Probably one of the most common objections to Christianity that we hear is one that relates to the Problem of Evil. While the problem of evil asks, “How can an Omnipotent, Good God exist with evil in the world,” this particular one asks, “How can God be ‘good’ if he has done all these evil things?” Men will object to Christianity saying that God has done evil things. And from this they conclude God either doesn’t exist, or if he does exist he is not worth believing.
We answer the former problem by demonstrating from the Bible that the fact that God exists and the fact that evil exists do not contradict each other, and that Christianity affirms the existence of both, simultaneously. We then call into question the atheist’s (or agnostic’s) evaluation of “evil” and demonstrate that only by assuming God’s existence can “evil” be made meaningful in the first place. There is a tension that exists between evil and God’s goodness that will finally and fully be resolved for great Justice, but there is no logical contradiction between the two, as the objection attempts – and fails – to show.
The problem of God “committing evil” falls victim to the same fallacy of logic, only more blatantly. Because, while the Problem of Evil silently assumes that a standard of good and evil exists and therefore begs the question, this problem loudly accuses God of violating that assumed standard. Men accuse God of acting evil according to some standard that is above God, which assumes God is not the Author and standard of Good, since God cannot be above God. In this way, they have reasoned circularly in making their claim that God is “evil.” You’ll notice that many of the New Atheists attempt to drown out the noise of the fallacy by simply stating their point more loudly and assertively, as though this serves them in any way. We need not be concerned.
In order to bring this to light, we will ask the atheist, “What or Who determines things to be evil? By what standard is God being considered evil?” Often, he responds with incredulity and says something like, “How can you possibly consider [a particular act of God] NOT evil? No one in their right mind *isn’t* repulsed by [a particular act of God].” There is no need to pay this response any mind, because this doesn’t answer the question. I’ve noticed that many times when this answer is given, it’s in the presence of an atheistic audience. But of course, any particular act of God is good according to Christianity, and you can mention this in passing, but simply press him on the question.
Since he cannot accuse God of evil on the ground of Christianity, and since there is no ground for standard of good and evil other than God, it follows that the atheist’s objection is utterly groundless. He has failed to present a standard for good and evil, and therefore any statement of his concerning good and evil is absolutely groundless. All this means, then, is that he is articulating his personal dislike of God in objective terms. All he has to fight with is a mere opinion. He may think his opinion is right. That is merely his opinion about his opinion.
Alternately, he may cite such things as “empathy” or “the good of the people.” This doesn’t settle the issue, but only raises more questions: which people? With whom should we be empathizing? Surely the man riddled with depression and helplessness is suffering, but should he be empathized with, if he has murdered many people, and wants to murder more? Would the atheist say we should empathize with Islam in seeking to implement sharia? Empathy is not nearly as absolute or objective as it’s made to seem, since we can empathize with people who want contradictory things. But if this is the basis of atheistic morality, then there is nothing that would guard against contradicting moralities.
God is, in fact, absolutely Good. He exemplifies and defines Goodness. (Psalm 119:68, 107:1, 31:19; Exodus 33:19; Matthew 19:17; Romans 2:6-11) Due to sin, man ignores his goodness and misunderstands it (Romans 1). God was good to Israel by letting them overpower their enemies. God was also good to Israel by giving them reason to repent of their sins whenever they rebelled. God’s goodness demands that anything that defies him be punished. God’s goodness demands eradication of evil. When any sinner calls the actions of God evil, he is fulfilling the words of Isaiah 5:20: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil…” How does God regard this phenomenon? Isaiah 5:24: “for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” They call good evil and evil good, not because they have neutrally, reasonably, considered all the evidence and have come to the scientific conclusion that God is evil, but simply because they have rejected Him and his law. There is no open-minded, even-handed consideration. There is only sinful rebellion.
To understand the “trouble passages,” where God commands something in which we don’t immediately see goodness, we must keep in mind our presuppositional committment to what the Bible says about God: that He is Good and that all he does is necessarily good in accordance with His nature. With this principle in mind, we proceed to exegete the passages and if necessary highlight the particular circumstances which justify God’s Just wrath (e.g. Israel acted in self-defense, or in punishment of a nation at God’s command, etc.). Where we do not see such circumstances, we are still to hold to our committment above. If an atheist wants to understand these same passages, he must also keep in mind what the Bible says about God and Good. The moment he says God has done something “evil” or come to any conclusion other than our own, he has posited a standard which transcends God, which – as I showed above – he has no basis for, and is simply evaluating God in terms of his own worldview instead of the Bible’s, leaving Christianity as such untouched.
Challenge to God’s accusers:
- In the interest of honesty, qualify every one of your moral pronouncements.
- What is the basis for your statements about morality?
- Should your statements about morality be taken as more than mere opinion?
- If Yes, then on what basis? This basis cannot be “empathy” because then it is not objective, and the basis cannot be “the general good” because this begs the question.
- If No, why do you feel compelled to say anything in the first place?