“The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble” (Proverbs 16:4, ESV).
When in Asia I am often cautioned to be very careful because of the many dangerous animals and conditions which I may encounter. Cobras, tigers, leopards, and bears are all indigenous to the countries I visit. Other potential hazards range from tiny mosquitoes (vectors for malaria, dengue fever, and other diseases) to wild elephants. One that I see regularly is the mugger crocodile, which throughout its range is responsible for many human fatalities.
One of the most common arguments against faith in God is the presence in the world of evil and its companion, human suffering. We understand environmental diversity and the roles that most species play in the balance of nature. Yet sometimes it is hard for us to accept that we would not be better off if some things had just never shown up. Would we really miss mosquitoes, ticks, and cockroaches? What about that ever-present enemy of mankind, the snake? In a perfect world, created by a perfect and loving God, how does one account for those things which seem primarily to cause harm?
I have seen many large crocodiles, and admire them for their size, power, and unique niche in the animal world. Yet I cannot really imagine living among them, forced to persistent vigilance in order to cross, travel upon, swim, bathe in, and draw water from the ponds, lakes, and rivers in which they flourish. Yes, the environment benefits from large predators, but could there not be a better way? If there is a symbol for evil in the animal kingdom, the crocodile is a worthy candidate for the position.
One basic tenant of the biblical doctrine of creation is that everything has its purpose. This material universe is the result of an intelligent plan and design. There are no unnecessary parts, and that includes those things which bring suffering. Even the evil of sin was included in God’s will; not that he desires it, but that it is essential to his overall purpose.
Man was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). This cannot mean that God is human in form or appearance because we are assured that we do not and cannot know what God is like (Colossians 1:15). Our similarity to the divine was caused by his bestowing upon the inert body of the first man his own living spirit (Genesis 2:7). One characteristic of that spirit is intelligence; another is the ability to choose, especially the ability to make moral choices between right and wrong.
By definition, there must exist at least two alternatives in order for choice to be possible. Had God only created good, man would be limited to those things which are good. He would have no other options. One may believe that would have been the best way for creation to have progressed. However, if God had so limited humanity, it would have changed our basic nature and our relationship with God. Obedience and faith would not be choices in response to God’s grace, but simply the way we were made. Apparently, that is not the relationship which God desires.
The greatest commandment ever given is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Love is a choice. It cannot be compelled, nor is it automatic. We speak of a mother’s love for her child as natural and universal, yet history is filled with unloving mothers who have neglected or harmed their offspring.
God created all things with purpose. Some produce much good. Some provide alternatives in order that God’s perfect system may be complete. All are necessary. And the system itself is “very good” (Genesis 1:31).