January 23, 2014

Designed by an Idiot

If you look carefully at the car in this picture you will notice that it contains major design flaws. There are several. You might not be an engineer, so I will point them out to you:

  • Notice the front, driver-side wheel. The way that it is bent down on an angle is a major design flaw. That is going to be terrible for gas mileage. It will also affect handling and give uneven wear on the tire. Ideally, all wheels should be straight. 
  • The windshield on this car will provide terrible visibility. It will also provide less protection than if the windshield had been designed as one piece of solid glass.   
  • The driver-side door also has major problems. The concave design is bad for wind resistance. It is also makes it difficult for the driver to get in and out of the car easily. 
Okay, enough pretending. Obviously this car has been in an accident. However, if somehow I actually thought that this car rolled off the assembly line in this condition, I could only conclude that the car was designed by an idiot.

There are people who make this same mistake when they look at the world we live in. The look around and they see sickness, and earthquakes, and violence. They conclude that there simply can’t be a perfect God who designed this world.

We live in a world of conflicting data. When we look at the world, it is obvious that there are things that point to its design. Even looking at the crashed car, a person can tell that certain parts were designed to fulfill certain purposes. The car was in an accident, but it wasn’t the result of an accident. It wasn’t put together by a tornado in a junkyard. There might even be some parts of the car that still work.

In our world we see a combination of design and disaster. There is beauty and there is ugliness. The world is finely tuned to support life. Statistically, we should be shocked that there is even one planet in the universe that is able to support life. When we think of our bodies, we should be amazed that they work even half as good as they do. But other people look at the world and see all of the things that are badly bent out of shape and ask why would God do that? 

Why do I have this sickness? Why did my family fall apart? Why are there birth defects and diseases if there is a God? Why did my friend die? Many people look at the disorder in the world and conclude that there simply can’t be a God. It just would not make sense. 

In fact, this was one of the motivating factors that caused Charles Darwin reject God and develop his theory of evolution. Nature was red in tooth and claw. In a letter, Darwin wrote:

“There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designed and created the Ichneumonidae [parasidic wasp] with the expressed intention of their [larva] feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that the cat should play with mice.”

Darwin saw too much pain and misery in the world to believe that it was designed by a good and all-powerful God.

There were many people in Darwin’s day who argued for the existence of God based on design. If you walk along the beach and find a watch, you can look at its parts and conclude that it was designed and thus that there was a Designer. But Darwin and others saw the flaws and reached the opposite conclusion. Darwin looked at the pain and suffering in the world and concluded that it could not be the work of a competent Designer. 

The problem was that people had forgotten the Biblical storyline. Creation, Fall, Redemption…

Deistic arguments from design failed because they didn’t take into account the Biblical narrative. And because of that failure there were unable to explain the real world that confronts us. We exist in a world that appears to contain both unfathomable design as well as unexplainable chaos.  Biblical Christianity is able to explain what other worldviews cannot. In fact, this world is exactly the one we would expect if Biblical Christianity is true. 

According to the Biblical story this world was designed and created by God. God is perfect in goodness and unlimited in power and wisdom. When the world that God created rolled off of the assembly line, it was in pristine condition. God inspected His handiwork and certified it as “good” (Genesis 1:31). 

Yet as soon as God handed over the keys of creation we proceeded to drive it directly into a tree. 

Our first parents rebelled against God and in doing so plunged God’s good creation into ruin. This is what we call “the fall.” Since the event of the fall in Genesis 3, this world has been a different place. There is still evidence of design, but the creation is horribly damaged. Romans 5 tells us that because of one man’s sin, death spread to all men. Romans 8:19-21 describes the created order as now being “subjected to frustration” and in “bondage to decay” because of the fall. Although God had created the world as "very good" things are no longer the way they were. 

The car was designed well, but it was in an accident. That’s the world we live in. 

If you don’t realize that, you might say to yourself, Why is my body such a disappointment if I am designed by God? How can there be a God when my aunt or uncle died of cancer? How can there be a God when my family fights so much? If there is a God and things are designed this way, why aren’t my parents together? Why did the person I love die? Why do tsunamis kill thousands? Why is there so much hurt? Why is there so much pain? Why do I struggle with these temptations? Why would God design me with desires that I’m not supposed to have?  

The Bible explains why there are things that are beautiful. It explains why there are so many things that work wonderfully. It explains why we can even be here. The Biblical story also explains why there is disorder and death and cruelty and suffering. It explains the order as well as the disorder. 

God has made a way to fix this broken world. He did this by coming into this messed up world and fixing it from the inside out. By Christ’s perfect and life and death, He is able to make all things new.  

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