The Problem of Evil? Not My Problem.

A common tactic for atheists who are debating Christians is to throw out the problem of evil. If God is all good, then why doesn’t he prevent evil from occurring. Either he’s not all powerful because he can’t prevent evil, or he’s not perfectly good because he allows evil and created it in the first place.

But, the problem of evil is actually not a problem for the Christian, it’s a problem for atheists. You see, the Christian worldview explains evil. God created us as free creatures. Since we all have a free will, then we can freely commit wrongs against one another and against the God who created us. God didn’t create evil. Evil is not a thing in itself, just like dark is not a thing.  Evil is the absence of good, just like a dark is the absence of light.

So, it’s really the atheist that evil presents a problem for. In a materialistic world view, there is no objective right or wrong. To say it another way, there is no objective “good”, and if there is no objective good, then there can be no objective evil. If an atheist disagrees, and claims there is good and evil, then he or she must explain who or what grounds that “good”. For the Christian, this is an easy question. God is the grounder of morality, and the perfect Good.  Since the atheist has no grounding for morality or “goodness”, their only option is moral relativism.

What’s a moral relativist?  In short, a moral relativist is someone who believes that what’s right and what’s wrong is up to each individual, or to a group of individuals such as a society. The problem with this is that morality can then change based on the whims of the individual or group. Rape or torture could be wrong at one point in time or in one place, and not in another.

That’s not the way people live their lives, though, even if they claim to be a moral relativist. If you want to prove it, go steal a moral relatavist’s TV and see what he says. No, we all intuitively know what’s right and wrong. Even though the holocaust was perpetrated and supported by an entire nation, we all know intuitively that it was wrong. We know that it would still be wrong even if the Nazi’s had won the war, we were all German citizens today, and everyone in the world had been brainwashed into thinking it was right. This is very hard to explain in a naturalistic world, where survival of the fittest is the true and only supreme law of the land.

The truth is, morality must be grounded in something, and a moral obligation requires someone to be obliged to. This doesn’t fit for atheists, who believe in a purely materialist world. There is an atheist that I debate in an online forum from time to time.  I was making a point that God was necessary for objective morals to exist. He asked me about a passage in the Old Testament that says a father can kill his daughter if it is determined that she’s not a virgin on her wedding night, and whether that was a moral act. He’ll bring up things in scripture like this quite often (always with a sense of self-righteous outrage) as his reason to reject God. But, in reality, even this is a problem for the atheist, not the Christian.

Certainly, this is tough passage for Christians. Again, though, our world view explains it. God is God, and we are not. God is the creator of all life, and He can determine when a life can be taken. The laws God laid down for the nation of Israel were meant to keep His chosen people holy and separate from unbelievers so as to preserve His people and His word. If He made that law for His people at that time, then it is His prerogative. I don’t have to understand it, and I don’t have to like it, but who am I to argue.

The problem for the atheist is they cannot see any killing as wrong, because they live in a purely materialistic world. For them, we are merely molecules in motion. We are just a higher order of animals in the animal kingdom, and there are certainly no moral obligations for animals. So, on what grounds could this atheist have a problem with a father killing his daughter? This set up my next question back to him:

If a male lion kills one of its cubs, is that wrong?

We might be tempted to say it’s wrong, but that’s us imposing our own moral framework on the situation. It’s neither wrong nor right. In the materialistic world view of the atheist, we are no different then the animals. It’s simply survival of the fittest. So, in the same way, a human father killing his child for any reason at all would be no different than the lion. It would not be a bad thing or a good thing. It would just be a thing.

In the end, my atheist friend had to admit he was a moral relativist rather than say God is the grounding for his morality. Specifically, he said “I say killing a child is wrong. I am the one who is ultimately the ground of that authority.”

He finished by making this statement: “On a more practical note I think it is sad that you Christians are no different than the Muslim hijackers. You can justify any murder as long as God wills it.”

My reply: “I think you have the bigger problem with Muslim hijackers. Who are you to say what they did is wrong? They didn’t think so.”

Thanks to Greg Koukl (str.org) and William Lane Craig (reasonablefaith.org) for their knowledge, wisdom and resources.


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