In chapter 3, Dr. Morley explains that physical pain is necessary in this world to develop character and to restrain sin. As physical creatures, we need physical pain to restrain us from actions which would cause worse injury. For example, imagine a man who could not feel pain: were he to break his arm, he would continue to use his arm and would soon utterly destroy his arm. Leprosy famously destroys the ability to feel pain, and thus the human being self-destructs, rubbing off and breaking off body parts until one is left horrifically deformed. Pain tells us to stop.
Moreover, pain results from the regularity of physical processes of the world: we fall because gravity always works the same way. Were God to constantly intervene to prevent pain, we would never be certain what would happen next. “Pain is part of the learning process for us, teaching us how to live in our surroundings. And pain being so unpleasant, we make sure that we don’t repeat the damaging behavior” (63).
Pain also exists in this world, because evil exists in the world. The fact of evil, the fact of the Fall and the Curse are consistently missed by those who contend against the lack of order, good and design in the world.
The world as it currently stands is a mixture of extraordinary good, order and blessedness; coupled to frightful error, ruin and pain. Consider the human body: it is an extraordinary piece of engineering. Consider this video in which two Darwinists keep trying to stop using the word “design” when referring to the human body. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/07/video_to_dawkin062031.html
Even when they try to come up with an example of “bad design” (the bone structure of our forearm), the doctor ends up saying that it is a good design and better than our “better” designed robots!
Now, mixed with the remarkable design of living things, one finds the mess of damage and destruction. There are terrifying genetic errors which lead to sad malformations. There are infections and diseases which utilize these same mechanisms, albeit for a bitter end. One must ask, does the world look more like a palace which has been ruined, or like a ruin in which accident and error have routinely thrown up elements of beauty? And if beauty is the result of error, how do we recognize it as beauty? Moreover, do the observed processes show themselves to be building better or worse? An honest look at the evidence leads one to conclude that the genome suffers from entropy: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110613012758.htm
The effects of the rate of genetic decay are such that any hypothetical “good” mutations will be rapidly lost to the swarm of defects and “neutral” mutations (a neutral mutation is merely does not cause immediate harm: sort of like a door scratch on the car or a nick in a widow which does not lead to a full scale break: in the end, the “neutral” mutations will lead to observable damage). Here is a bit by a Cornell geneticist on the issue: http://www.amazon.com/Genetic-Entropy-Mystery-Genome-Sanford/dp/0981631606/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320287817&sr=1-1
There is a related question: Why has God permitted evil at all? Setting that issue aside for this moment (not because it is not important, but because every rabbit cannot be chased at all times), the fact of evil and the curse explains the decay, the entropy and thus the damage of pain.
Moreover, by permitting pain, God permits evil to be understood for the wickedness it is. Often times, the horrors which provoke us merely demonstrate how dull we are to matters of wickedness. We are rightly horrified at the murder of this person – while we blithely ignore the damage to ten thousand others. We need pain to understand the fell nature of our rebellion, the utter heinousness of turning from God:
The pain of this world in part (if ultimately not all pain) derives from evil. Morley explains,
Another problem with a world in which God ensures that no one gets hurt is that we would never see evil for what it is. That is because every time someone would try to harm another person, the natural process would change to make the harm impossible (67).
Moreover, as noted by Morley, pain actually prevents many bad decisions: A great element of temptation is the lie that some sin will procure good. The pain which follows along with the temptation acts to limit and protect against bad decisions. Granted, such limitation is not perfectly effective, but punishment and pain are deterrents when the actor believes that such will result:
Naivety about the moral dimensions of our environment is dangerous. According to Proverbs, wise is the person who realizes the physical and moral realms are linked, and that a deeper knowledge of how troubles come about can help us avoid many of them. (71)
What then may we do about pain? Pain can also be provocation to love in others. Our stupidity will at times crack when we see the pain of another, leading us to compassion. Indeed, God give comfort that we may comfort others:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 2 Corinthians 1:3–10 (ESV)
As Paul also notes, the trouble of this world causes us to exercise a more profound faith upon the God will ultimately delivers from death. Thus, pain in the life of the Christian becomes a motor for greater sanctification in that it drives us to love of God and love of neighbor. Indeed, our response to the pain of others will become a basis for the judgment of humanity:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31–46 (ESV)
And as for those who have experienced pain in this life:
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1–5 (ESV)