As I began chapter 5 of Hasker's book, I can honestly say that I never really considered the title to this be something of incredible importance. However if one is going to create a sound theodicy, then this will inevitably be a topic of consideration. Chapter 5 is Hasker longest and most detailed, therefore I will split this chapter into two (maybe three) posts for the sake of some initial reflection.
The chief question Hasker considers is this: How do we account for all of the natural evil in the world (hurricanes, disease, drought, famines, earthquakes)? Remember, we're developing a theodicy. What first came to mind when I read this was, original sin. To me it seems that from the Genesis narrative God created everything which he deemed "very good." At which point subsequent to the Fall, the earth was subjected to travail (cf. Gen. 3:17-19). Moreover, as the Apostle Paul says, the world is now waiting, as it were, for the consummation of all things (Rom. 8:22). However, according to Hasker, the answer is more complicated.
In typical fashion, Dr. Hasker evaluates several positions and the arguments from their supporters. However, due to a highly debatable conclusion from Hasker, this post we will briefly evaluate one then hopefully move to discussion in some further posts. The first position he evaluates is the one I proposed above. His chosen supporter, Henry Morris.
According to Morris, "the entrance of spiritual disorder into God's perfect creation (Gen 1:31) led to the imposition of a universal and age-long reign of physical and biological decay and death as well." Resulting in what we find in the 2nd law of thermodynamics. As stated above, this position presupposes a series of subsequent events based the Genesis narrative coupled with the notion of a "young-earth." That is to say, that God created the world just prior to his creating Adam. But as some of you already know, due to the (apparent) overwhelming evidence based on scientific inquiry that the world cannot be a few thousand years old. As a result, Hasker uphold this theory as the very thing that cripples this position. In the words of Hasker himself, "...the earth is not a few thousand years old but rather several billion. We know this as securely as we know anything at all about the history of our planet and a supposed theological principal that conflicts with this rock-solid fact has to be reexamined or discarded."
Here I'll be honest that I'm not an expert in the scientific arena when it comes to the creation account. Nor can I say with any confidence that I could argue either way. I do believe one can be undecided on this issue and still maintain a strong commitment to Scripture. Even with that said, its clear that Dr. Hasker has utilized a specific scientific presupposition and imposed that upon his understanding of the natural evil. He terms the concept of an "old-earth" as rock-solid evidence. And perhaps it is, but that may only be rock-solid for now. I say this because when thinking through this I'm reminded of the whole Galileo episode in the 17th century where he concluded a heliocentric universe over Copernicus' geocentric universe. Which eventually led to an upheaval in the Catholic church with respect to the integrity of Scripture and Science. Essentially what the Church felt was, based on certain aspects of their reading of Scripture, the Bible appears to maintain a geocentric universe. But as we've come to know over time, this is not the case. Heliocentricity is the dominant, nay, rock-solid credible notion of the structure of our universe. This may work in favor for Hasker's theory, but it may also work against him. If we come to find by some irrefutable scientific evidence that the earth is only a few thousand years old, then I imagine what will be in store for the rest of this chapter will be difficult to sustain.
So what do we say to this? Does the earth need to be young if we are to maintain the integrity of Scripture? Is it possible that science can alter the way we read the Bible? Indeed it has in the case with Galileo. If the earth is billions of years old, how are we to interpret the Genesis narrative?
Personally this topic is a difficult one. I cannot land on any position without evaluating enough options that lead me to a coherent conclusion. So before I continue on into Hasker's following sub-chapters of individuals who attempt to work their way around this issue, I wanted to hear some of our readers thoughts on it.