The Existence of Evil
God or no God – how does the existence of evil point to the existence of God
Evil cannot be a problem for the atheist. How can this be? You may ask. Evil is real. What is evil and how did it come about, why does it exist? What is the explanation from a materialistic/atheist viewpoint and from the Christian viewpoint? How are evil and suffering connected? The existence of evil poses three arguments against the existence of God. What are they and how do we deal with these arguments?
Evil cannot be a problem for the atheist because in a materialistic worldview there is no objective right or wrong. Materialism implies no free-will – man is just a moist robot reacting to physical and chemical processes, to genes and the environment. There is nothing transcended. I quote new atheist Sam Harris ‘Free will is an illusion so convincing that people simply refuse to believe that we don’t have it’. With no choice, evil is not possible with a materialistic worldview and therefore neither the consequences nor responsibility for one’s actions. “DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music”. ― atheist Richard Dawkins. If materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, are produced, and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. But man cannot live with this worldview and the atheist has to make leaps of faith to the upper level (where God exists) as it is not tenable to remain on the lower level (where God does not exist) and live as if there is no evil. See Francis Schaefer’s, ‘The Two-Story Universe’ in my video on “The Absurdity of a Life without God’
Evil and suffering are real. But what is Evil?
The Existence of Evil Poses Three Arguments against The Existence of God: The logical argument, the evidential argument, and the existential problem and I will address all three.
But first, from the Christian perspective. What is evil and why suffering? The existence of God, of a mind, who is love, created humans in His image1, to love Him. Love demands free will. To love without being free to choose to love is a contradiction in terms. Wrong choices lead to personal and natural evil and suffering. God ‘wills’ what is good because He is good. Moral action conforms to God’s nature and the more it conforms to His nature, the better it is.
We have to distinguish between evil and suffering as the consequence of wrong choices.
I. Evil – God is good and not the reason for evil/suffering. The fall of Man is2. Or, if you would, original sin having chosen against the will of God3, against what is good against who He is. And this is the reality of every person’s life, every day4, selfish choices. The consequence is suffering.
A. Personal evil. Choosing self, people, and things above God
B. Natural evil. The world was perfectly created5, but it is now a broken reality. E.g., tectonic plates that move and cause earthquakes and tsunamis6 is the result of convection currents generated by radioactive decay, mutations in DNA and RNA is always an anomaly, a degenerative process, and the cause of the emergence of viral and bacterial pathogens causing disease and destruction, cancer (also in children), etc. The second law of thermodynamics is a process of decay – the universe is decaying.
The whole creation has been groaning together in the pains …7
But there is a promise. God will renew and restore8. Hope for broken relationships and the broken world.
II. Suffering – The Fall of Man is the reason
A. Personal Suffering – because of evil
‘Black suffering’ because of evil – God is not the reason. E.g., broken relationships as a result of one’s arrogance or pride. Or because laws were broken, and one has to pay a fine or be in jail. This is accompanied by guilt feelings.
‘White suffering’ – this is from God as in the story of Job or personal e.g., hardships as a result of following Christ. But the fall of man, evil, is still the underlying cause. If there was no sin, no satan, Job would not have suffered and there would have been no pain to love and live for God. ‘White suffering’ is without guilt feelings, knowing it is a result of having done the right thing.
B. Shared Suffering of Humanity the consequence of natural evil -consequence of the evil of humanity-
Light is an entity9, a ‘thing’ with a distinct and independent existence with physical properties. Darkness is not an entity, has no physical properties, just the absence of light. Light does not depend on darkness but makes it possible that darkness exists. Light can exist without darkness. The concept of darkness, however, cannot exist without light.
God is an entity. A subject with properties. Evil is not the absence of God but evil is also an entity with properties, e.g. evil intentions. It is something negative and in particular relational. God, an absolute and an entity, does not depend on evil. Evil cannot exist without good. The existence of God makes evil possible, but God can exist without evil. The concept and entity of evil cannot exist without God because the essence of evil is to choose against God, and no concept or entity to compare evil to or to decide that an act is evil. A further point in the argument for objective moral values because God exists.
The Existence of Evil Poses Three Arguments against The Existence of God.
The logical argument, the evidential argument, and the existential problem.
1. The logical argument.
The argument An omnipotent (almighty) God would be able to eliminate evil. b) An omniscient (all-knowing) God would know how to eliminate evil. c) An omnibenevolent (all-loving) God would want to eliminate evil. d) However, evil exists.
So, this “God set” is inconsistent. Either God is not omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, given that evil exists, or evil wouldn’t exist.
