Divine Morality and Design

We have a God given sense of what is right and that innocence is to be protected from harm. Yet certain aspects of the Genesis story and the idea of Intelligent Design seems to me to challenge the idea of divine goodness and justice.

For a start in the aftermath of the disobedience of Adam and Eve God not only punishes them but lays a curse upon all their descendents, and also there is other implication that violence affects the whole of creation. God curses the whole of creation because of Adam and Eve. He inflicts misery on every other human being because of their actions. God therefore punishes the future innocents with the future guilty.

Then we also have the fact of the most horrible diseases that affect babies and animals that are in every sense “innocent”. If people want to claim God as designer of everything then we have to acknowledge God created all the horrible parasites and diseases that affect the “good” and the “bad” alike. That’s the not the work of a good and moral God!

It is for this reason that I think that evolution is a better explanation of disease.and parasites and violence in creation than Intelligent Design or divine curse that affects all. God has given creation complete freedom to develop and evolve. Disease etc is a bi-product of something incomplete. There is a future transformation to come in which all that has suffered finds a future with God.

Also I think that the Incarnation of the Word made flesh in Jesus is in fact some way in which God also takes responsibility for all the innocent suffering in creation as He experiences suffering at calvary and dies with us and for us and all things.

Interesting thought. I have not thought about that ID implies that God specifically designed malaria for example. I have accepted disease etc as the price we pay for life in the material world, much like we accept auto accidents as the price we pay for having cars.


It’s actually monotheism itself that implies God created all things, not ID, even if that sole Creatorhood were not specifically and repeatedly spelled out in the Christian revelation.

The idea of putting God in the moral dock for “natural evils” dates back only to the Deist Leibniz, though it’s become common currency now, and seems to have spread even to Evangelicals recently, as if it were a new discovery. Yet not only does it have to deny those many passages of Scripture, Old and New Testaments, in which God claims to be responsible for these things (and those in which he says Creation is nevertheless “very good”), but such theodicy has never been able to “clear” God of ultimate responsibility for what is.

Either God did not create evolution, in which case there is more than one Creator (welcome to theological dualism!); or (as Howard Van Till and a recent generation of TEs suggested) he created it autonomous and let it loose on an unsuspecting universe like a mad dog off the leash. if God is to be held accountable to us for creating evils (rather than the reverse, as Jesus taught!) then the same reasoning should hold him accountable for the irresponsible creation of uncontrolled processes.

Or thirdly, as I believe Christianity has always taught, and Judaism befpre it, God’s ways are higher than ours, and he uses the natural realm, created good, both to bless and to judge.

Forgive me for interjecting this, but it’s close to my heart as I recently wrote a book on it!


Good thoughts, and I will look for your book. Still, there seems a place for bad stuff to be a necessary evil so to speak of existence. That is, it otherwise could not have been created within the constraints of the physical laws of the universe.
To continue the analogy of auto accidents, we know that they kill 10000 kids annually, but when your beloved child turns 16, you teach them to drive, and perhaps look at getting them a car, not because we do not care, but rather because we do.

It seems so indeed, James - though I’m cautious to speculate why (even in terms of “necessary consequences of physics”) when God doesn’t tell us why. In fact, part of the necessity seems to be that it’s kept from us, apart from the truths that God is genuinely good, that evil is genuinely inimical to God, and that we see the resolution in Christ, whilst even in him the mystery of God’s will remains hidden.

The book, by the way, is only online - link as in previous post.

My original point is that it makes better sense to me think of inevitable “evils” and suffering arising from a free natural process than from a God who actually creates and inflicts things on people, especially on those who have in effect not had a chance to commit sin.

While I respect the idea that God’s ways are higher than our ways, I think thats about God’ moral character being better than ours, rather than saying “don’t try to fathom things out”. God gave us minds to use. We should use existing knowledge. I don’t go with the notion that God does n’t want us to think and ask questions. If God is more greately moral He can’t be less moral than our sense of what makes for goodness and justice towards the weak and vulnerable.

I once saw a film about some Jews in a Nazi Concentration putting God on trial for deserting His covenant!

1 Like


I’ve heard the story - leaving aside the very real context of what suffering leads people to do, the Jews in question were saying, “If God were even as moral as us, he would have acted against the Nazis before it got to this state.” And if some philosophical type had said, “He couldn’t, because he had to let the Nazis have free will,” no doubt the reply would be made, “He didn’t give Pharoah that free will when he initiated the covenant, or the Babylonians when he raised up Cyrus to bring us home from exile, so why is he leaving it up to the Western Allies to curtail their freedom now?”

In hindsight, whether we adopt something like Moltmann’s suffering God theology, or simply compare the similar cases of Israel’s 400 years in slavery, or the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar, or the 70AD Roman destruction prophesied by Jesus (as a consequence of Israel’s rejection of his message of peace, according to him), we end up either abandoning faith, or conceding with Paul, "Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.”

