The Fall of Lucifer
Antonio María Esquivel y Suárez de Urbina, 1840
|Paradoxically, the problem of evil is proof that God exists.|
On Friday, December 14th, 2012 a gunman who shall remain unnamed so as to deny him any further fame, entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton Connecticut, and shot and killed 20 students and 6 adults. Before driving to the school for the rampage he had killed his mother, and when finally confronted, he killed himself bringing the death toll to 28. In a news conference that same day, Gov. Dannel Malloy summed it up succinctly: “Evil visited this community today”.
This article is being written, as it turns out, on the 20th anniversary1 of the Oklahoma City Bombing on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building which killed 168 people and caused 680 nonfatal injuries. Additionally it caused an estimated $652 million in damages.
These are but a couple of drops in a sea of evil that in one way or another touches the lives of every single human being that lives and has ever lived. This curse upon humanity is paradoxically an affirmation of the truth of God for Christians, while for those unwilling to believe, it becomes a reason (in their mind) why they shouldn’t believe God exists. Why is it that people can look at the same evidence and come to diametrically opposed conclusions? How can consideration of a single issue – in this case the existence of evil – result in such radically different reactions and beliefs from people? One might ask the same questions of a phenomenon at the other extreme of the moral continuum – miracles.
Why do miracles cause some to believe, while others only see in them only something to either scoff at or be angry at; or to make accusations that people are being “misled”? In both cases (reactions to the problem of evil and the reaction to miracles) the root cause is the same: an unwillingness to acknowledge God as Lord who will bring all created things under his control and under his judgment.
The mere thought of God as Lord manifests itself for many as statements of unbelief. As particles in the atmosphere are the core around which moisture coalesces to form rain drops or snow, likewise miracles and the problem of evil are items around which unbelief can coalesce and be visibly expressed.
For those living in disobedience the prospect of a God who will judge all is a scary one. And their unwillingness to face this truth is not because of their ignorance of God – no God has made his existence plain to all (Rom 1.19). No, it’s not ignorance of God that’s the problem, it’s an unwillingness to be subject to God that causes them to express views inconsistent with their worldview, and thus speak as a hypocrite or express irrational view (or both) as we’ll see.
The Hypocrisy of those touting the Problem of Evil as a problem for the existence of God
One merely needs to consider what atheists claim to believe to see the hypocrisy in this objection. I say “claim to believe” because it is clear that in their heart of hearts, they don’t really believe what they claim. It’s merely an excuse, a pretense to justify their refusal to believe God and be subject to him, and thus be free to do and believe what they want – which is the core problem. But let’s hear it from one of their biggest cheerleaders, and a chief evangelist for atheism Richard Dawkins:
“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”2
If this were true, and they really believed this, then it would be as Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote: “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.”3 Because according to that belief, there is no evil and no justice. But the fact that so many people – including atheists – find the existence of evil to be a problem shows clearly they don’t really believe either premises of Dostoevsky’s famous adage. Meaning when you get right down to it, atheists do not believe the core tenets of atheism and evolution – that there is no meaning, no purpose to life, only the blind forces of physics. They don’t believe everything is permitted and nothing is to be judged. Or put another way, they agree with Gov. Malloy – that evil visited Sandy Hook on that day; when they should really be saying there is no such thing as evil – if they want to be consistent with their worldview. Such agreement – that evil visited Sandy Hook – validates the moral argument for the existence of God, which has been formulated4 as follows:
The Moral Argument For the Existence of God
1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
2. Objective moral values do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.
The fact that most, if not all even hard hard core atheists and evolutionists would acknowledge that the wanton killing of innocent children such as want happened at Sandy Hook is truly evil; as was the Oklahoma city bombing demonstrates that objective moral values do exist. Which leaves them in a quandary. How can they claim the Sandy Hook massacre is evil, while at the same time saying evil doesn’t exist? How can such agree that the beheading, raping and kidnapping of people by ISIS (or anyone else) is evil if evil does not exist? If, they believe, as they say they believe, God does not exist, then everything is permitted. If we are just the results of forces acting on electrons and selfish genes doing what selfish genes do, then there is no right or wrong, no evil, no need for judgment, and indeed no one apart from the world who can judge the world.
