Silver Bullet has ably expressed the common atheistic retort that this creation simply cannot be the product of a loving and powerful God because there is just too much evil afoot. It is a serious argument. Indeed, it strikes me as the most significant argument against theism, bar none. And yet I also believe it is a fundamentally unsuccessful argument.
A rich world or a simple one?
God could have created a world with rocks and stars and dust and light and a lot of empty space. He could even have thrown in some bacteria. It would be a good creation and it would have no suffering. But it would also be in certain respects critically impoverished for it would be a creation utterly lacking in creatures with minds, intelligence, sentient awareness, the ability of creatures to develop their character, grow, and move from being self-centered to other-centered.
So we might say, oh give us the rich world, the full meal deal, the one with minds and free will, sentient awareness, growth and the rest. Except that this world has a shadow side. Yes a shot of Tabasco will liven up your meal, but wait till it hits your nasal passages. And wait till those sentient creatures, and especially the ones with free will, start making decisions that bring them into collision with the rocks and stars and dust and light and ultimately with each other. With growing horror we realize that the richness of this world comes at an enormous cost. And so we can’t help but ask the question: should God simply have created the world of rocks and stars and dust and light and space but no minds? Did it cost too much? Are we better off with a simple world with no capacity for suffering or growth?
This is the crucial dividing line. Silver Bullet and other atheists seem to say “God should have created a simple world with no minds rather than a world with freely moving minds that cause and are subjected to great suffering.” And it seems to me that this is not right. I don’t share that intuition at all. As hard as life can be sometimes, I think most of us would say that we’d rather be a human person in this rich world than a mere bacterium in a simple world, even though we recognize all the pain and suffering that inevitably comes with this world.
Watching a great film
Let’s think of it from another angle. Think of the creation as the Greatest Show of all Time (far exceeding the greatest show on earth). We are now 13.8 billion years into the show and some of us in the audience are saying “It wasn’t worth it! Stop the movie! The filmmaker cannot possibly redeem the things we’ve seen.”
But you and I are the lowliest of cinematic children. And this filmmaker has cleaned up at the Academy Awards every year as far back as the awards go. So let us not be too quick to judge that the next reel of film cannot possibly redeem the darker moments of the script thus far.