God’s Good Earth: The Case for an Unfallen Creation, by Jon Garvey, Chapter 11 – On Pain and Suffering

God’s Good Earth: The Case for an Unfallen Creation, by Jon Garvey,

Chapter 11 – On Pain and Suffering

We will continue our review of God’s Good Earth: The Case for an Unfallen Creation, by Jon Garvey.  Today is Chapter 11 – On Pain and Suffering.  In this chapter Jon intends to question the factual basis of the statement “most animals are fated to an agonizing death”.  He begins by noting that it is the experience, personal or vicarious, of human suffering that generates concern over sufferings perceived to exist in nature as “evil”.  Of course, human pain is the only form about which we can be truly certain, since pain is an irreducibly subjective experience.  Yet the subjectivity of pain, he says, can play us false, and we can take for granted neither that our own pain is a reliable indicator of harm, or that other people experience pain the same as we do.

In Jon’s professional career he ran a district National Health Service back pain clinic.  He observed that it is commonplace that the effect of mental state on pain was profound.  A depressed patient felt pain more severely and an adrenaline surge could virtually obviate pain.  Pain is also affected by nonphysical things such as culture — certain social groups and nationalities were unusually sensitive to quite minor sources of pain while other groups, like native hunter-gatherers, would endure what to us would be dreadful torments without exhibiting any signs of pain.  So, he concludes, the subjectivity even of the common experience of human pain, confirms the warning of Alfred Russell Wallace (Wallace, The World of Life, p. 377) that:

Our whole tendency to transfer our sensations of pain to all other animals is grossly misleading.

Wallace theorized that specific factors in human evolutionary development made increased pain sensitivity a likely adaptation:

  1. Lengthy period of infancy and childhood
  2. Unprotected skin prone to injury
  3. Use of fire
  4. Increasingly hard and sharp tools and weapons; Wallace said:

… it is this specially developed sensibility that we, most illogically, transfer to the animal world in our wholly exaggerated and often quite mistaken views as to the cruelty of nature (Ibid, p. 379)

Jon then injects a personal note:

But before leaving the human sphere, I want… to question to what extent pain, even in our human experience, is truly an “evil”.  There are certainly those whose entire life has been blighted by previous pain (one thinks of torture victims) or other sufferings like the trauma of war, of violent crime, of road accidents, or chronic illness.  But for most of us, even quite severe episodes of pain are seen, in retrospect, as part of life.  At least they can make us more appreciative of the more prevalent good times, and (despite some philosopher’s claims to the contrary) quite often can be viewed as enriching our life experiences in numerous ways.

Personally, I have (so far) been pretty fortunate in health matters.  But apart from the common illnesses I have suffered very painful back injury (ironic, but also valuable, for a back pain practitioner).  I have also suffered from periods of depression that, although not anything as severe as those I have treated in others, are not something I would choose to repeat.  Most people I know have comparable experiences – the painful childbirth, the acute appendicitis, the crushing coronary artery thrombosis, and so on.  But in a majority of cases, when those episodes have passed away they seem, in retrospect, transient and even ephemeral.  I have no urge whatsoever to come before God’s throne and demand redress for my past sufferings, even had I done nothing in my life to deserve such troubles… and we must not forget that this book is written on the assumption that humankind lives in painful exile from God because of sin.

Jon then returns to Wallace’s argument that pain is an evolutionary adaption and therefore has evolved as far as, and no further than, it is useful to the survival of organisms.  Quoting again from Wallace’s The World of Life:

…it is almost as certain as anything not personally known can be, that all animals which breed very rapidly, which exist in vast numbers, and which are necessarily kept down to their average population by the agency of those that feed upon them, have little sensitiveness, perhaps only a slight discomfort, under the most severe injuries, and that they probably suffer nothing at all when being devoured. For why should they?  They exist to be devoured; their enormous powers of increase are for this end; they are subject to no dangerous bodily injury until that time comes for them to be devoured, and therefore they need no guarding against it through the agency of pain.

