The number one lie that Christians are often confronted with is the argument that evil, pain, and suffering prove that there is no God, says author and apologist Mark Mittelberg.
Providing a rebuttal to the question of why God would allow evil can be challenging, said Mittelberg, who is the author of The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask and other books on defending the Christian faith.
The atheist view is that we, our being and our behaviors, are the products of biochemical reactions in our brains–even our morals and societal mores are the results of biochemical reactions. All our interactions are simply a result of biochemistry in our brains.
Turning to the great thinkers on the issue of evil in the world…
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of “just” and “unjust”? … What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? … Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies …Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. –C. S. Lewis
What C. S Lewis realized eventually was that evil can only exist if there is also good in contrast to that evil. “Apart from God and the morality that flows from Him there is no standard–and therefore no evil either,” say Mark Mittelberg (see reference below). Lewis logically rationalized that if there is no God, then there is no such thing as evil either.
For example, when we hear about someone being raped or murdered we don’t just think, ‘I’d prefer that people wouldn’t do such things.’ No, we say, ‘that was wrong‘ – especially if the crime was against somebody we knew. But when we say such things we’re betraying the fact that we know there is a higher standard – one that goes beyond people’s preferences of even society’s self-imposed laws, … knowledge of morality standards points to the existence of a Moral Lawgiver.
So, when people throw up to Christians that they don’t believe in God because there is evil in the world, they are actually giving an “initial evidence” of a god. “How is that?” you ask.
When people show outrage at evil, that presupposes there is a good and that there is a difference between good and evil. The fact that they use a standard of good to judge evil to say that evil is horrible and ought not to be–means that they have a notion of what ought to be. That this notion corresponds to something real; and that there is, therefore, a reality that is the Supreme Good. That Supreme Good we Christians call God.
Now hear more weighty thought. Philosopher Alvin Plantinga stated his dilemma this way:
Could there really be any such thing as horrifying wickedness [if there were no God and we just evolved]? I don’t see how. There can be such a thing only if there is a way that rational creatures are supposed to live, obliged to live … A [secular] way of looking at the world has no place for genuine moral obligation of any sort … and thus no way to say there is such a thing as genuine and appalling wickedness. Accordingly, if you think there really is such a thing as horrifying wickedness (… and not just an illusion of some sort), then you have powerful…argument [for the reality of God].
Plantinga is turning the atheist’s argument on its head. He is saying that everything in the world is NOT explained by biochemical reactions in the brain. If you, upon knowledge of horrifying wickedness, judge it as that (evil and wicked) and assume that all other rational humans would do the same, then we have a normal and powerful argument for the reality and existence of God.
If there is a God, why is there so much good? If there is a God, why is there so much evil? –Augustine
Space will not allow us to definition “good” here. However, realize that most people have a “Polly Anna” definition, in which everything is perfect and there is no evil, pain, nor suffering. This concept of “good” is not viable.
Perhaps an even more powerful argument is the evidence in history that God was willing to engage with evil on this earth.
Albert Camus, French journalist and philosopher, understands that God was willing to take misery, suffering, and evil on himself. He said,
[Christ] the god-man suffers too, with patience. Evil and death can no longer be entirely imputed to him since he suffers and dies. The night on Golgotha is so important in the history of man only because, in its shadows, the divinity ostensibly abandoned its traditional privilege, and lived through to the end, despair included, the agony of death. Thus is explained the “Lama sabachthani” and the frightful doubt of Christ in agony.
God was willing to engage evil. Jesus encountered evil many times in His life–never so intense was the evil as in the Garden and in the brutal punishment He suffered immediately afterwards.
For the Christian, the trials and evil experienced here can be viewed as “momentary light afflictions” according to the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 4:17. If you don’t know the Apostle Paul, you must know that this guy experienced unimaginable persecution including violence against himself–all that because he was a carrier of the Gospel or the Good News of Jesus to pagan cultures.
So, for the Christian, there is a hope of overcoming evil. But what about a person who is not a follower of Jesus, what can he or she believe in that will help their battling against evil.
Mittelberg makes points that have value and so I will reproduce some of them here.
The world is as Jesus predicted. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.”
Jesus understood what the world was like and he passed on his wisdom about how to deal with it.
Evil was not created or caused by God. The Bible is clear: God is not the author of evil.
Has God allowed evil in this world? Yes. Some of that evil is external to us and some evil is within. We still may seek him to release us from the evil that is in our flesh and to protect us from the evil that is external to us.
We live in a fallen world.
The world has evil because humanity is fallen and sinful. God did not promise us a life with no evil. For the follower of Jesus, God promised a way through the evil.
God will finally judge evil.
Some people criticize God (or those who believe in him), saying, “A good God would eradicate evil.” My question for those folks is, “Okay, are you ready to be eradicated, since you – like me – are to some degree evil?” Seriously, I’m glad that, although God will judge and wipe out evil, he’s chosen not to yet, out of patience for us and for our friends (2 Pet. 3:9).
So, there is hope–even in a fallen, broken, and evil world. God provides that hope and we can respond to His provision. His provision is found in relying on the escape of evil and sin that Jesus provided.