Saturday, May 31, 2008

Questions from Readers!

Let's take a moment to address some questions that readers have sent in! Yes, that means that you too can send me a question and it may very well be responded to within your lifetime!

If he created all things perfect, if humans are perfect creations, why do we suffer? Why is there suffering? If God had a master plan, and knew any and everything that would ever happen, if he knew every thought anyone would ever have... why did he still build us to suffer?

Wow, this is a big question. And it's one that people have been wrestling with for centuries. I don't expect to be able to provide a definitive answer that everyone will find satisfactory tonight. If you expect that out of me...well, you must assume I'm even more awesome than I do, and that's quite an accomplishment.

First, what is perfection? Is it really as simple as "being without flaw"? How would one know the difference between a flaw and a feature? If all humans have a certain characteristic (say, a tendency to lie when they believe they can get away with it), then can you correctly classify that as a flaw? Perhaps it's an intended design element. (I'm going to always write as though humans are in fact designed. It's not my place to argue for design vs. random happenstance. There are people who know biology, probability, history, archeology, and so many other things of importance much better than me much better suited to such arguments. I have been convinced of design, and I will only speak from that background.)

The response to that question (How can we know whether these characteristics of humans are "bugs" or "features?") lies in the pattern from which humans were created. We were created in the "image of God,1" meaning that much of who we are comes from Who He is. Whatever characteristics of our character don't match with His are flaws.

That's just a little something to start with for what it means to be perfect. In God's image, having His characteristics.

Of course, one of the characteristics of God is His free will. He has the power, the right, and the authority to do anything He wants. In loving us and desiring to be truly loved BY us, He empowered us with the same ability. However, we do not have the right or the authority to do whatever we want, simply the power to do so. Much like a child has the power to disobey his parents, even when he doesn't have the right or the authority to do so.

A long time ago, someone exercised this power in a way contrary to God's design. God allowed this because in loving His creation, He allowed it the freedom to exercise its power, even when that hurt Him. I am inclined to believe (though I have no theological proof for it) that this effected a genetic change (mutation, if you will) from what humanity was created as into something slightly different. Theologically, this is known as "Original Sin" - the concept that humans are born (conceived, actually) with sin as an aspect of their existence, separated from God by that sin. This is certainly a spiritual matter, but I would not be surprised at all to learn that there were measurable physical biological side effects. Unfortunately, we don't have Adam's pre-sin genetic code somewhere in a database to compare.

(Side note for some people who may perhaps read this: I do not hold this as some fundamental aspect of my faith. This is merely an explanation/rationalization I have concocted to explain phenomena I have observed. It may be wrong, it's not as if there's Biblical statements to the effect that man's genetic code was altered by sin, or if there are, I haven't interpreted them as such.)

But, to bring things back to the question originally posed, humans were not created to suffer. Humans were created to enjoy communion with God. Humans chose to separate themselves from God. It's our choice to operate outside of how we were designed which creates suffering. That choice was available to us because true love cannot exist without that choice.


Winterson said...

The idea that original sin is heritable because of genetics is very interesting. However, it does raise some additional questions:

What happened to all early humans without the mutation?

Possibility 1: Every early human without original sin eventually reproduced with a human who had original sin, so after a few generations the mutation had spread. But, statistically, the uncorrupted gene is also passed down, so this would imply the existence of modern humans without original sin.

Possibility 2: Every human without original sin died off. Did God kill them? That wouldn't seem to make sense. Did he rapture them? That seems more interesting, but why put humans on earth just to whisk them away once they pass a test? Or perhaps original sin is actually a beneficial mutation, improving the survival odds of everyone who has it. I think I like that answer just for the implicit irony of it all.

Possibility 3: God created Adam and Eve out of dust and original sin started with them. That is, there were no other proto-humans, so there were none without the mutation. I find this answer least satisfying. Evolution is way more elegant and pretty than a simple:

Human adam = new Human(Sex.MALE);
Human eve = new Human(adam->getRib(), Sex.FEMALE);

But what do I know? All of this is certainly interesting to think about.

TurboNed said...

What do any of us *KNOW*? Only what we learn through observation. After that we have faith that what we're told is true. I don't *KNOW* that my life isn't a huge Truman-Show-esque farce, but I'm told it isn't and I have faith that that is a true statement.

That original sin exists I take on faith. From the observations I've seen, it matches. Everything else I have to say about it is speculation worth only as much as the electrons said speculation incites to spin.