I’ve listened to a few dozen debates between erudite atheists the likes of Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins and Christian heavyweights such as Craig, Lennox and Zacharias. A main point of contention is the problem of evil and suffering. The atheist insists that God can’t be all-knowing, all-loving and allow the evil and suffering that engulfs humanity, ergo he must not exist.
The main Christian counterargument says evil and suffering are the unavoidable byproducts of free will. You can’t have one without the other. This is known as the “free will defense.” Christians also offer variations of the “best of all possible worlds” theme of Leibnitz and others: God in his infinite wisdom chose this as the best possible world in which to accomplish his will and we don’t have the capacity to question him. He’s God and we’re not, and he’s doing what is best.
Here’s an issue I haven’t heard raised in any of these debates. Christians apologists say God can’t make free creatures without the possibility of evil and its concomitant suffering. But as Christians they also believe there is a place where creatures are free but they never choose to do evil—heaven.
If people in heaven aren’t turned into robots but don’t have the desire or ability to sin, why didn’t God start our species in that condition? Is there something in God’s nature or the laws of logic that requires a fallen world, unimaginable suffering, and billions of lost souls as a precursor to a perfect world?
What is it in our redeemed state that couldn’t have been built into our initial state? A friend has suggested that our experience of sin and redemption makes us more appreciative of subsequent perfection. But what about the billions of infants, children and saintly souls in heaven who didn’t experience human depravity? Do they miss out on the deepest pleasures of paradise?
Scripture presents heaven as a new earth cleansed of rebellion and sin. Why not begin with perfected citizens in the New Jerusalem instead of neophyte children in a garden with unfettered access to evil?
I was born much too late for original sin or original thought, so I’m certainly not the first to ask this question. I know there aren’t any definitive answers but let’s at least include it in the discussion.