And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:31
Everything that God made was, at least at the time and according to him, very good. But things seem to have changed since then.
This is a problem for believers (and not just bible-believers, but all theists and deists, as well). Where did all the predators, parasites, disease, death, and suffering come from? Since they exist, they must have been designed. And although the design may have been intelligent enough, it could hardly be called benevolent.
But Christians believe in a benevolent God. So what's with all the nasty stuff out there?
Well, as you might have guessed, it's all right there in the Bible. But like everything else in there, it depends on who you ask.
- Some say that the original creation was just like God said it was in Genesis 1:31: very good. No predators, prey, suffering, death, or disease. Every living thing was immortal and would have lived happily ever after, if only Adam (who cares about Eve?) didn't sin. But he did, so God changed everything. Creatures prey upon one another in a painful struggle ending in a pointless death.
- Others say that death and suffering are all a part of God's grand design. Nature is red in tooth and claw because God likes it that way.
[W]e like to think of God as being the God of love. However, God's character is multifaceted and complex. The God of love is going to throw plagues against the earth, eventually burn it up in judgment, and ultimately sentence the unrepentant to eternal torment. Animal death is certainly no less loving than these things.The God of love tortures people forever in hell; he also enjoys watching cats play with mice.
- Others say that God's creation was perfectly benevolent, but then Satan snuck in and ruined everything. They quote Matthew 13:28 where the servant asks the master where the weeds came from and he replies, "An enemy has done this." Satan has power to change God's creation, and he has done so with a vengeance. There is a war going on within nature and God is just another enemy combatant.
- Others say that in the beginning God started it all in a big bang billions of years ago, but he didn't know where it was going and didn't intervene along the way (except for maybe a tweak now and then when nobody was looking). He's as surprised (if he still exists) and as shocked by what he sees as you are.
- And others just pretend that nature is kind and ignore it when it appears otherwise. Just like they do with the Bible.
I'd be interested to know what the believers think about these options. Which do you prefer? And did I miss any?