The Perfect Imperfection of the Universe

We need to know the purpose of a design before we can comment on how well it accomplishes that purpose.

Photo credit to Beth Drendel

This article is inspired by the following article in which the author takes issue with an author of another article taking issue with the idea of the eye as proof of an Intelligent Designer. Go ahead and read the article if you are curious. My point goes in a different direction, though. I will pick up when you are done. (Or you can skip it and jump to where I start again.)

Nathan Lentz finds fault with the human eye and, therefore, argues that the human eye is poor evidence that a Designer God is behind it. Lentz comes from an evolutionary materialist position. Cornelius Hunter uses the force of Lentz’s argument against him.

In essence, Hunter counters that the fault-prone human eye should have spelled the demise of the human species if evolutionary materialism is true. The fault-prone human eye would have prevented humans from climbing to the top of the food chain and would have weeded us out long ago (on the evolutionary paradigm).

I am not really convinced by the counterargument. But then, I am not really convinced by the initial argument. Both arguments boast of knowledge and wisdom we have no claim on.

If God exists, who are we to find fault in His design? Design requires a purpose. Design doesn’t drive purpose; rather, purpose drives design. We must know the purpose of something before we can really comment on the design.

A design may be well suited to certain purposes and not to others, in varying degrees. The human eye serves a purpose in providing us the ability to do many things, and we have survived (obviously) despite the faults to which the human eye is prone. Perhaps, we could do more and survive better if the human eye wasn’t so subject to problems.

Then again, maybe the point (the purpose) of the human eye isn’t primary or only to allow us to do things and to survive. Maybe the human eye is designed to accomplish a much a greater purpose than mere utility and survival.

One the other hand, the fact that humans have survived despite having eyes that are susceptible to near-sightedness, far-sightedness, glaucoma and a host of other issues may simply suggest that we have evolved with other strengths that overcame the weaknesses in the human eye. The faults in the human eye don’t really disprove evolution.

But I have no interest here in continuing to prove or disprove either argument. I believe sufficient evidence exists to establish that a creator God is the best explanation for the universe.

What interests me is the following passage in Romans that speaks to the Lentz article on the seemingly flawed design of the human eye:

“[T]he creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope …..”

Romans 8:19 (ESV)

The idea I come back to is that God subjected the creation to futility… in hope. That means God subjected the creation to futility for a purpose. If the human eye is “flawed” (from our perspective), it is “flawed” for a purpose.

One of the most poignant arguments against the existence of the God of the Bible (who is claimed to be at once all-powerful and loving) is the problem of pain and suffering that is evident in the world. The problem of pain and suffering is a corollary to Lentz’s argument. It goes something like this:

  1. If God is all-powerful and all-loving, God could and would prevent pain and suffering in the world;
  2. Pain and suffering exists in the world; therefore:
    • God may be all-powerful, but He is not all-loving (because an all-loving God would not allow pain and suffering); or
    • God may be all-loving, but He isn’t all-powerful (otherwise He could stop the pain and suffering); and ultimately, therefore
  3. God does not exist at all.

This line of reasoning supposes, of course, that we know what kind of world an all-powerful and all-loving God would create to determine that this one doesn’t meet the standard.

Who are we to judge? At a minimum, it seems foolish to suppose that finite beings such as ourselves should reject God by applying standards from such a limited perspective as ours.

“Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’”

Isaiah 45:9 (NLT)

How do we know what an all-powerful and all-loving God would do?!

The Bible is not naïve about pain and suffering. The Bible readily acknowledges pain and suffering, but it assumes a purpose behind it. It also adopts a philosophical perspective about pain and suffering when Paul says,

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Romans 8:18

The fact is that our lives do not even register a blip on the timeline of the universe, and the pain and suffering we experience in our lives is of inconsequential duration compared to eternity. That our experience of pain and suffering can seem like an eternity is just an example of our extremely limited perspective.

If God subjected the creation to futility, we don’t advance in our knowledge or understanding to ask, rhetorically, why would an all-powerful and all-loving God do that? Presuming to think there is no good reason for it.

Frankly, it’s a nonsensical question if we believe no God exists. The question is even more nonsensical to ask rhetorically if we believe God does exist!

We have to be careful of our wishful thinking here. We might wish that God wouldn’t create a world in which pain and suffering exist, but we live in such a world. If we believe God exists (and I believe there is strong evidence that He does exist), then we are much better off dealing squarely with the reality of it.

Genesis doesn’t say, by the way, that God made the universe perfect. God said the universe He made was good, but He didn’t use the word, perfect.

If it doesn’t seem good to us, then maybe we need to let go of our notions of what a good world would look like. Maybe we need to consider what good the world God made is meant to accomplish.

I go back to the idea of purpose and design. Good can be a relative term. We need to know what the purpose is to determine whether a particular design is good.

I am not going to try to lay out, here, possible explanations of the goodness of the futility to which God subjected the world. I have done plenty of that in other articles. Just search for the keywords, “futility” or “suffering” on this website.

I will end by coming back to the article with which I began these comments. Lentz supposes that the proneness of the human eye to defect and disease is evidence that the eye was not designed, that it developed by natural selection acting on chance mutations.

For the reasons I have stated, we can’t use that thinking to reject the theory of a designed universe. Even if we believe that the design in the universe must reflect the work of an all-powerful, all-loving and good God fur us to believe in such a God, we need to know the purpose of the design before we can comment on how well it accomplishes that purpose.

The Bible doesn’t say the universe is perfect. In fact, the Bible says (at best) that the universe is good. (For example, Genesis 1:31) The Bible also asserts that God subjected the universe to futility as part of His ultimate purpose.

We have to know the ultimate purpose of the universe to be able to understand the goodness of the universe that is designed to accomplish that purpose. That we may not know or understand God’s purpose in creating the universe does not mean that the universe is not well-suited to accomplish God’s purpose. In fact, the universe may well be perfect in its imperfection.

3 thoughts on “The Perfect Imperfection of the Universe

  1. Another point I think could be considered:
    As far as I presently understand, man was created without any corruption such as the numerous cellular degenerative conditions that lead to, or are encountered in the process of overall non-recoverable deterioration that results in death.
    So I expect these conditions of deterioration of vision are not actually “original design flaws”, any more than cancer or loss of hair are, but they are all post fall deterioration/corruption conditions that are attributable to man’s original sin, which God warned Adam and Eve of the consequences of before they took the fruit.

    Liked by 1 person

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