PBS recently aired a television special asking the question that most don’t want to confront, “Why is there such evil in this world?” “Why would God allow such evil to occur?” Why wouldn’t God stop such an evil event as happened on September 11th, 2001?”
The classic argument made by Atheists is as follows: “If God is perfectly good, and if God is perfectly powerful and if God does not want evil to occur and if God knows when evil will occur then why doesn’t he do something about it?” Atheists claim that the very fact that God does not stop such things from happening means that he is either not all good, not all powerful or not all knowing and that therefore if he lacks one of these attributes then he cannot be God.
This argument is the only one that Atheists have. Other arguments are made, but these arguments are based upon false teaching by some that claim to be Christians. One such argument is based on the assumption that God is a respecter of persons and that God specifically chooses who will or will not be saved. Thus God would become unjust for offering salvation to some, but not to others and with this we would agree–not that God is unjust, but that the assumption that God does not offer salvation to all equally is a false assumption. The Bible teaches that God is not a respecter of persons and thus would be unjust if he offered salvation to one person, and not to all people.
The problem of evil, however, cannot be handled in such a manner because God does allow evil to happen in the world. Let’s examine for a moment this argument on the part of the Atheist.
The Atheists suggests that God could just prevent people from doing evil. However, if God simply prevented people from making the choice of evil, then there would be some serious implications regarding free will–there would be no free will. That God allows us to make free choices necessitates the possibility for evil. Take away the possibility to do evil and God must also take away the possibility for real good to be chosen as well. In essence people would become mere automatons, only being able to do what they are programmed to do. We would be o better than a computer program.
As a result of merely being a sophisticated computer program we would hardly expect God to hold us responsible for our actions. Additionally, God’s doling out rewards and punishments based upon such a system would prove God to be unjust. If we are just a sophisticated computer program then God himself should be held responsible for our action. After all, would we hold the computer program or the programmer responsible for the result of a bad program? Ask any programmer alive. He is the one who gets rewarded or punished based upon how his program operates.
However at this point the Atheist will counter with a suggestion. “Why can’t God allow us to choose between right and wrong but simply not allow such drastic consequences of choosing the wrong?” This simply cannot be. Being able to choose wrong without there being consequences to choosing wrong is no real choice at all. How can one define evil without consequences? What would make the choice evil? In fact, the choice would be no evil at all because there would be nothing that happened as a result of the choice. A theoretical choice is no choice at all. What makes a choice a choice is the fact that there are practical consequences to the choice. In order to make a choice there must be real consequences to that choice or it is no choice at all. Even the law recognizes the difference between the practical and the hypothetical. A defendant in trial can talk hypothetically regarding a crime all day long and it can never be used against him in court. However if he confesses to actually making the choice, this can be used against him in court. A hypothetical choice is no choice at all.
At this point an Atheist has yet another suggestion for us. “Let’s allow the individual to make choices and allow only certain consequences–consequences that would only affect the individual who made the choice itself.” This seems like a reasonable suggestion. Let’s take away the terrible consequences of the choice of evil as it would apply to other people but not the one who chooses evil. Assuming that this could be done without some pretty amazing miracles occurring what could this imply concerning the choice of evil? Well, first it would mean that evil would not be such a big deal. You could choose evil and really all that would happen would be that you might have some bad thoughts and perhaps hurt ones self. Now, let’s suppose that you choose to do something to another person that is evil, say murder another person. You pull out the gun and fire it, but the bullet stops miraculously in the air and the other person stays alive. Now God confronts you on the Day of Judgment and says you are going to be punished for murder. But you say, “how can you punish me for this when the murder never took place?” This would be a valid argument. We try people all the time for attempted murder as opposed to murder itself. Even our own judicial system understands that there is a difference between the attempt to murder and murder itself, because the consequences are different. We recognize that different consequences imply harsher sentences.
Moreover, what kind of world would this be? What would be the point of choosing an evil if you knew there were never going to be any consequences? It would be a world in which it is so obvious that God exists that no one would be interested in choosing wrong. In order for someone to choose between right and wrong there must be an equal balance between the two choices. If you know that when you choose a wrong that God is going to be there to stop the consequences it isn’t really a choice. Why bother? The balance between the two choices is obviously in favor of God, so it would not be a real choice at all. In order to freely choose, not only must we be given the choice itself, but the opportunity to exercise the choice. In other words the choice is not merely possible theoretically but practically as well or there is really no choice.
Finally, the argument that God does not exist based upon the problem evil is really a self-destructive argument. What is the primary assumption in the argument? Is it not that REAL EVIL EXISTS? Not just what one person says is evil, but that actual objective evil exists. Now who is going to determine what is really evil and what is not? There is a very famous quotation from the French existential philosopher Jean Paul Sarte in his book “Being and Nothingness.” He says, “If there is no God, then anything goes.” About this his is 100% correct. If God does not exist there is no objective right or wrong there are only choices and there is no basis to say whether one person’s choice is any better than another. The very argument that Atheists make is in essence taken away from them because if there is no God then absolute evil cannot exist. But in order for Atheists to PROVE there is no God, absolute evil must exist! If absolute evil does not exist then whey they call evil is no evil at all. The very argument the Atheist makes against God end sup proving that there is a God. Because in order for real objective evil to exist, real objective Good must exist to tell us what evil actually is!
The Atheist has no case upon which to make his claim. He has no argument to present. He can merely assert, unproved, what his own thoughts are on the matter and an assertion is just that, an assertion and it contains within it no evidence, reason, or logical conclusion on the matter.
The events of September 11th, 2001 were and are tragic indeed. However, I would not want to face those events with the “knowledge” that there is no absolute evil. Every Atheist in the world must confess that those responsible for those events of that horrible day really did not commit any evil at all because they have no ground upon which to stand to judge such an event to be truly and objectively evil. For the Atheist must admit that what one society may deem evil, another society will uphold as a heroic act and unless there is some absolute standard of right and wrong, one cannot judge any particular act wrong outside of the context of any individual society. And if one cannot do that, then one cannot say what is right and what is wrong.
Yes, I am thankful that I am a Christian because I know that God holds justice within his hand and that one day all choices will be presented before him and an account will be made. In that day all wrongs will be righted, all evils punished, and all injustices corrected. Here is a picture of right and wrong with which we can clearly and confidently say that the acts of September 11th, 2001 were truly evil.