February 05, 2015

THEOLOGY: It’s All Good

One huge complaint that YECs make is that this current world is not “very good” as described in Genesis 1:31. They argue that only an unfallen world without sin, death, suffering and disease could be considered very good. But, is that really what we discover in the Bible, or is that an artificial, emotional argument? Comparing Scripture with Scripture shows us some good clues to answer that question.

First, though, let’s consider Genesis 1:31 in a bit more detail. “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good...” (NKJV). That which was “very good” was what God had made. There is no definition of “very good,” and we are left to interpret what that means more specifically. Do we assume that everything in Nature was pleasant? We could but it’s not specified. By whose standard was it good? God’s standard. Did God make dangerous asteroids at this point? Most people would assume so. Did God make dangerous x-rays from the sun that cause damage to cells? We would assume so. The list of dangerous things in the universe could be long, even given no death, disease, or suffering. We also should consider if God directly made everything, or if some things have come about from “chance” and the laws of Nature. As you can see, there are important interpretive questions to ask about Genesis 1:31 that don’t all have obvious answers. Extreme caution must be taken in using this verse to support any major doctrine, I think.

Now, let’s list some verses (non-exhaustive) that indicate good things about the fallen world.

“…[A]nd they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: ‘The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land…’” (Num. 14:7; compare with Deut. 1:25, 35; 3:25; 4:21-22; 8:7, 10; 9:6; 11:17; Josh. 23:13, 16; Judg. 18:9; 1Kgs 14:15; 1Chr. 4:40; 28:8).

So, even after the Fall, the land God created with thorns and thistles can be called “exceedingly good” and “very good” (Judg. 18:9). This includes things like trees (2Kgs 3:25; compare with Ezr. 9:12; Is. 1:19; Jer. 2:7).

“The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand” (Deut. 28:12; compare with Matt. 5:44-45).

So, rain is seen as good, which according to some YECs only happened after the Flood. Instead, the Bible always puts rain in a good light.

“My son, eat honey because it is good, And the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste…” (Prov. 24:13).

Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it?” (Mark 9:50).

Honey and salt are good in a fallen world. Salt is good for certain things. It’s bad for soil but good as a way to help preserve or season food.

“He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty” (Luke. 1:53).

“For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused [for food] if it is received with thanksgiving…” (1Tim. 4:4).

So, “every” animal is good and able to be eaten. Of course, just like in Genesis 1:31, “every” may not be intended here to be all-inclusive but perhaps a generality. Every creature God made is “good.” This sounds very much like Genesis 1. And yet, in the fallen world there are sharks, lions, poisonous frogs, spiders, and tapeworms. These creatures may all be “good” in some sense of the word, I believe.

We see from the Bible that many things God has made are still good after the Fall. However, YECs do not deny that some things are still good. But they require the word “everything” in Genesis 1:31 to be absolute. Absolutely everything God had made was very good before the Fall. Since now everything is presumed to be tainted due to the effects of sin, and some things are presumed to be not good, they argue that the present world must be dramatically different from the initial creation. How can I answer this argument? Three possible answers can be given as follows:

1.) Broadly inclusive words and phrases are sometimes, if not most of the time, used in a generalized sense rather than an absolute sense. In English we use language in a similar way and people understand that we are not being absolute. For example, “She is always on the computer,” or, “He’s good at everything.” An example that appears clear in the Bible is 1 Timothy 4:4, just mentioned above.

2.) Even unpleasant things can be considered “good” by God’s standard. There are many ways of judging the goodness or badness of things. For instance, the human eyes are a bad design for long-distance sight compared with Eagle’s eyes. What makes God’s creation good? Is it merely beauty? Or, does that place too much emphasis on beauty? There’s much, much more to goodness than simply beauty. That is one possible metric to determining goodness, but there are many other metrics that could be used. If beauty were the only factor to goodness, then apparently many creatures are the result of the Fall, like the roach, slug, mole, and the blobfish (or substitute these creatures with ones you personally consider ugly).

No, beauty is only a small factor. The Bible mentions the fallen world being filled with God’s goodness (Ps. 33:5) and His glory (Is. 6:3). Surely God’s glory is good! The heavens declare His glory (Ps. 19:1). God makes “everything” beautiful in its time (Ecc. 3:11). All things in Creation are made by God’s wisdom (Ps. 104:24). Everything in this fallen world serves a very good and holy purpose by God’s infinite wisdom. Even the thorns and thistles are “very good” from this perspective of purposefulness. In line with this, things normally considered bad in the Bible are sometimes considered good in the right context, given the purpose: “the yoke” (Lam. 3:27), “death” (Ps. 116:15; Ecc. 7:1; Phil. 1:21), “suffering” (Col. 1:24; 1Pet. 4:13), “trials” (James 1:2-3), “affliction” (Ps. 119:71), and “wounds” (Prov. 27:6), to name a few. In fact, God works all bad things out for “good” to those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). So, though the curse of death may be our great enemy and not intrinsically a good thing, it is also not ultimately a negative thing in God’s plans for His children. The physically bad things often translate to spiritually helpful things when a person has faith.

Are magnificent lions not a part of a good creation simply because they are violent? Does their generally violent nature prohibit God from calling them “very good”? I think not. Lions may be violent, but they are beautiful creatures that can be considered wisely designed. (For me, there is still the question of how much of the designs of animals were directly crafted by God using preexisting genetic plans and how much was the result of evolution working to find solutions to random environmental conditions. We may never be able to answer that question.)