So in Wallace’s estimation, almost all aquatic animals up to fishes, all insects, probably all mollusks and worms, indeed most invertebrates, feel very little, if any, pain, thus reducing the sphere of pain to a minimum.  Among the higher animals, by the same evolutionary argument, therefore, that small birds and mammals are generally less subject to injuries from falls or fighting than us, and so pain is likely to be much less developed in them.  That leaves only the larger and heavier animals likely to benefit from (and therefore to suffer because of) well-developed pain sensation.  Wallace also notes the evolutionary development of claws and teeth occurred to quickly dispatch the prey with a minimum of struggle, and presumably, pain.

Modern biological research into animal nervous systems and responses to stimulae confirm Wallace’s observations.  Jon notes that the parasitism that so horrified Darwin usually involves the parasitized insects carrying on a normal life as the parasite develops, dying quickly only when the grown parasite bursts out. Regarding the higher vertebrates, Jon says:

These “higher vertebrates” constitute only around 45,000 species, somewhat less than 5 percent of the animals, amongst anything up to 10 million living species in total; it is a much lower percentage than that in terms of number of individuals.  Before, we even look at pain amongst the vertebrates, the claim that “most animals suffer an agonizing death” is already completely discredited.

Jon asserts that the proportion of “sentient creatures” i.e. capable of significant pain that actually die in circumstances that would lead to pain is fewer than we’ve been led to think.  Wildlife documentaries focus on violent animal death for emotion-stirring ratings reasons.  Anthropomorphic scripts, musical manipulation of viewer’s emotions are the common currency.  Dispassionate science doesn’t sell films or commercials.  Jon makes the following dispassionate arguments:

  1. Total mass of animals at the top of the food pyramid, the secondary carnivores, is far less than the total mass of the animals close to the plant source of food, the herbivores.
  2. Most herbivores are not actually targeted by carnivores at all; most carnivores significantly scavenge to make up their diet.
  3. The prey animals targeted tend to be the weakest, oldest, sickest.
  4. Prey is dispatched relatively quickly with minimal pain and suffering usually.

The fact that the horror now expressed by scientists and other academics at suffering in the natural world, with or without considering evolution is due to a shift in thinking in:

  1. There is a current preference for seeing continuity between animals and ourselves rather than a discontinuity due to our rationality and made-in-the-image-of-God.
  2. Suffering is now seen as an absolute, rather than a relative evil, largely due to the relativizing of a once absolute morality.
  3. Our post-modern age has elevated subjectivity into a primary virtue.

He concludes:

… I hope I have shown that our profound ignorance of what it is like to be an animal makes it supremely arrogant to accuse God of creating a world of extreme cruelty.  The evidence does not in any way support it, and as Christians we should surely default to the position that God knew what he was doing when he created the world and called it very good.

45 thoughts on “God’s Good Earth: The Case for an Unfallen Creation, by Jon Garvey, Chapter 11 – On Pain and Suffering

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  2. His argument is actually evolutionary, so beyond the subjectivity of pain, you would need a counter-argument. Why would animals feel pain if feeling pain doesn’t protect them from anything?


  3. I think he would answer that it is science which has a limited vision, due to the constraints it has placed on itself.


    “So I’m still not sold on the idea that it WASN’T God’s plan/intent that NONE of His creation suffer, not sold that it WASN’T made “uncorrupted,” but then something entered into the picture to corrupt it.”

    Geez, as a writer you’d think I’d know how to phrase things correctly.


  5. Yep. I’m with you on that. It’s like I posted last week, wasn’t it God’s intention that lions and lambs lie together in peace? Won’t the New Jerusalem be a safe place for all of God’s creatures? So I’m still not sold on the idea that God’s plan/intent was that NONE of His creation suffer, that it WAS made “uncorrupted,” but then something entered into the picture to corrupt it.


