I recently came across a Facebook post which showed a starving child looking for food in a field, and a vulture standing ready for what looked inevitable. It is truly heartbreaking and devastating to think of such a situation. Having children of my own, I cannot bear to think of them starving to death, or the tortures of a place like Auschwitz. Evil is indeed real. It is in this world, and from the Christian perspective, how do we look at it?
I’m a street evangelist and a Christian apologist (not formally). I certainly have my fair share of discussions with those that believe this disproves the existence of God. In most cases, this gives full liberty to the “atheist” to debunk the idea that a good and loving God would allow this sort of thing to happen in the world, and undoubtedly, they have a point that challenges us all.
Scottish Philosopher, Davide Hume, said this: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is impotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Whence evil?” Hume presents a challenging argument, and while the topic is diverse, I will provide a defense for this argument. There are many theories of why evil exists and “whence” evil came.
Scripture provides lots of clues, but it also provides some absolutes. Primarily, it unequivocally states the goodness, righteousness, and moral perfection of God.
You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he? Habakkuk 1:13
Secondly, the Scriptures teach that God is not the author of evil.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. James 1:13
It is difficult for the human mind to comprehend a Sovereign God that hates evil and ordains evil for His purposes. God has created all things. We know God created all things good (Genesis 1:25), and with Adam and Eve, all things were very good (Genesis 1:31). We also know that sin entered the world. Since God is the creator of all things, and He has purposed all things according to the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11), then God had a purpose for His decree which allowed evil to enter into creation.
The London Baptist Confession of Faith 3.1 says this:
From all eternity God decreed all that should happen in time, and this He did freely and unalterably, consulting only His own wise and holy will. Yet in so doing He does not become in any sense the author of sin, nor does He share responsibility for sin with sinners. Neither, by reason of His decree, is the will of any creature whom He has made violated; nor is the free working of second causes put aside; rather is it established. In all matters the divine wisdom appears, as also does God’s power and faithfulness in effecting that which He has purposed.
The writers of the confession worded this carefully. Man is not coerced but freely sins by his desire (James 1:14).
What do we say to the “atheist” who argues along the lines of Hume? On the surface, this seems a formative argument and can stump many a well-intended Christian.
Greg Bahnsen answered it well: “Philosophically speaking, the problem of evil turns out to be, therefore, a problem for the unbeliever himself. In order to use the argument from evil against the Christian worldview, he must first be able to show that his judgments about the existence of evil are meaningful – which is precisely what his unbelieving worldview is unable to do.”
In other words, how can the “atheist” justify moral or immoral behavior? The “atheist” argues what is right and what is wrong, but what is his basis? If he is true to his belief system, there is no God, then what is the standard of right and wrong? According to atheistic, Darwinian evolution, the process of survival of the fittest is merely working itself out. What is wrong with the murder of 11 million in the Holocaust? What is wrong with the starving child in Sudan? Why is rape wrong?
Cornelius Van Til called this “borrowed capital.” Our “atheistic” friends must borrow from the Christian worldview for morality to claim God is immoral. In the “atheistic” worldview, morality is an impossibility. Morality only comes through a moral being, not chunks of rock.
Would I ask my “atheist” friends to provide the alternative to the problem of evil? Herein lies a great difficulty for them. If evil exists, then it exists in people. We believe evil exists; therefore, it exists in people, but which kind of people? All people or just some people? If we begin to corner our “atheistic” friend about the evil in his own life, then we get to the crux of the problem. Evil resides in us all.
The difference between me, a Christian, and an unbeliever are that I rejoice someday evil will be judged. ALL EVIL. The evil acts committed in secret will be punished, even those in the dark recesses of the mind. Hitler did not escape punishment via suicide, and neither will any of us.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10
For those that reject Christ, this will be an awful day. The Bible teaches that evil exists; it teaches that God is a good and just God that hates evil. God will ultimately punish all evil and all those that commit evil, which is in all of us. The answer is that Christ saves us from our evil selves.
Rather than pointing to evil acts and saying, “see God does not exist,” turn to Him and live. Abandon a life of sin and evil rebellion, and surrender at the cross of Christ, where the greatest act of evil was ever committed. The murder of an innocent man. That innocent man willingly laid down His life (John 10:18), that we might live.
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2
The Lord stands ready to heal and ready to forgive. Please do not reject so great a salvation shaking your fist at the God you know exists.
Note: I have quotes around atheist, or atheistic, because the Bible teaches all have a revelation of God through creation and providence, but suppress the truth in their unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-23).