Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Christian Answer to the Argument From Evil

The atheists, once a small quiet minority, are becoming more and more aggressive in their hatred of God.  They are still a small minority, but they have led some believers away from the Truth and they have led even more from finding it.  On their face, their arguments seem strong, but when tested they all fail.  I do not want to spend a lot of time on arguments for atheism so from time to time I will address one of their arguments.  Today, I will address the argument known as "The Argument from Evil."  There are 2 basic arguments and those are the logical and evidential or moral arguments.  There are a variety of twists and turns to these arguments, but they are all essentially the same.  

The first is the logical argument and it comes by way of Hume.
1.  God is all-perfect.
2.  God created the universe.
3.  Therefore, the universe is (or logically should be)   
4.  The universe is not perfect, i.e., 3. is false.
5.  Hence, either 1. or 2. must be false. (from 1-4)
6.  Since God is defined as the all-perfect creator of the                                                   
    universe, it follows that God does not exist.  (from 5)
Yes it is true that God is all-perfect.  Yes it is true that God created the Universe.  Yes the Universe, as created, was perfect.  Yes, the universe is not perfect now in that evil exists.  Where this argument goes wrong is the logical conclusion.  The failure of the argument is the failure to acknowledge that God created man with free will.  Free will can not be perfect will.  There can be no such thing as perfect free will because a perfect will is limited to its own perfection.  That is like telling someone that they are free to leave after you tie them up.  Free will can not exist as perfect will as they are mutually exclusive.  Could God have created man as perfect robots programmed to only perform His will? Yes, of course He could have.  The problem is that God created us to have a relationship with Him and a true relationship is not true if we do not truly choose to be in that relationship with Him.  Can you have a relationship with something if you programmed its responses?  It would end up being a relationship with yourself.  

Furthermore, what is perfection?  For perfection to exist, there has to be a standard on which to measure it as perfection is a relative term.  God, as sovereign is perfect unto Himself.   So what is Hume's or any other atheist's standard for perfection?  If there is no God, the Universe is sovereign unto itself meaning there is nothing higher than the Universe and therefore no higher standard to compare it to.  With no higher standard, the universe is by definition perfect.  And so the logical argument becomes self-defeating.  If Hume believes the universe to be imperfect then he must believe in a higher standard than the universe and such acknowledges a higher being or higher existence.  In other words, he declares that there is some form of "god." 
Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.  Genesis 1:31 NKJV
God called His creation "very good."  Indeed, it was perfect and pristine when God created it.
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; "but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'" Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.  Genesis 3:1-6 NKJV
God created man and woman with the free will to choose right and wrong.  God gave them one directive, which was to not eat of a particular tree.  God would not have to had commanded them if He created them with perfect will and Adam and Eve would not have been able to partake of that fruit unless they had the free will to choose, even if that choice was evil. 

And so we see that the first argument fails when you consider that God granted mankind with the gift of free will.  Evil exists not because God is imperfect, but because God made the choice to create man with a free will rather than a perfect will. God created man in His own image, He did not create man as Himself.

Now let us address the several evidential or moral arguments.  I believe this are originally attributed to Epicurus. 
Argument I