The God of traditional theism doesn’t exist, and it is irrational to believe in an all-knowing, almighty, all-loving God.
Response: Free will is the defense. To love without being free to choose to love is a contradiction in terms. Wrong choices lead to personal and natural evil.
Alvin Plantinga’s ‘The Free Will Defense’
i. God’s existence is not logically incompatible with evil – God might have reasons for allowing evil. If reasons are possible, then God’s existence is not a logical incompatibility with the existence of evil. A world with moral good is better than a world without it. But only free agents can do moral good.
ii. Could God have created free moral agents who never do wrong: genuine moral freedom entails the possibility of going wrong. It is up to free creatures whether or not they go wrong.
Free will defense is successful. Philosophers no longer believe the logical problem exists, for the free will defense answers it. No one can disprove God’s existence by the logical problem from evil.
2. The evidential argument.
The argument. In a court of law, it appeals to the preponderance of the evidence, in other words beyond reasonable doubt. There is some evidence for God’s existence but weighed against all the evil in the world the scale tip heavily against the existence of God.
Response. The argument is based on probability and inference. Similar to an argument that goes from ‘there is no good that we know of’ to ‘there is no good’, which is an inference. The argument goes from no apparent reason for all the evil in the world to no morally sufficient reason: from inscrutable incomprehensible evil (that we cannot understand) to pointless evil (for which there is no reason).
Why should we expect to see God’s reasons, to have access to His knowledge? We are morally free creatures who can do and indeed do wrong.
The evidential argument makes God’s existence less probable but there is strong evidence for God’s existence; objective morality, beginning of the universe, finetuning of the universe, evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, reliability of the New Testament manuscripts. Our lack of comprehensive knowledge of God’s knowledge and intentions with the concept of free will, make the existence of God very likely.
3. The existential problem.
Evil exists. Atheists have no definition for evil, what evil is and why it exists, and see it as either undeserved and/or unnecessary purposeless suffering. But evil exists and it is very personal.
Response one’s reaction to evil and suffering determines its meaning. Evil draw people closer to God or destroy their belief in God. Either despair, indifference, or growth.
See my video ‘What is this Virus? And God?’
The above pertained mostly to moral evil
The free process defense for natural evil is similar to the free will defense.
A world in which free creatures can exercise genuine creativity, thereby bringing about truly novel effects is better than a static one, in which we could not exercise creativity at all. In Biblically creation, God gave man dominion10. We often exercise it badly, but we are given it to make a real difference in the world. A static world would not allow that. The natural world is complex (technical) and composed of a high number of interrelated, dynamical, dissipative systems which are sensitively dependent on initial conditions. Free creatures with genuine free creativity and a complex world will lead to natural evil. God did not make a complex world in which natural evil cannot exist.
If the world is indeed complex: composed of a very high number of interrelated chaotic systems (complex). A slight nudge in initial conditions will result in natural disasters that God did not do. If the world were not like that, we could never do anything novel to fulfill God’s mandate to us. So why didn’t God make the world stable, to begin with? Why is it unstable? Because of the fall of man, sin – fall and rebellion of Satan12 with its effect on the earth. The initial equilibrium state that God created was disturbed by the fall of Satan, such that natural phenomena, natural evils, occur, ultimately because of sin in the world created by God in which we can make a difference
Conclusion: even God cannot make a complex world in which natural evil could not occur (free process defense is very analogous to free will defense – man’s choices). Just as He ‘cannot’ make a square circle, it is illogical and against God and human rationality.
God is a good God. He did not need evil to exist in order for His goodness to be good. He did not need to create at all, nor did He need people. He freely made a decision to create and decided to gift creation with freedom, thereby to receive greater glory from it. He also made evil and suffering possible; He did not create evil but made it possible.
This Discussion on YouTube
1 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. Genesis 1:26
2 & 3 The fall of man is a term used to describe the transition of the first man and woman from a state of innocent obedience to God to a state of guilty disobedience. Genesis 3:1-24.
4 All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. Psalm 14:3 There is no one righteous, not even one. Romans 3:10-12
5 God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31
6 The Earth’s crust is broken up into pieces called plates. The crust moves because of movements deep inside the earth. Heat rising and falling inside the mantle creates convection currents generated by radioactive decay in the core. Plate tectonics cause earthquakes and volcanoes.
7&8 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. Romans 8: 20-22
8 … until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago … Acts 3:21
9 A subject is a being who has a unique consciousness and/or unique personal experiences, or an entity that has a relationship with another entity that exists outside itself. A subject is an observer, and an object is a thing observed.Follow us >>