But clearly most atheists don’t live that way, nor at their core do they believe that way. Most atheists hypocritically want to affirm the need to restrain, if not punish evil. But that is inconsistent with what atheists in general believe. “Survival of the fittest” states the the biggest, strongest, most fit animals should survive. Since in their view people are merely higher evolved animals, the principle applies likewise to humans. The principle is not concerned with right or wrong – the lion doesn’t evaluate whether it is right or wrong to kill the antelope, nor does it (I assume) feel remorse for doing so. Thus the same principle should apply to the human animal – without regard to considerations of right or wrong. Thus in theory, someone bigger and stronger than any given atheist is, merely following the tenet of survival of the fittest, if they kill said atheist and take all their belongings. In a Darwinian worldview, they are totally justified in doing so.
Let’s dispense right now with arguments along the lines of good behavior benefits society and so is better for humans overall and is thus the more “fit” way to live. First because the question is not about a nebulous society. Laws of physics and selfish genes don’t care about societies. (And even if such a gene came about that favored morals – it wouldn’t be because morals actually exist, it would be because some creature lived a little longer than another.) Second this brings to light the failure of the Darwinian worldview to account for the objective, but non physical entities of “right” and “wrong”. Because in a Darwinian worldview – there is no objective right or wrong, just “selfish genes” and “blind physical forces” so there is no reason not to kill someone if you think you’ll be better off for doing so.
But if other atheists were to observe such a murder, most would not say – that’s okay, it’s merely “survival of the fittest” at work; there is no evil, so no need to judge that person. Yet that would be the logical position based on their world view. But that is not in fact where most atheists take their stand. Most would state the actions of such a murderer are wrong. And in that statement and belief, they are denying everything that they claim to believe: that all things are permitted, and we act not as moral creatures, but as a result of the purposeless, moral-less forces of physics that in their worldview created the universe and life.
Thus the “problem of evil” fails because at the core – people are moral beings made by a moral God, and every act of evil that causes revulsion proves it, and reminds us of that fact. Thus the problem of evil fails as a reason why God doesn’t exist; rather it reaffirms that a moral God does exist.
We’ve just considered the problem of evil from a worldview perspective. Alternately, the problem can be raised as a philosophical question. It typically goes like this: How can a God who is all good allow evil? If they want to be particularly disparaging to God, they couch it in terms to diminish God: If God is all powerful and all Good, how can evil exist? Their conclusion – God is either not all powerful or he is not all good. Either case denies the revelation of the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God of the Bible.
But the answer to the philosophical question is equally is easy, perhaps easier. Those who make the philosophical argument are arguing on the basis of the logical fallacy of an appeal to ignorance. Simply put such people – sinful, corrupted, and certainly not omnipotent presume to know what a sinless, uncorruptable, omnipotent God would do or allow. They don’t know, but they presume to know. In their pretense of knowing what a sinless, uncorruptable omnipotent God would or wouldn’t allow or do, they commit this fallacy.
On the other hand, Christians have a view of evil that is consistent with what is observed: that evil exists, and that moral beings have a responsibility to restrain evil. (Rom 13.4) Furthermore, the Christian can affirm, and categorically state, based on revelation from God, that:
– Evil did not always exist (Gen 1.31; Ezekiel 28.15)
– Evil will not always exist (Rev 21.4, 27)
– God will punish all unrepentant evil doers (Rev 20.14-15)
– God will remove evil from his presence (Rev 20.8)
– The people of God will live with God in a place where there is no evil (Rev 21.3)
The third point – God will punish all unrepentant evil doers – is of course a point of contention for atheists. Who is this God who will to judge them, who calls them evil, who calls them to repent? They do as Adam and Eve did, thinking they know better than God as to how to live and what will make them happy. But as surely as God told Adam he would die for disobedience:
“…but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
Likewise, he now tells people everywhere they will die for the disobedience of disbelief in the one he has sent:
“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”
What is an atheist to do with this statement? On the one hand, in denying there’s such a thing as “evil” he denies there such a thing as “sin”. On the other hand he knows he’s not perfect. If he’s ever lied, cheated, stolen , looked with lust, etc. (and he has) he’s a sinner who will die in his sins. The penalty for sin – as God told Adam – is still death. And the death God is referring to is total separation from God in the lake of fire:
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
While atheists will likely look look at such scriptures as “fairy tales”, the question of the problem of evil nonetheless leaves them in an awkward position. Consider their options:
Options for Evolution/Big Bang believing Atheists with regards to evil
1. Deny Evil exists –
…and thus disagree with Gov. Malloy and the rest of the world that “evil visited this community today”; deny that the Oklahoma city bombing was also evil (and thus there was no reason to prosecute and convict the perpetrators); and while denying those, also deny that evil itself, exists.