We can only judge God’s ways by our fallen morality, and we are told that God will judge our ways by his standard: both cannot be true at once.

The case with nature is of a different order, once one starts enquring into what a “free” process is, when not applied to a morally responsible agent like mankind (or Nazis), in whom it is morally plausible for God to allow autonomous action. Inanimate processes cannot exercise choice - they can only be either lawlike, following God’s order, or ontologically random, having no cause (because God is not in control, and there is no other First Cause).

So to propose that evolution is “free” is to say only that God set up the universe like a gambler starting a game of dice: and people who lose their money gambling are held morally accountable. That’s what I mean when I say that “free process” fails as a theodicy.

Here is a Puritan adage that I think will help you put things in biblical perspective. God doesn’t do good. It is good, because God does it :slight_smile:

Is it far fetched to believe that Adam’s sin (spiritual trait) which caused everything to fall, including his own body could have been biologically passed down to his descendants? no different than eye color (physical trait) etc… Furthermore the bible is clear that we are sinners in nature but also our deeds as well. To be honest, Adam’s sin may pale in comparison to our own sins. We are not innocent. We have grieved God just as much if not more than Adam, my friend

Agree with you absolutely on that. I have a little trouble with the thought of Adams sin causing his body to fail and that would be inherited, as that means billions of teeny tiny miracles would have to be done to switch out molecules in the DNA of every cell of his body, and some physical DNA would have to carry the “sin gene”.
And, no one could do it but God, which would then truly make him the author of sin.


Interesting…The bible is clear that God is not the author of sin. The bible is also clear that everything God made was good. Man is responsible for bringing sin into creation, and God allows it for His purpose. How does this work? I have no idea, but that is ok with me, because it is impossible in my fallen, fallible nature to comprehend God’s incomprehensible predestination


It’s not quite so clear, Wookin…

Rom 9:17-20
For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

The problem of Evil is actually MORE complex than the problem of creation …

Complex to us, not to God

Those verses you provided does not say that God is the author of sin. God hardening Pharoh’s heart meant that he let go of an already hardened heart. God will give you what you want. Pharoh had many opportunities to soften his own heart but chose to harden it instead, so God gave Pharoh what he wanted.

(James 1:13)
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one

I have met Atheists who say that they don’t believe in God, because evolution filled in the gaps. I have met people who had walked away from the faith, because of evolution. You believe that God devised a system, “evolution” that would be used to give those a valid reason to disprove His existence?


That’s a nice answer … except it isn’t consistent with the next two verses of the same chapter:

Rom 9:21-23
Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

These verses are not saying that God is the author of sin. This is a predestination (doctrine of election) verse. Paul is arguing that it is irrational and arrogant to question God’s choice of certain sinners for salvation. The bible teaches that all of us are heading to hell, but God intervenes so that He could demonstrate His grace and mercy on some and His justness and wrath on others.

Panub, perhaps you have set up a totally false premise, and, in trying to prove it, you resort to calling it “God’s incomprehensible predestination.” As long as I retain my human nature, I do not expect to fully understand God’s nature. Nevertheless, with the intelligence that God gave me, I believe He expects me to try my best to do so. After 90+ yrs. on this earth, what I have learned from a combination of Faith and science, leads me to believe I am on track to at least a limited understanding: God started life on this earth in the simplest of forms, sending it out (as alpha) with an immense potential (through evolution) to develop both variety and complexity. After many eons, this complexity took the form of Mind, which was self-aware and conscious of it’s creaturely nature, plus a desire to return it its Source (omega). In the sense that God has predestined humankind (Adam) to return to its Source, we are part of a ‘very good creation’–to the extent that the freedom God gave us allows us to refuse to do so, we are fallen.

I am quite aware that interpreting the story of The Garden of Eden as one of Original Blessing instead of Original Sin is quite Unorthodox in the eyes of most Christian churches. And yet it gives me a better understanding of the role of Jesus: a role of Atonement (At-one-ment). God Bless.
Al Leo

I appreciate what you wrote, but I am sorry. I just don’t see it in scripture. This has been a lifetimes long debate among Calvinists and Arminians. The answer lies in the middle. Do we choose God or does God choose us? If God chooses then how are we responsible if we don’t choose Him? These are just one of the many paradoxes in scripture i.e. How can Jesus be fully man and fully God. We can and should do our best to understand in order to know the power and majesty of God, but we also understand that in our fallen state, we accept that it is right even when every fiber of our being wants to question it.


I’m not convinced that this issue of TEMPTATION is the same as God creating vessels of wrath for the sake of his glory …

God didn’t TEMPT Pharaoh … God MADE Pharaoh…