Everlasting Creating and Essential Love
The T&T Clark Handbook of Suffering and the Problem of Evil has just been published. Editors Matthias Grebe and Johannes Grossl have an all-star lineup of writers contributing to this volume, a book with 80 chapters! Here’s a link.
My contribution is called “Everlasting Creating and Essential Love.” To give you a taste of my argument, here is the opening…
He’s Freaking God!
Sometimes social media rants identify problems in how people think about God and evil. The lines below express in common language the concerns I address in this essay.
“If God created men, women, all creatures, and the universe in six freaking days, why is He so powerless to change the horrible things that happen on earth? He’s freaking God!!! With a wave of hand, He should be able to prevent evil. I have to conclude God does not exist.”
The point: A God able to create a universe ought to be able to prevent evil “with a wave of hand.” And yet, genuine evils occur. These evils make the world worse than it might have been.
Why doesn’t the Creator prevent evil? Why doesn’t God instantaneously create barriers to stop Covid-19, for instance? Or create barriers to other diseases? Or create obstacles that stop rapists, murderers, and torturers? Or prevent freak accidents? And so on.
The social media post assumes God faced no limits when creating. Many theists share this assumption. They think God created the universe from absolutely nothing (creatio ex nihilo). God once existed alone and, for some reason, began creating from no materials whatsoever.
The assumption God can create from nothing raises three questions. We must answer each well to convince our friend that God exists and yet does not prevent evil “with a wave of a hand.”
The first question concerns God creating at the beginning of our universe. According to contemporary science, that beginning – a big bang – occurred roughly 13.8 billion years ago. How did God create at the start? Was this creating from absolute nothingness? Or from something?
The second question addresses what divine creating says about what God can do today. How does God create moment by moment now (creatio continua)? Does God create from nothing?
The third question asks why God creates? Earlier questions ask about the manner or mode of divine creating. This question asks about God’s motives. Why would God create at all?
An Overview of My Argument
I’ll answer these questions by arguing creating is an essential divine attribute. God necessarily creates. This argument is uncommon among theists. I’ll also say love is God’s primary motive for creating. In fact, God everlastingly loves creation. This argument is also uncommon. And I’ll say the manner or mode of God’s creating is persuasive love. God always creates uncontrollingly in relation to or alongside creation; divine creating is never unilateral. Again, an uncommon claim.
These claims involve rejecting creatio ex nihilo. Setting aside this longstanding view proves crucial to solving the problem of evil. The creation from nothing theory also fails on biblical, philosophical, empirical, and ethical grounds. I suggest God everlastingly creates and essentially loves creaturely others. With these ideas in place, we can respond cogently to the social media rant and to sophisticated claims both theists and atheists make.
(For the remainder, get a copy of the book or ask your local library to get one!)
 I’ve laid out a five-fold solution to the problem of evil. See The Uncontrolling Love of God (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2015); God Can’t (Grasmere, ID: SacraSage, 2019); Questions and Answers for God Can’t (Grasmere, ID: SacraSage, 2020).