3.) God never claimed that all things without exception were very good, only the things He had made. We could interpret that to mean the things He directly created. Many things are likely the result of time and chance, and such things are not necessarily good. Even Genesis 1 indicates that God did not make everything; darkness, which is generally a negative thing in the Bible, is nothing more than the absence of light, and so it is not said to have been created in Genesis 1.

(a) Did God create death? If my view of created evolution is correct He probably did not create death. Death is the result of cells deteriorating and malfunctioning. Death is not a design feature of life. Therefore, I would argue that death was not part of something that “He had made” (Gen. 1:31). Indirectly, sure. God had a reason for allowing life to be susceptible to breaking down and dying, but it was not a part of His intrinsic design of creatures. Adam and Eve were physically capable of living forever with just the right nutrients—something in the Tree of Life (perhaps enzymes and/or proteins that kept their telomeres from shortening and made cell cleanup more aggressive). So, no, God did not create death directly.

(One could argue that God made the Second Law of Thermodynamics when He created the universe, which is the cause of the breakdown of living cells. However, the law of entropy may not be the primary cause of death. Death might not happen without entropy, but a living system is much more complex than simply a machine that experiences aging, like a car that gets old and breaks. A multicellular organism is constantly “dying” and being reborn, you could say, because the individual cells are continually being replaced with new ones. Also, the cells are constantly being maintained to prevent genetic decay. For complex living things, like humans, entropy is successfully fought against for years. The cause of “natural” death is often because of the buildup of genetic copying errors. Cells “age” over many generations because of the breakdown of genetic information. Individual cells may experience entropy and death without the whole organism experiencing the effects of entropy. This means that “genetic information decay” may not be caused directly by entropy, I think. Entropy speaks to increasing disorder of physical material, but not necessarily to increasing disorder of information. It is fully conceivable that humans could pass on information for millions of years without any errors being introduced to that information. There is no law of entropy that applies to information, I don’t believe. If the cells of our bodies could indefinitely pass on its genetic information perfectly—and there’s no logical reason why they couldn’t, in theory—there might be no cause for “natural” death. Thus, the law of entropy may not directly cause or guarantee typical mortality any more than any other law of nature.)

(b) Did God create pain and suffering? I believe that all suffering results from aggressive selfishness—willful violence of other animals—and God’s lack of protection from accidents, disease, and decay. Animals are generally selfish and fight for their needs and wants, bringing the worst harm upon other animals. If animals were purely just and selfless, I believe that God would protect even the animals from harm and suffering. God allows suffering for His glory, but perhaps He did not (supernaturally) create the means that bring suffering.

(c) Did God create the violent tendencies of animals or the parasitic nature of organisms? Don’t organisms need to compete for survival? Actually, no. There are different species that live in harmony and even reliance upon one another. The idea of designed evolution is not equivalent to Darwinism. Brutal, savage, selfish “survival of the fittest” is not what governs all living things. There are good examples that have provided evidence for this point. Most of the organisms of the world are probably not violent or predatory. Life did not need to become violent for it to survive. Remember, the first life on earth was probably peaceful phytoplankton or something similar.

There is no doubt that evolution has helped facilitate carnivorous designs, like sharp claws and teeth, poisons, and digestive systems specialized to digest meats. However, many designs used for predation would be equally useful for defense against predators. It is likely that evolution has been simply blindly bringing new designs into existence to help animals survive, regardless of the uses of those designs. In other words, God did not specifically design evolution to select for predatory designs. Evolution is merely a survival mechanism allowing animals to adapt in any of countless ways, including adapting to become fiercer or more capable of killing other animals for food.

Thus, to be clear, the violent nature of predators is because of the specific, semi-random path that evolution took with those animals. We cannot say for sure what God had genetically programmed from the start some 4 billion years ago and what was simply change happening by “chance” through time. For me personally, emotionally I prefer to believe that God did not specifically create carnivorous designs. He knew it would happen and providentially intended it, but it was likely not part of what He created and called “very good.” That which was good was all that He had supernaturally formed.


I have presented some answers to why God would call an imperfect, suffering world “very good.” These answers are not entirely compatible, but they are some possible interpretations. The best interpretation of Genesis 1:31 is that God wisely and skillfully made a world designed to bring Him glory. Everything He had created was and is very good. Even the harmful elements of nature, like floods and hurricanes, bespeak His power and might and serve a spiritually good purpose in relation to fallen man. One way or another, there is something very good about this world—either in part or in whole—even though we look and long for a new creation where there is no decay or death. This is hopeful and positive and spiritually-focused.

I know some YECs cannot emotionally accept this answer. However, there are good biblical reasons to believe that God did not redesign Creation after the Fall. The YEC alternative is to believe that God ditched His original creation very soon after He had made it because of the sin of mankind! The YECs must accept that our world is not very good and that God judged all the animals because of the sin of man, in contrast to Genesis 3 that says that the only animal clearly judged was the one that participated in the Fall (viz. the serpent). They must accept that eating meats is a necessary evil. They must embrace the teaching that God created darkness and it is “very good.” They must accept that God directly judged man in countless ways beyond death and thorns and harder labor by making harmful things all throughout this fallen world.