1. If God is all-good he would want to prevent (all) evil, and if God is omniscient then he would know how to prevent evil, but
2. Evil exists.
3. Therefore, God must be lacking in power, i.e., God is incapable of preventing evil.
Once again points 1 and 2 are correct.  God is all-good and does want to prevent all evil.  God is omniscient and does know how to prevent evil.  And, yes, evil does exist.  Once again, though, the conclusion is incorrect because once again the argument ignores God's gift of free will.  The argument is that being that evil exists, God must be incapable of stopping it.  That is far from true.  God is not incapable or even unwilling, He is just patient as God desires all to come to repentance.  Understand that when the Tribulation comes, any doubts as to God's desire and ability to wipe out evil will be quickly done away with.  Understand that in the time of Noah, there were probably many others who felt that way and learned differently once it had started to rain.  God has judged the world, nations, cities, and people throughout history regarding their evil.  We can not misunderstand patience and mercy for inability and lack of resolve.
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  2 Peter 3:9-10 NKJV
Evil will be judged.  The world will be judged.  Any question regarding God's power or hatred for evil will be answered in that day.
Argument II
1. If God is all-powerful then he would be capable of preventing (all) evil, and if God is omniscient then he would know how to prevent evil, but
2. Evil exists.   
3. Therefore, God must be lacking in goodness; god must not want to prevent evil.
Here we have essentially the same argument, but a different conclusion.  This time, the conclusion is not that God can not prevent evil, but He chooses not to prevent evil, making Him bad or "lacking in goodness."  The answer to this argument is essentially the same as the previous.  God does not lack goodness.  In fact, God's goodness is so great that He desires all to come to repentance.  This argument is also answered by the first logical argument in that it is not that God wants evil to exist, it is that God has given us free will. In life, we must make our choice to accept Jesus and follow God.  God will not make that choice for us.  If God were to strike down anyone who committed evil right when that evil was committed (or even before evil was committed), people would be coming to God for the wrong reasons. They would choose not to do evil because they had some desire to seek after God, but simply to avoid death.  There would be no such thing as true repentance.  Actually, there would be no repentance at all because as soon as you sinned or if even the thought crossed your mind, you would be struck down dead.   So what of coming to Jesus to avoid Hell?  Yes people do come to Jesus because they do not want to be judged for their sin, but no one has seen someone get sent to Hell.  Coming to Jesus is a matter of faith not a matter of sheer terror in doing the wrong thing.  Maybe you make the argument that God can prevent evil in other ways.  But is there a way to direct our ability to choose our own actions without violating our gift of free will?  You can not have a God that orchestrates the steps of every man, woman, and child to prevent evil from ever happening while at the same time giving them the choice to do good or evil.  God does want to prevent evil, but the answer is Jesus who provided us the means to do right.  It is up to us to accept Jesus.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.  Romans 6:1-7 NKJV
What has God done to overcome evil?  He sent His own and only begotten son to suffer and die. 
Argument III 
1. If God is all-powerful and all-good then he would be able to prevent (all) evil and would want to prevent evil. 
2. Evil exists
3. Therefore, God must be lacking in knowledge; God does not know how to prevent evil.
And here we have the final conclusion of the same argument.  This conclusion being that God does not know how to prevent evil.  The argument here is that God is not omniscient because evil exists.  I believe the previous arguments adequately address this one as well.   God knows very well how to prevent, eradicate, and punish evil.  He could have prevented evil by creating man with a perfect will instead of a free will.  He could eradicate evil but eradicating humanity or by eradicating evildoers before they actually commit evil.  He did punish evil through the death of His Son on the cross and will eternally punish evildoers who do not accept that free gift of salvation. 

The basic premise of the evidential argument is that God can not be perfectly good, omniscient, and omnipotent as long as evil exists. The argument then is that if God is not any of those things than He is not God at all.    They say that because we define God as being all of those things.  The problem is that the existence of evil is not evidence for the lack of existence of God, but evidence for the existence of fallen man in need of a savior. 

The question of evil is a difficult one.  We hear horror stories every day of horrible things.  We hears of women and children raped, tortured, and murdered and sometimes even by one who are close to them.  We hear of good people gunned down in the streets by random violence.  We hear of awful atrocities in our history like the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, Darfur, Serbia, etc.  We wonder where is God while those awful things are happening.  If you look at things from an earthly perspective then it is easy to come to the conclusion that God either does not exist or does not care.  The problem is that we are not looking at things from an eternal perspective.  God gave man free will and we have abused that gift terribly from the "small" sins in our own lives to the terror of Nazi Germany.  The fact is, before God, we are all evil. 
or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  Romans 3:23 NKJV
God created a beautiful perfect world and blessed mankind with the ability to freely choose to love Him.  Starting at Eve and continuing through us and until Jesus returns, mankind has, does and will take that gift of free will and squander it on our own pleasures.  We took this perfect creation and corrupted it so badly God will have no choice but to judge us.  Evil does not exist because God wants or allows it, evil exists because we create and perpetuate it.  God created us for good works, we decided on evil ones.  God made us for a relationship with Him, we decided on a relationship with the wicked world we turned His creation into.   God is not the source of evil, we are.  So why does God allow it?  He allows it because it is the only way to get our attention.  God sent His son in peace and the world cried out to crucify Him, God allows 9/11 to happen and our churches our filled.  So is it that God allows evil or that we give Him no other means by which to get our attention.  Think about it, bad things bring people closer to God.  We hear of a child being kidnapped and so many pray for the first time in years.  We hear of a city being swallowed up by a hurricane and we learn to rely on God again.  We hear of a tragedy that takes the lives of so many and we fill our churches.   So the question is not why God allows evil, but why do we only respond do evil? 

The answer to evil in the world is not to deny God, but to embrace Him.  God has sent the solution for the evil in the world and we have largely rejected that solution.   If you want less evil, come to Jesus and share Him with your friends and family.  The real failure of the "Argument From Evil" is that it ignores the solution through Jesus Christ that God did send.  If you want freedom from evil, let it start in your own life and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Don't complain to God about evil while you desire that evil to thrive in your own heart.  God will judge evil.  The whole world will feel God's anger and hatred of sin.  Be careful what you ask for in terms of God dealing with evil because, someday soon, you will get it.  For those of us in Christ, we will receive our reward and all the pain we went through in this world will be meaningless when compared to our eternity in Christ.  For those of you who deny Christ, you will feel the wrath you challenge God to bring and you will feel it eternally.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  Romans 8:18-21 NKJV
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.  Revelation 20:11-15 NKJV

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