  6. for connection to ‘topic’, prayers for animals is a part of our humanity and a part of how we see Creation and the Creator . . . . why the suffering of innocent animals in this world? ethics and moral treatment of animals is most definitely a human responsibility and most certainly a Christian responsibility 🙂

    Proverbs 12:10 says:

    10 ” A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast,
    But the compassion of the wicked is cruel. ”

    contempt for the suffering of animals is not a part of this post, no;
    in fact, it is quite the opposite

    the ‘why’ of how prey suffer from predators is not fully understood, but to have pity on the suffering of all animals seems consistent with respect for their Creator God;
    to have contempt for them disrespects their Creator in my opinion


  7. a LOT of cancer and other diseases was caused when a Ford Plant poured paint wastes down the old Peters Mine shaft (2,400 feet deep) in Ringwood NJ, which then leached out into the soils and surrounding waters of Ringwood where there are three established lake communities and the large Wanaque Reservoir just south of the old historic iron mine area.

    we had a house on one of the lake communities in Ringwood years ago for about ten plus years, and so many of our friends and acquaintance in Ringwood have passed on too soon of terrible diseases . . . so many . . . . vibrant beautiful people dead in their late thirties, forties, fifties and sixties . . . . . . and the diseases, yes cancer and other wasting debilitating diseases

    so now the area is a ‘superfund’ cleanup project, and all manner of legal goings-on have pursued recourse for victims, but the illnesses and the deaths stand witness to a corporation’s mis-use of the environment in a fragile land area in a very beautiful portion of North Jersey about an hour west of NYC . . .

    I worked on this for years as a member of the League of Women Voters in Ringwood. I had an acquaintance, Wenke Taule, who actually became the mayor of the township after we had sold our property and left the area, and she fought for some kind of justice for the victims, especially the poor ‘mine people’ who lived on the most seriously poisoned land.

    Yes, the Ford Plant saved money by dumping its wastes down that old abandoned iron mine shaft. But the resulting carnage . . . . so tragic, so caused by man’s stupidity and short-sightedness . . .

    when you see it up close, you ‘get it’ . . . for much of the ‘right’, it’s just a political ploy of ‘liberals’ but I can tell you a litany of names and the horrible diseases that they suffered and died from, and believe me, it is real, the abuse of the land for ‘corporate profit’ has a cost far greater than any ‘savings’ . . . that kind of greed kills people



  8. The other day my wife told me that a student had related how one of her family’s semi-feral cats, that hunts some of its own food, had caught, killed, and consumed a small rabbit as she watched. The girl told about the incident with awe and wonder in her eyes, smiling at how “awesome” the cat was. My wife was quietly horrified. I’m afraid that as much as I may admire how beautiful nature can be, I will never be able to look at or think of its beauties without feeling the horrible ambivalence that it also contains, and I will always think of such ferocious scenes as manifestations of its horrors.


  9. I think Garvey ends in a place very similar to C.S. Lewis in the section of his book, The Problem of Pain, dealing with animal suffering. The fact that Lewis believed in a fallen creation doesn’t really seem to make his conclusions different from Garvey with regard to that theodicy problem. He takes it on faith that God is good, and that the apparent innocent suffering of animals is just that, apparent; and he supposes that the appearance is rooted in different capacities of consciousness between humans and other animals.


  10. It is obviously a complicated subject, with unsatisfying explanations in every direction. I vacillate between views with different understandings on how it all works, but none of them are complete, satisfying, or even tolerable. I guess everyone else is in the same boat.


  11. Emily Litella, not Roseanne Roseannadanna.

    Strange how the mind works, to come up with that correction out of the blue while not even thinking about it.


  12. Not sure how this could be overlooked: Isn’t the OVERWHELMING majority of suffering due to nature and not man? How many billions upon billions of people will experience pain/loss due to cancer and other diseases we have not cured. The harm we humans inflict on one another is not even comparable to that from nature and things beyond our control.


