Was It Worth It?

David Gelernter tells of Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai discussing whether it was good that God created the world. While they disagreed on most theological issues, on this one they were unified.

Gelernter: “God creates a perfect world, but on the other hand He hasn’t created a perfect creature. I don’t look at the world as we know it as more likely the result of intelligence than random playing around. ... I think if you took your chances you’d come up with a mess – like the world. On the whole I would fail this world if I were grading it. ... Is it good that the universe was created? ... Hillel says, and Shammai agrees with him, ‘No, it’s a catastrophe.’ If we had to go back and do it all again, we’d have to tell the Almighty, ‘Don’t do it.’ The suffering outweighs the good.”

In the same interview, Stephen Meyer, a proponent of intelligent design, responded: “I see two things when I look at nature. I see evidence of design, but you also see evidence of decay. ... From the Judeo-Christian perspective, you would expect to see evidence of original creation, but you would also expect to see that something’s gone wrong in nature. And I think we see both.

“... It’s interesting, for example ... virulent bacteria ... are invariably the result of a loss of information as a result of the mutational process. So the very process that Darwinists have invoked to explain the origin of good design is actually, I think, responsible for the evidence of decay. ... I see a very powerful signal of design, but I don’t deny the decay and the suffering in the world” (Mathematical Challenges to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution).

The existence of evil and suffering in the world has long been debated, and unbelievers point to human failings and natural calamities as de facto evidence that an all-good and all-powerful Creator God does not exist. But Hillel and Shammai, who believed in God, concluded that while He created everything, He made a mistake. “The suffering outweighs the good.”

This is one specific area where we must walk by faith, not by sight. In the midst of intense suffering – like a coronavirus pandemic – it is easy from a limited human perspective to think that nothing is worth the pain of human existence. We have read of doctors who have been so overwhelmed with their experiences that they have taken their own lives.

But remember, God sees all pain; He witnesses every act of wickedness. God sees value in us that remains hidden to human sensibilities. He didn’t just tell us that; He showed us in the clearest way imaginable: He subjected Himself to the vilest and most heinous treatment possible at the cross. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”

It is sadly amusing to see human philosophers offer God advice, but even godly servants have attempted the same (viz. Job, Jonah, Habakkuk). From an outside perspective, we may wonder how a parent can be so full of love and joy for a chronically debilitated child. Love is hard to measure or understand from a distance, and we are profoundly afar from God. So it behooves us to see that our views align with His because we can rest assured He is not wrong.

God thought it was worth it to make us with freewill, knowing beforehand what we would do with it. As hard as it is to understand, we are objects of His love even in our deeply flawed state. And if we can see Him through the pain and accept His offer to return, we will understand in the end why He thought it was worth it.