to BibleToday Homepage
An Argument Against God
A chief argument against God's existence is the presence of evil. If we phrase this argument as a question it might be something like this: How can a wholly good, all loving, omnipotent and omniscient God permit evil to exist? We begin to answer this question by reason alone.
Webster defines evil as that which produces unhappiness; anything which either directly or remotely causes suffering of any kind. We witness unhappiness and suffering all around us. Humans are a direct cause of evil; however, there are also “natural” causes. People die in natural disasters or “chance” events. This too is evil for it causes real suffering. Our problem lies in the question - Why? Why does evil happen? Why would an all loving, wholly good God permit evil? If we want to personalize it, we could ask, "How can it be that God loves us and yet all these bad things happen to us? Can the existence of evil be compatible with the existence of a good God? "
Our initial attributes of God (wholly good, all loving, omnipotent and omniscient) leads us to conclude that what we see in our world today is the best course of action for God to take with the human family. To think differently would diminish his attributes of omniscience, all loving and “wholly good”. Some suggest that these qualities are not diminished, instead God would never allow evil to exist, but evil exists because God is not able to fully control it. This thought requires us to diminish God's attribute of omnipotence. Holding firm to the attribute of God's omnipotence, we must draw the conclusion that it is not an inability of God to stop evil, but a deliberate action on God’s part to permit evil. So far, we have not altered any of our original attributes about God. We now have to answer the question, why does God consider experience with evil the best course for the human race?
There are two possible answers. The permission of evil leads to a greater good or prevents a greater evil. Most often, a case-by-case attempt to reason any act of evil as resulting in a greater good or lesser evil is difficult if not impossible. We may offer different explanations, in the end, it is purely conjecture and speculation on our part. A primary objection to these two answers is that evil results in pain and suffering which leads us to ask if this really is the best plan that God could arrange? Couldn’t God have accomplished the same result without the pain and suffering? As we mentioned earlier, if we think he could then we are simply diminishing God's quality of omniscience in favor of our thoughts. The difficulty of offering a fully satisfying answer arises from our limited knowledge of God's deliberate action for permitting evil. We are not omniscient and therefore we reason from a very limited point of view. Does this make either of these two answers invalid? No! Neither one of these answers diminish our original attributes of God. Though, far from satisfactory to the inquiring mind, either one or both together can reason the existence of evil being compatible with the existence of a wholly good God.
Let's us now consider the following example. Ask yourself, would a loving parent ever permit evil (anything that causes pain or suffering) to his or her own child and at the same time consider it the best course of action for a greater good, or for the prevention of a greater evil?
What child has not touched a hot stove in their lifetime, even though they were warned over and over that it would hurt? Yet most children continue to touch the stove. Why didn’t the child blindly obey the parent in the first place so that this pain could be avoided all together? Why do some parents purposely but momentarily place a child’s hand on a hot stove? The child may not understand why their parent allowed this to happen; however, the child's lack of understanding cannot be used to justify a bad action by the parent. In this simple example, we can see the greater good, and the prevention of the greater evil, even though the child for a moment cannot explain it. Most importantly, the pain and suffering from the experience was temporary. In most cases, the lesson learned is lasting and is more effective than simple instruction. Could this be the same way God deals with us?
There are those that suggest that God does not exist in an effort to explain the existence of evil. These have a serious problem on their hands. Initially, this argument is appealing for there is no contradiction to the existence of evil when a good God does not exist. However, if we get beneath the surface of this argument just a little we must now conclude that on the whole, our experiences with evil are random, meaningless and pointless. This thought does nothing to explain the "Why" question; Why evil exists in the first place? It is also important to note, that the suggestion that God does not exist essentially accepts that the random experience with evil has no end.
So, by reason alone, we conclude that the existence of a wholly good, all loving, omniscient, and omnipotent God is compatible with the existence of evil in our present world. In fact, we go a step further and say that it is a deliberate action on God’s part to permit evil, considering it the best course of action for either a greater good or to prevent a greater evil or both. This seems to be the most satisfactory answer to questions of “Why does evil exist? and Why does God permit evil? However, this is as far as reason alone can take us; which is not very satisfying. The good news is that our loving God did not leave us to reason alone, he provided us the Bible which is a detailed explanation (or revealing) of His plan for the human family and how the permission of evil will result in the greatest blessing for all of His creation.
Click here to go to the Bible study on the Permission of Evil and it's relation to God's Plan.
Click here to read the online booklet, "And God Cried"