The world is collectively waging war against God. We neither like the way He made us nor the way He made the world. We feel driven to correct His many mistakes. The rebellion is on, for none can deny the suffering and inequities of life. How can this world be the work of a loving, omnipotent God?
In 1710, the renowned Enlightenment figure Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz opined in his Theodicy that our world was not only the handiwork of God, but the “best of all possible worlds.” He was a serious and brilliant Christian, having invented calculus contemporaneously but independently of Newton. Some believe that he was the last “universal genius,” possessing all the knowledge in the world. But few have shared his opinion. In fact, Voltaire, shocked by the 1755 great earthquake of Lisbon that killed 60,000 people, disagreed so vehemently that in Candide, he placed this quote in the mouth of a fool. Most today would agree with Voltaire. But might Leibnitz be right?
Recall a point made by C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain that if God is all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful, then how can He fail to produce a perfect creation? Even the introduction of sin into the world should be unable to disrupt His plans. He said this despite having survived the horrors of the trenches of World War I. But even if we concede this powerful and difficult to refute point, still ours does not feel like the best world possible.
We must be missing something. I suggest that something is purpose. To answer the question of whether this is the best of all possible worlds, one must consider the reason for which it was made. If the purpose is to maximize human happiness, then clearly this is not that world. But we must remember that two purposes are being served – those of God and those of man.
God’s glory and interests far exceed ours. Though I know this to be true it is an unnatural thought for me and one which I must train myself to believe. By Providence, ours is a fallen world in which, if we are to have any hope, we must be thrown a lifeline. Jesus Christ is that lifeline. In Christ, we see attributes of God that we might not otherwise have known. His grace, mercy, long-suffering, and identification with the contrite and lowly are not seen apart from redemption. His glory is maximized in Jesus Christ.
With respect to the interests of man, it must be observed that in sending Christ, God has already given us His best. There is no greater gift than Jesus. And the gifts continue. Having sent us His Son, Christ in turn sends us the Holy Spirit to indwell us. Our world is a place of suffering, but no one has ever suffered in such divine company. We are never alone, even, and perhaps especially, in our suffering.
Furthermore, in Him we are given a second and third and an almost infinite number of chances. The work of Christ and the multiplicity of second chances afford us an opportunity to grow, mature and become Christ-like. If there is anyone else in the universe to whom this second chance offer and capacity for growth has been made, they are unknown to us. We too easily take for granted the second chance offer. The gifts of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, second chances and the ability to grow and change are the greatest expressions of love that God could show a rebellious people.