The Problem of Evil? Perhaps not as much as we think…




I just perused Chris and Candice McConnell’s excellent blog and enjoyed the commentary on the age old question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Since I love apologetics too I thought I would also comment on this question, which relates to the problem of evil, and is an issue every Christian needs to be able to give answers for.

I currently teach a section of Christian Beliefs at Union College and one of the sections we cover is Arguments for the Existence of God. And one of the arguments I propose to them is that the existence of evil is not so much an argument AGAINST God but FOR God.

Have I lost my marbles? Perhaps, but lets continue.

In his classic work, Mere Christianity, the great Christian apologist C.S. Lewis points out in the first chapter that we have all heard people quarrel before, accusing each other of being in the wrong in various ways . He then comments, “What interests me in all these remarks, is that the man who makes them…is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about” [p. 17].

Lewis then goes to point out that people who claim there is no definite Right or Wrong are lying beause they will go back on it a minute later. If someone says it is okay to break a promise to you because there is no real standard of truth or goodness, just try breaking that promise to him in return and watch him get offended.

The implication of Lewis’ argument, to summarize, is that human beings, cross culturally [and despite minor variations] appeal to some standard of goodness.

The old skeptic, David Hume, said, “Is He [God] able to prevent evil but not able? Then He is impotent.  Is He able but not willing? Then He is malevolent [evil]. Is He both willing and able? Whence then is evil?”  I would refer you back to Chris and Candice’s blog to look at their concept of free choice at this point, but continuing on, the issue here is: If there is a Good God then where does evil come from? In essence it says evil disproves God. Modern Atheists echo these sentiments even claiming that Christianity is invalid because of crimes committed in the past  by religious people. Just remember the Crusades where Muslims and Christians were killing each other over holy land. Think of prominent minister’s who have cheated on their spouses or abused their finances.

So, how do we respond? Simple. When someone, who does not believe in God, and especially if they believe in evolution in terms of “survival of the fittest” and “natural selection” accuses our faith of being invalid because of people messing up in the Church [locally and internationally] we ask them by what standard they are judging our behavior as evil?

In other words, if there is no God, then where do they get their standard of good to label us and others as evil? How is it they know evil behavior? How can they look at poverty, hunger, and war and claim things are wrong when in fact their worldview says people will do what they need to to survive? Who are they to call it evil?

In the classic book, The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel interviews Peter Kreeft on this very topic and Kreeft replies, “The fact that he is using the stadard of good to judge evil–the fact that he is saying quite rightly that this horrible suffering isn’t what ought to be–means he has a notion of what ought to be; that this notion corresponds to something real; and that there is, therefore, a reality called the Supreme Good. Well, that’s anothe name for God…if there is no God, then where did we get the standard to judge evil as evil?” [p. 34].

The Book, The Reason for God, [Christianity Today’s Apologetics book of the year last year], says, “If you are sure that this natural world is unjust and filled with evil, you are assuming the reality of some extra-natural [or supernatural] standard by which to make your judgment” [p. 26].

So, to summarize, the fact that we can identify evil indicates that there is an absolute/ultimate source of Goodness that allows us to recognize when things go wrong. That absolute source of Good is  God. So, the problem of evil is a problem for us as we make our way through life and seek to correct people’s perception of God. But as to the existence of God, the “problem of evil” actually becomes an evidence for God.



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3 responses to “The Problem of Evil? Perhaps not as much as we think…

  1. martinoutlook

    Seth, I think that you and Chris and Candice are onto something here. Implied morality that is universal, transcending what you and I or any other humans thnk, points to something–Someone–outside of own cosmos.

    I too like Lee Strobel’s books and DVDs. Also the recent movie, now a DVD, by Ben Stein on Intelligent Design, “Expelled: No Intelligence Permitted.”

    Bottom line, as I see it: The problem of evil is not a valid argument against the existence of God. That’s illogical. The prevalence of evil starts a good discussion about whether God is good (and there are answers for that, as you guys are saying). But any case against whether God actually exists, because of evil, is actually turned on its head by your argument based on the universal moral concerns that would even raise such a question.

    Good stuff, guys. Much needed by us all.

    Martin Weber

    The fact is that the aggressive atheism now in vogue (Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc.) is not only astonishingly superficial but in fact intellectually bankrupt.

  2. cmcconnelldesign

    Hey Seth, great follow-up. I like your concept that “the existence of evil is not so much an argument AGAINST God but FOR God.” I totally agree.


  3. kiiks52

    This makes so much sense. I have heard this argument before, but the response to give to atheists who attack Christianity for being corrupt, yet believe in survival of the fittest–that idea is quite useful.. Well thought out. I like this entire argument because it’s logical, and it’s also backed by the Bible (Romans 2:13-15). Very useful indeed.

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