It seems that many of us get the impression that God’s role is to continually test us. We believe that He plopped us down in the middle of a world sinful temptation that would continually try to pull us down the wrong path, and the only way to prove our faithfulness is the stay on the straight and narrow.
This is the only way to describe our existence when we label parts of the natural world as sinful or evil.
When scientist over two-hundred years ago began to discover fossils that seemed to indicate that the earth is older than proposed in a literal reading of the Bible they had a problem. Some theologically-minded researchers suggested that God had put the fossils in earth when He created it. The reason He would do this was to test the belief of those who would one day discover these fossils.
Today we find this conclusion ridiculous, but the same kind of reasoning is used regardiong many moral issues in our day.
Genesis tells us that God created a world that he called “very good,” yet this world contains french fries, alcohol, cocaine, nuclear fusion, sensuality, and a million other dangerous substances and activities that human beings enjoy or find necessary. Most religious fundamentalists insist that alcohol be avoided at all cost. Did God build the process for producing alcohol into our world just to tempt us? What about “drugs?” Did God put chemicals and substances in this world that would effect our bodies in profound ways just so these substances could be condemned by moralists? Did God put this world together with radioactive materials buried deep underground just so we could leave it there for fear of environmental damage?
I am not suggesting that we allow ourselves the licence for unrestrained drug use, alcohol consumption, pollution, sex, eating, or any other activity that can have dangerous consequences. I would like to suggest that we avoid the trap of thinking that God put anything on this earth or in humanity that is evil. God’s creation is good. It is all good: sunsets, flowers, lions, chocolate, uranium, fall leaves, electricity, volcanoes, naked bodies, barley fermentation, twinkling stars . . . Every part of creation – every object, feeling, impulse, and activity – was made by God as a part of good creation, but every part of creation contains to potential for evil. God creates good. You and I create evil. We choose what to do with God’s good creation.
Maybe, in some sense, this world is a test from God, but not the kind that requires us to deny parts of creation that some would deem to be evil. I think God is waiting to see what we will do with all that He has given us. Will we use the coca plant, deep fat frying, sensuality, chemical reactions, genetic engineering, fermentation, and coal in ways that will promote joy, goodness, and health for ourselves and the world, or will we go the direction of greed, selfishness, exploitation, and irresponsibility?