  13. In fact, even after I hit Post with my first comment I realized that, regarding my #5, there has been SOME extreme suffering caused by “nature” rather than man’s hand. Black Death, for instance. So that’s now ricocheting around inside my head, not sure what to do with it yet…lol…


  14. –> “Sigh… maybe I’m a poor book reviewer.”

    Or maybe I’m a poor reader of a good book review! I feel like doing a Roseanne Roseannadanna, “Never mind.”


  15. Yea, but he is not talking about the higher forms of animals that, of course, feel pain. He is talking about vast swarms of mosquitoes that are eaten by birds or bats, or vast swarms of plankton that whales eat. His point might be arguable, but it is not delusional.


  16. Rick, I don’t think you are saying anything different than Garvey. He is not saying the creation wasn’t impacted by human’s fall, in fact, he agrees with you that most of the impact is due to humans. He is reacting against the view that prior to man’s fall the creation was without death or carnivores or parasites or thorns. We know now that is manifestly not the case; those things existed for a long time before man came on the scene. Those things are part of God’s good creation, not part of the fall’s corruption. So he is not trying to sleight-of-hand wave away the problems that creates for the theodicy issue of “natural evil”. He IS declaring that God didn’t create the evil, or that now nature is evil and something to be overcome or dominated. Sigh… maybe I’m a poor book reviewer 😦


  17. Mike, I am not going to argue that there is no difference between humans and lions but the real difference takes place at a conceptual level. A lion’s bones being crushed hurts just as much as a humans’. The difference is that the human can live in fear of having their bones crushed without actually having their bones crushed. The lion can’t dread the future or regret the past but pain still hurts. Physiologically there is no difference between a human and a lion.

    But what does Garvey say?

    “…it is almost as certain as anything not personally known can be, that all animals which breed very rapidly, which exist in vast numbers, and which are necessarily kept down to their average population by the agency of those that feed upon them, have little sensitiveness, perhaps only a slight discomfort, under the most severe injuries, and that they probably suffer nothing at all when being devoured. For why should they? They exist to be devoured; their enormous powers of increase are for this end; they are subject to no dangerous bodily injury until that time comes for them to be devoured, and therefore they need no guarding against it through the agency of pain.”

    This is delusional. To me whether or not animals can “sin” is beside the point.


  18. I should have added a #6…

    6) If God originally intended everything to be in an uncorrupted state (my #3), and if that original intent was indeed then corrupted (my #4), AND if man IS most culpable in that corruption (my #5), then I can see Jesus for the way he’s portrayed in scriptures: the redeemer necessary to fix #4 and #5 and get us back to #3.

    If you don’t believe in 3, 4, and/or 5… then what’s the point of Jesus?


  19. –> “Jon is reacting against the ‘traditional’ view that nature itself was corrupted by the human fall.”

    I’ve been intermittently following this series and still not exactly sure what I think yet. What I AM pretty sure of is, I’m not buying this aspect. Let me lay out my argument, then you all can shoot holes in it…

    1) First, God created “stuff” – all of nature, if you will. Evolution, creation in a day, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it was created by Him. If you don’t believe that, then why are any of us reading this blog.

    2) Then God created man and woman, to share in his “stuff” and have a relationship with Him. Whether He created us in one day or over time via evolution, it doesn’t matter. Either God had a hand in our creation or He didn’t, and if you believe He didn’t, why are any of us reading this blog.

    3) Most of this “stuff,” and man and woman, too, were intended to be in some sort of “perfection.” Non-corrupted, maybe? Again, you must believe in God in order to keep along this path. If not, go to a different site.

    4) Something seemed to break God’s intent for this perfect union of His stuff, man and woman, and Himself. In other words, everything – his stuff, man and woman, and our relationship with Him – became corrupted.

