God, Suffering, and Evil (an article from 2010)

April 11th, 2011 by BEBlogger

Last month’s Haiti earthquake confronts us with the problem of evil.  Atheists and skeptics claim “If God is almighty and all good, He would eliminate evil.  Since evil exists, the existence of an all powerful, all good God is doubtful.”

Discussing God and evil involves more than philosophical musing.  It deals with real life.  Who among us has not at least asked “Why?” when a catastrophe strikes, whether on a personal or international scale?  Christians understand that God is all good, all powerful, and that evil exists, so how do we solve this dilemma, if there is one?  Ultimately, in this life we can’t answer all the questions; but when atheists deny the existence of God based on the existence of evil and suffering, Christians can respond in at least two ways:

First, if the existence of evil dictates against God’s existence, doesn’t the existence of good serve to prove God’s existence?  Good must be part of the equation, or else the atheist employs a form of special pleading, utilizing evidence that supports his position only.

Second, Christians account for evil through Adam’s fall.  How does the atheist account for either evil or good?  As C.S. Lewis points out in Mere Christianity, denying God because of suffering and evil assumes a moral standard only God can supply.  If there is no God, how do we know what is just or unjust, cruel or compassionate, good or evil?

The atheist’s dilemma is demonstrated in a quote from atheist Richard Dawkins’ book River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life:

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice.  The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good.  Nothing but blind pitiless indifference.  DNA neither knows nor cares.  DNA just is, and we dance to its music.

Note Dawkins’ words carefully.  If getting hurt or lucky are the results of a purposeless, pitiless, and amoral universe, the concepts of good and evil are meaningless.  If we are products of blind evolution, bundles of DNA, wired by impersonal, chance forces, then all our thoughts and values (including our opinions on good and evil) are merely by-products of chemical processes in our brains.  Thus our sentiments on good and evil have no objective merit.  How can the Haiti earthquake be “evil?”  If my DNA doesn’t care, why should I?

Though this argument does not prove the existence of God, it does disqualify the atheist from entering the debate, because his complaints against evil are meaningless given his presuppositions.  In short, though atheists question the existence of God based on this supposed dilemma, Christians are in a much better place to deal with the problem of evil then are they.  We may not have all the answers, but we – not the atheist – are in a position to ask the questions.