Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
January 19, 2011
The miracle of collagen
To spell “collagen,” the name of a common type of protein, you need to arrange all eight letters in the right order. To make the protein itself, you need to arrange 1,055 amino acids in precisely the right sequence. This happens spontaneously in nature. Bill Bryson, in his fascinating A Short History of Nearly Everything, notes that the odds of this occurrence are one in 10 x 260, a number larger than all the atoms in the universe.
If God is powerful enough to arrange collagen, why doesn’t he do more about the evil and suffering in the world he created? As we saw yesterday, Christians are especially susceptible to the problem of evil and suffering because we affirm unconditionally the facts that God is all-loving, he is all-powerful, but evil exists. The easiest way to “solve” the problem of evil and suffering is to deny or minimize one of its three conditions.
Regarding the love of God, we can agree with the ancient Stoics that everything is fated by God. They claimed that we are all dogs tied to carts. We can trot alongside the cart, or be dragged by it, but we’re going with the cart.
The ancient Greeks saw their gods as capricious and immoral, Zeus throwing lightning bolts at those who displeased him. A common secular viewpoint today is that life is random coincidence, that if there is a “God” he has little interest in us. He is a clockmaker, watching his creation wind down.
We can also deny or minimize the power of God. Dualism argues that evil is coequal with good. From ancient Zoroastrianism to today, it has been popular to see God and Satan, good and evil locked in a battle for supremacy. J. S. Mill asserted that God is limited in his power; he loves us, but cannot do everything he would wish to help us. Rabbi Harold Kushner, in his kind and sympathetic bestseller When Bad Things Happen to Good People, agrees that even God is not able to do everything he wants to do.
A third wrong approach is to minimize the nature or existence of evil. The Hindu tradition views evil as maya, illusion. The ancient Greeks saw evil as the product of the material world, to be escaped through ascetic discipline and philosophical reflection. The Buddhist worldview treats evil as the product of wrong desires. Hinduism likewise believes that suffering results from wrong choices, as the karma we deserve.
One other wrong “solution” is to deny the existence of God altogether. David Hume, the 18th century “father of skepticism,” proposed this syllogism: (1) If God exists, he must be loving and powerful and thus eradicate evil; (2) evil exists; (3) therefore God does not exist.
We’ll continue with this challenging conversation tomorrow. For this morning, let’s claim Paul’s promise: “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). What needs would you trust to him today?