One of the hardest things to understand is how anyone who claims to believe in a God of love can also believe in the geological ages, with their supposed record of billions of years of suffering and death before sin came into the world. This seems clearly to make God a God of waste and cruelty rather than a God of wisdom and power and love.
Atheistic evolutionists seem to understand this easily enough, so why can't Christians? Richard Dawkins, arguably Europe's leading Darwinian evolutionist, comments as follows:
The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease.... The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.1
Why would any Christian charge God with creating that kind of world?
The fact is, He did not create that kind of world. At the conclusion of God's six days of creating and making all things, He placed it all under man's dominion and then pronounced it all to be "very good" (Genesis 1:26,28,31).
There was, therefore, nothing bad in that created world, no hunger, no struggle for existence, no suffering, and certainly no death of animal or human life anywhere in God's perfect creation (plant "life," created as food for men and animals, does not "die" in the Biblical sense). There was no carnivorous activity at that time, for God had said: "And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat, and it was so" (Genesis 1:30).
One can understand how people could find these words of God hard to believe, but how can they say they believe them, and then believe also in billions of years of animals living and dying in the manner described above by Dawkins, before man brought sin into the world and God's Curse on his dominion?
As Dawkins said, the universe seems to have "no purpose ... nothing but pitiless indifference." It is enslaved under what the Bible calls "the bondage of corruption" (Romans 8:21). In fact, we see "that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Romans 8:22). It is certainly not the "very good" creation that it was when God first finished creating and making it.
As a matter of fact, the world as seen by Dawkins and Gould is exactly what Bible-believing Christians would expect to see in "this present evil world" (Galatians 1:4), a world seemingly without God. When the first man and woman rebelled against God's word in favor of the word of the Evil One, God did withdraw His presence from them. "Cursed is the ground for thy sake," He told Adam (Genesis 3:17), and then banished Adam and Eve and their descendants from His holy presence. Animals too were victims of the Curse (Genesis 3:14), and so were the plants (Genesis 3:18), for all were part of man's dominion.
That was when death was introduced into the world. "By man came death" (I Corinthians 15:21). "Unto dust shalt thou return," God told Adam (Genesis 3:19), and ever since that time, "in Adam all die" (I Corinthians 15:22). "By one man's disobedience many were made sinners" (Romans 5:19). Therefore, "death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12).
The animals, not having moral natures, were not guilty of sin, of course, but they also shared in the Curse, for they were—like Adam—made of the dust of the ground that God had cursed. Like Adam's body, their bodies also must return to the ground. Henceforth, "death reigned ... even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression" (Romans 5:14). Thus there is death in the world only because there is sin in the world. It is this great truth that causes evolutionists to stumble over God and His word. By stretching the six days of creation into great ages, many evolutionists can put up with the Genesis "story" of creation, but they simply cannot tolerate the record of man's Fall and God's Curse as the cause of suffering and death in the world. The "distinguished professor of philosophy" at Colorado State University points out this problem quite explicitly.
The real problem is with the Fall, when a once-paradisiacal nature becomes recalcitrant as a punishment for human sin. ... This does not fit into the biological paradigm at all. Suffering in a harsh world did not enter chronologically after sin and on account of it. There was struggle for long epochs before human arrival, ...2
A prominent anti-Christian philosopher, Michael Ruse, sees the problem better than most Christians.
Either humankind is in a state of original sin or it is not. If it is, then there was reason for Jesus to die on the cross. If it is not, Calvary has as much relevance as a gladiator's death in the Coliseum.3
In other words, by diluting or ignoring the effects of the Fall, one inevitably—though perhaps unintentionally—is undermining the very gospel itself.
Another humanist further stresses this aspect, even gloating over what such accommodations are accomplishing.
And the creationists have also shown irrefutably that those liberal and neo-orthodox Christians who regard the creation stories as myths or allegories are undermining the rest of Scripture, for if there was no Adam, there was no fall; and if there was no fall, there was no hell; and if there was no hell, there was no need of Jesus as Second Adam and Incarnate Savior, crucified and risen. As a result, the whole Biblical system of salvation collapses.4
Evolutionists seem to comprehend this. Why can't Christians?
It does no good to suggest, as some have done, that maybe God's judgment of death on Adam applied only to spiritual death. The Curse was pronounced on "the ground," and Adam's body was eventually to return to "the dust." That means physical death! Furthermore, if God's judgment only involved spiritual death, then why did man's future redemption from death require the brutal physical death of Jesus Christ on the cross? Actually the Curse involved both. When Adam sinned and the Curse was pronounced, he immediately died spiritually and also began to die physically.
These Biblical constraints do require believers to make what to many seems a very difficult choice. If the Fall and the Curse really happened as the Bible says, then the whole creation was brought under the bondage of corruption at that time.
In turn, this must mean that the great fossil graveyard in the earth's crust all over the world cannot be a record of the progressive creation of life over many long ages, but must actually be a record of the worldwide destruction of life in one age, when "the world that then was, being [cataclysmically overwhelmed] with water, perished" (II Peter 3:6), at the time of the great Flood.
Furthermore, all of this took place only a few thousand years ago, not many millions of years ago, regardless of the spurious evidences of vast ages of time that have been proposed by those scientists committed to naturalism and uniformitarianism. The Lord Jesus (who was there at the beginning!) made this plain when He said, quoting Genesis 1:27: "From the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female" (Mark 10:6). Not billions of years, after the beginning, but there right at the beginning, God made Adam and Eve.
God would never be guilty of creating the kind of world now seen by such men as Dawkins and the other leaders of evolutionary thought. A world of pain, cruelty, suffering, and death is the result of man's sin, not of God's love.
God's love was manifested not only in creating a perfect world to begin with, but then—even more—of paying the terrible price to redeem it once man had almost ruined it. How sad is the testimony of John 1:10. "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." Yet how glorious is the truth that "God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17).
Yes, "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). For all who receive that priceless gift by faith, "to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name" (John 1:12). And in that new world to come, "there shall be no more curse" and "there shall be no more death" (Revelation 22:3; 21:4).
1 Richard Dawkins, "God's Utility Function," Scientific American (vol. 273, November 1995), p. 85.
2 Homes Rolston III, "Does Nature Need to be Redeemed?" Zygon (vol. 29, June 1994), pp. 205,206.
3 Michael Ruse, "A Few Last Words—Until the Next Time," Zygon (vol. 29, March 1994), p. 78.
4 A.G. Mattill, Jr. "Three Cheers for the Creationists," Free Inquiry (vol. 2, Spring 1982), p. 17.
* Dr. Morris is Founder and President Emeritus of ICR.