2. Affirm evil exists, but deny there is an omnipotent God who will judge
On what basis can they make such a denial? On the same basis that those who pose the question of evil as a philosophical question. As noted above such an assertion can only be made by appealing to ignorance – claiming to know something you in fact don’t know. To compound their failure to reason properly, they have ignored evidence that would resolve the problem: the testimony of scripture. Thus truly it is not without reason that scripture says:
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.
Like the blind leading the blind (Matt 15.14), not only are they ignorant to justify their belief with an appeal to ignorance, the Bible calls them fools for saying there is no God, when the very nature of things – the problem of evil, among other things such as the grandeur of the creation (Rom 1.20)5 tells them otherwise.
3. Affirm evil exists, affirm there is a God who will judge, but claim they don’t care
From time to time, people will tell me they don’t care they’re going to hell – because that’s where all their friends will be. They believe it will be one big party. This is yet another sad denial of truth and rejection of God, for God has made it very clear that hell is not a place you want to be:
It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,
48 where “‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’
Clearly that picture is a picture of torment and despair. Despair because there is no hope of escape for those who find themselves there.
So the problem of evil is indeed a problem – but not the believer in God; it’s a problem for the unrepentant unbeliever. But it need not be – for God has offered salvation to everyone:
For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
2 Cor 6.2
My advice: accept God’s salvation now while you can. For a day will come, like when God closed the door to Noah’s ark (Gen 7.16), and the opportunity to accept God’s gracious offer of salvation will be lost. For those who miss that opportunity, as scripture says there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt 24.51)
Duane Caldwell | posted 4/20/2015 | printer friendly version
1. The Oklahoma city bombing occurred on April 19th, 1995.
2. Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life
3. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (1880)
4. This is typically how William Lane Craig presents the Moral argument.
Reasonblefaith.com “The Moral Argument”, 12/23/2013
5. Rom 1.20:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
You’ve written well–thank you for articulating a good argument: I appreciate that you did NOT invoke “free will” which is tiresome.
As a former Christian, I have to ask–why does “God” automatically have to be BibleGod?
Jefferson, Franklin, and many others were DEISTS, believing (as I understand the limited bit I’ve read) that there is a Creator, just not a personal intervener….
Sandra, That question – why does it have to be the Biblical God – is like finding the owners manual in the glove compartment of your new car, seeing the car is made by General Motors and asking why does this car have to be made by GM? Why can’t it be Ford or Toyota, or anyone else? But if you were to look closely at the evidence – instructions, the factories that have the ability to produce the car etc. you’d find it all points to GM. And the question would be why do you have a problem with… Read more »
A couple of concerns: Your assumption that all atheists (or anybody, for that matter) is concerned with evil is unfounded. There are numerous people out there who consider “evil” to be a social construct, a label for antisocial behavior. I notice that you began to address this at the end, but never went anywhere with it. “Survival of the fittest” does not imply “kill everybody weaker than you.” It can also imply cooperation, caring for young, social bonds, and altruism. Your assumption that atheists and nonbelievers subscribe only to Darwinism to explain their worldview is not only incorrect, it is… Read more »
You are mistaken on a number of things. First, the statement was “those touting the problem of evil as a problem”. I then gave atheists as an example. That does not imply all atheists. If I say some animals are black and white, and gave cows as an example, that doesn’t mean all cows are black and white. The atheists I was referring to are those who agree with Dawkin’s statement above. Second, like many who cannot see the consequence of their of their presuppositions, those who consider evil as a “social construct” are in fact, as I have pointed… Read more »