    5) While Jon’s argument seems to be “everything and everyone suffers, thus this corruption wasn’t caused by a human fall,” I’ll now bring in my counter-argument…

    I don’t have the data, but I think that we’d all agree from experience that, isn’t a large portion of suffering — be it animals living innocently in their habitats or humans walking the earth — isn’t a large portion of all our suffering BROUGHT ON BY MAN’S OWN HAND?

    Sure, nature brings “suffering.” Droughts, famine, hurricanes, tsunamis. And sure, if I stumble into a lion’s den I’ll suffer some horrible fate because of it, but by and large the suffering done to God’s “stuff,” and man and woman, and our relationship to Him… the worst of all that suffering is caused BY US! I won’t even point to all the different wars and the deaths/maimings/displacements they’ve caused, I’ll just point to one: WWII.


    Look at those numbers, folks. Mind-boggling. I venture to say nature has never gone to war with itself to the tune of 50+M dead!

    So what am I to do with the fact that most suffering – or “extreme” suffering – seems to be caused BY MAN? No other creature has gotten to the state where it can cause so much death!

    In conclusion, that (to me) hints man/woman are much more culpable in the world’s “corruption” than anything else. If we were more “like the animals,” would that be the case?


  20. So, Robert and Stephen, when I said in the last post:

    “Jon does seem to be promoting the idea that “the only thing wrong with creation is us”, but I think that doesn’t’ map too badly onto reality. After all, we are the only creature we know of that “sin”, that is, deliberately with malice aforethought, disobey the revealed will of the Creator. Does anyone think that the male lion destroying its rival’s cubs to bring the female lion back into estrus is sinning? The materialist reductionist would argue that the women who deliberately drowned her children because her current boyfriend “didn’t want children” (https://www.lifedeathprizes.com/real-life-crime/reason-why-susan-smith-killer-her-children-23656) was motivated by the same evolutionary urge to propagate their selfish genes. I disagree. But not on a scientific basis but on a metaphysical basis. The question of sinning against God is a metaphysical question, and I believe disconnecting lion behavior from human behavior is legitimate. Obviously, if you don’t believe there is a God Creator, then you are going to seek to link the lion-human behavior.”

    You disagree with me? Jon and I maintain we are created in the image of God. That is, we humans and we humans alone have the privilege and the responsibility to be the priests of God in His Holy Temple of the Creation. We care for it, and all its life, and each other. No animals have this responsibility, only humans, I believe by a matter of faith. Any science that says differently is being misinterpreted. In the last chapter (about which I will have more to say) Jon says:

    “The sheer sense of joy in natural things is, perhaps, the first thing to be restored when the idea of their fallenness is seen as the unbiblical fiction it is.”

    That is the point of the book. If you are not getting that then you are missing his point, or I’m doing a lousy job of portraying it. If the latter, please accept my apology.


  21. You’re right, the amount of suffering doesn’t matter. A little bit is just as much a theodicy problem as a lot. That’s why Dostoevsky’s Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov rejects the idea that the suffering of even one child for a little while would be worth an infinity of paradise, even if that paradise was also her destiny after the suffering ends.


  22. Otoh, but what then? Is it just a tragic reality that animals and human beings have always and will always experience irredeemable suffering, world without end? Do we just do the little bit we can to make it better, and for the rest adopt a stoic attitude that accepts that this is just the fate of sentient beings? Is the game worth the candle?


  23. And the motivation for his suppositions is not finding scientific truth, but supporting, not just an “arcane theological point”, but an entire theological edifice supporting a certain orientation of humanity to the rest of creation. Science has advanced exactly by not accepting on faith the assumptions behind that orientation.


  24. I have a comment that went missing that makes the same point you do, only in my wordier way. For a long time now science has been confirming continuity rather than discontinuity between humans and other animals; many of its most impressive advances have been made precisely because such great continuity does in fact exist. Garvey is moving in the opposite direction regarding this, even though he affirms evolution.


