A good friend once told me how his brother, having come back from humanitarian work in Africa, had given up on God. He could not make sense of how an all-good, all-powerful God would allow the evil he had witnessed. He therefore concluded, that God must not exist.
This is a common conclusion, which concerns me.
“Evil far from disproving God’s
existence is in fact some of the
best evidence for God!“
Without God the question of evil becomes unanswerable because it is unintelligible.
My initial response when a person says to me, “I can’t believe in God because there is too much evil in the world”, is to ask a simple question: “Exactly, what do you mean by evil?”
I find that most people have never given evil much thought and aren’t exactly sure what they mean by it. Simply put, evil is the corruption, of something. For example, counterfeit currency is the corruption of real currency. Now notice, you can have real currency without counterfeit currency; but you cannot have counterfeit currency without real currency.
Similarly, evil is the corruption of good. You can have good without evil; but, you cannot have evil without good. Evil is that which should not be. By calling something evil, people are saying that something should not be that way. This assumes there is a way that things ought to be. It’s no surprise then that the subject of evil naturally leads to the question of first importance: how should the world be or, more precisely, what is good?
I believe Christianity correctly bases goodness in God. Who is good and is the source of all good. But does this mean that goodness is at the whim of God? For example, could God call rape good? No. He cannot because goodness comes from God’s nature and God cannot change His nature.
Now please notice what I’m not saying. This does NOT mean people need to believe in God to be morally good. That is obviously not the case; however, it does mean that God needs to exist in order for there to even be such a thing as good. Without God, there wouldn’t be a standard of goodness; there wouldn’t be a way things “ought to be”. The truth is, we are all intimately aware that some standards are wrong for everyone, like torturing children, and some standards are right for everyone, like loving children. These values are beyond opinion and taste because they reflect a higher law, an objective standard based on God’s existence.
This is why the initial statement made by my friends brother,concerns me. The very passion with which he condemned the evil he experienced in Africa demonstrates his awareness that the world should not be that way. Yet without God there is no particular way things ought be.
We should run to God not away from Him in times of evil and suffering. Not only can God heal the wounds caused by evil; but, He alone can give us the moral justification to do the very thing we so desperately desire: to condemn the evil of this world!
The more difficult question is “Why does God allow evil?” That is a mystery that will require an audience with the Most High to solve. Yet we know that it is not a contradiction that an all-powerful, all-good God would have good reasons for allowing evil. One reason is the ‘Free Will Defense’ and it goes as follows:
Morality requires free will, the capacity to make choices. For God to create free people able to choose good they need to be able not to choose it. God could not create free people capable of evil and yet prevent them from choosing it. Perhaps then God allows evil for the most noble of all ethics, the ability to choose love. Unfortunately, a choice like that requires the possibility of its vile opposite, the choice to not love.
The sobering implication to the question, “Why is there evil?” is to realize our own responsibility. Evil is not merely something we experience; it is something we do. There is hope however. The Bible says, “I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from Evil… (Acts 13:39)” Heaven is not merely a post script for Christians…a p.s. to their lives. Heaven is everything we live, suffer and hope for. It is the one place where things are the way they ought to be!
Andy Steiger is the Director of Apologetics Canada. Learn more on this subject at ThinkingSeries.com. The thinking Series addresses five of the most asked questions today.