” The New Creation is described in the New Testament Book of Revelation, chapters 21-22.

Planet Earth is a special place, but not a perfect place where there is no sorrow, pain, or inconvenience. Moreover, Earth may hold the potential for significant sorrow and even death. To explain the sorrow and death, we must understand that there is a “higher purpose” in God’s order and plan. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV) This is sometimes a difficult reality.