  25. Wow always look on the bright side I guess!

    Garvey’s ivory tower philosophizing is so out of touch with current scientific understanding as to be utterly astonishing. But don’t take my word for it. Do some research. Start by talking to a veterinarian. My ex was the head of the Humane Society where we lived. If anyone thinks animals don’t experience pain and suffering they’re delusional. Sure cockroaches don’t agonize over health care costs but so what? They run away when you try to squash them.

    All of this to make an arcane theological point. Jeez!


  26. In Section 3, which we’ve been reviewing, he looks at the evidence for “natural evil” in the world itself as science observes it, and why nature is now so widely perceived as cruel and malevolent, when once it wasn’t.

    Maybe not in Europe, but in Eastern cultures and religion there was widespread perception that the world of non-human as well as human life is pervaded by cruelty and suffering. The first of the Buddhism’s Fourfold Noble Truth is a direct response to this widespread perception: Suffering is an innate characteristic of all existence…

    Of course, in the East, suffering was understood to not only be caused, but to actually be constituted by conscious attachment to aspects of reality that were always in flux, and therefore could not satisfy the expectations of that conscious attachment. The solution posited was detaching by various exercises from the perception of permanence, not change of reality as it actually is. So, in a way, Eastern religion, particularly Buddhism, was saying that suffering is the result of perception rather than an actual physical condition. There is a certain overlap with what Garvey is saying here, although he is obviously coming at it from a very different metaphysical map.


  27. In other words, for Blake, the problem is resolved through the development of a visionary state in which the distinctions between good and evil, creator and created, finite and infinite, are seen to be a kind of fiction or illusion, and are transcended and integrated. The mind, defined as creative Imagination, is everything. In this respect, Blake resembles the Buddhists, too.


  28. For Blake, things seen from the perspective of Experience (the Tyger poem) and things seen from the perspective of Innocence (the Little Lamb poem) reveal two different views, but both are incomplete, partial. The view of Innocence sees no evil, only purity and light; the view of Experience is aware of and anguished by the ambivalence of light/darkness, good/evil it perceives in all creation. Blake himself shifted from his earlier Gnostic view in which all things created in this world were created by a powerful yet ignorant Demiurge, to his later mature perspective in which the opposition between good and evil, light and dark was transcended in a vision of integrating wholeness where the coincidence of opposites outlined the true lineaments of creation and existence. In this way, he anticipates C.G. Jung, but he also stands in a long line of esoteric teachings coming down through the Western tradition expressing the oneness of all things, their cooperation rather than opposition, including the perception of good and evil.


  29. Blake’s theory:

    ‘ tiger tiger burning bright
    in the forest of the night
    what immortal hand or eye
    could frame thy fearful symmetry? ‘

    ‘little lamb, little lamb
    who made thee?
    little lamb, little lamb
    God made thee


  30. From reading his blog, I know that I disagree strenuously with some of his political viewpoints. And I mean strenuously. At the same time, it is easy to see in his acceptance of some things, like, for instance, the necessity of decreasing the natural inequalities in life by way of taxation and redistribution of a society’s wealth, how different even extreme and radical conservatism in Europe is from its analog here in the U.S.


  31. In the last century or so, a significantly growing scientific consensus has moved in the direction of establishing continuity between human being and non-human living being, including in the experience of pain, and especially among the higher vertebrates. Garvey’s ideas may possibly reflect the true relationship between human and non-human beings with regard to pain and many other matters, but they move in the exact opposite direction from the vast scientific consensus, despite his acceptance of the truth of evolutionary development of life forms. Considering that the advances in many areas of science ranging from medicine to neurobiology to genetics and a gamut of others has been dependent on the premise and reality that there is more biological continuity than discontinuity between human and nonhuman life forms on earth, it seems that Garvey is running in the wrong direction, one that isolates both his scientific and philosophical/theological thinking in the same kind of intellectual ghetto that Christian fundamentalist thinking generally does. Although the dwelling he has constructed for his own intellectual home has a very good design in comparison with most others there, and though his neighbors may think it odd and even offensive, it is still in the same walled-off ghetto. His construct exhibits a lot of quick-footed and ingenious invention, for sure; that it accurately reflects the world outside his thinking is far more uncertain.


  32. Ha, Ha, Robert. Not only that but in the next chapter Jon makes a number of comments that show he believes in anthropogenic climate change, and that it is a part of human’s abusing the earth. I think some of the blog posts you have referred to are his reaction to what he believes are unwarranted extreme predictions. In any event he hits the trifecta; socialist, evolutionist, climate change believer. Yep, definitely off the fundy list.


  33. Jon is reacting against the “traditional” view that nature itself was corrupted by the human fall. Creationists emphasize it as the explanation for the existence of natural disasters, carnivorous animals, parasites, disease, and death. Think Creation Museum and Tyrannosaurs only eating vegetables, no death – animal or human – before the fall, “nature red in tooth and claw” etc. In the review of the Introduction and Chapter 1, Jon said the general judgement of God himself is likened figuratively to fierce creatures such as lions, wolves, leopards, birds of prey, and snakes. Jon says it is incongruous to consider God identifying his own actions with such creatures if, as the “traditional view” says, they are corrupted and evil.

    Nothing in what we have examined in the chapter, covering the whole sweep of Old and New Testament teaching about the creation as it is, gives any hint that some other agent has corrupted the natural world, nor that God himself has altered its nature for the worse because of human sin, nor that it has corrupted itself. If God uses it for harm, it is because of humanity’s desert, not because of nature’s corruption.

    So, it’s a modified version of your #4; he never said it was perfect, something better is still to come, but it is “good” in the sense nature functions as God intended it. In Section 3, which we’ve been reviewing, he looks at the evidence for “natural evil” in the world itself as science observes it, and why nature is now so widely perceived as cruel and malevolent, when once it wasn’t.

    Lastly, in Section 4, Jon sketches out the difference it makes to Christian life to accept either the “traditional view” or the view he presents. He believes that the idea that creation is tainted by the fall a false notion that negatively affects our worship, witness, and plain enjoyment of God’s good earth. Jon says:

    “Lastly, I will touch on the Christian hope for the future, and how it involves not an escape from an evil creation to an uncreated heaven, but the renewing of a good creation as a better one, of the naturally empowered (psuchikos) as the spiritually empowered (pneumatikos), of the perishable as the imperishable – of the old order as the new heavens and the new earth.”


  34. In Jon’s professional career he ran a district National Health Service back pain clinic.

    Wait! You mean Jon is a socialist?!?! As well as an evolutionist! Oh my. Those two things together will disqualify anything he has to say about anything for many American Christians.


  35. There seem to me four possible views of creation (leaving aside humans specifically for a bit):
    1. That it is completely and unremittingly bad, or at least nothing but pointless pain and totally uncaring.
    2. That it is fundamentally bad with some residue of valuable and good bits in.
    3. That it is fundamentally good but with some bad bits.
    4. That (aside from human sin) it is wholly good and perfect and exactly as intended to be.
    While Wallace is obviously arguing (it seems to me extremely successfully) against 1 and 2, I am not clear so far whether the book is intended to make the argument for 3 or for 4. If he is going for 4 he’s got his work cut out, as so far what we have is “nowhere near as bad as you think” rather than “nothing bad at all”. If he’s going for 3 he’s making a really good case so far but I’m interested to know if he goes further as to why he thinks there is any bad at all.


  36. I’m ok with all of this, but it seems to me that “there is less than you think” doesn’t answer the problem that created, unfallen suffering is still suffering and what’s more is logically ‘good’ suffering.

    Is this because suffering is a necessity? (I suspect so).

    But in that case, what is ‘paradise’ going to look like?


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