Atheist Objection # 9
The very first challenge Bob the atheist will have to demonstrate is that that absolute evil exists, and he will have to do this upon the basic beliefs of his own worldview. If the God of the Bible is evil, then the atheist will have to defend the existence of evil and he will have to do so upon his atheistic beliefs. World-renowned atheist, Alex Rosenberg says, “Real moral disputes can be ended in lots of ways: by voting, by decree, by fatigue of the disputants, by the force of example that changes social mores. But they can never really be resolved by finding the correct answers. There are none.” [Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, 96] The second problem that Bob the atheist has is his definition of evil. What is evil? Is it the privation of good? If so, what is the good? Bob’s assertion that the God of the Bible is evil is self-refuting. If there is no objective evil, then God cannot be evil. If there is a God of the Bible, we know that from the Bible itself. And the same source for our knowledge of the God of the Bible, the Bible, says that the God of the Bible is perfectly good and hates evil and cannot do evil. If Bob’s assertion depends on atheism, there is no absolute evil and therefore God cannot be evil. If Bob’s assertion depends on the Bible’s definition of God and of evil, then Bob equivocates on the meaning of God and evil and therefore, his statement is meaningless nonsense as far as Christian belief is concerned.
Bob goes on to make the following claim: Who decides what my moral beliefs are but me? I’ll grant that I’m an imperfect judge, but the buck stops here. I’m all I’ve got, and that’s true for everyone else. Bob claims that he is his final reference point for morality and that the same goes for everyone else as well. If that is the case, then I can say that the God of the Bible is perfectly good and Bob should simply be quiet and let me be the same “I’m all I’ve got, and that’s true for everyone else” that he claims to be. But Bob does not do that, does he? In other words, if Bob were consistent with “the buck stops here” belief, he wouldn’t be trying so hard to pass the buck to others. It’s his buck. So, why doesn’t he keep it? Why does Bob think that he can determine his own morality and then impose that morality on everyone else? Bob’s view is terribly inconsistent.
Bob claims that a God who allows so much suffering and death can be nothing but evil. But this only repeats the same obvious howler that his first proposition committed. If there is no evil, no absolute, objective evil, then God cannot be evil in any sense whatever. If Bob is right, evil is impossible. Second, why should we accept the view that suffering and death are evil? What is evil about them? Moreover, couldn’t a good God have a perfectly good reason for allowing suffering and death? If the best of all possible worlds, a world in which the greatest possible good can be actualized requires the existing of suffering and death, it only seems plausible that a perfectly good God would actualize such a world. As a reformed Baptist, I believe the best possible world is the world in which God is most glorified. Hence, the purpose of the existence of beings other than God is doxological. We all exist, all things exist for the glory of God alone. While sin is a wicked thing itself, bringing about suffering and death, its presence in the world serves to glorify God. God displays the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy and his righteous judgment for vessels of wrath. Contrary to Bob’s claim, upon Christian presuppositions about God’s goodness, suffering, death, and the existence of evil in the world, a perfectly good God can bring about a state of affairs that allows for suffering and death, and indeed, he has done so. Daniel Johnson writes, “I conclude that the divine glory defense is quite promising, and it explains many of the same classes of evil that the free will defense is thought to explain.” [Alexander & Johnson, Calvinism and the Problem of Evil, 48] I think the divine glory defense is the best defense available, not primarily because of its logical strength, but because of it faithfulness to the text. It is the one Paul uses in Romans 9.
Now, what would a rebuttal of the atheist challenge to God from evil be without formally putting the argument in a syllogism and then offering a final critique of it? The point of the moral argument against God, that is the problem of evil, is that Christian belief involves an obvious contradiction.
- God is all powerful
- God is perfectly good
- Evil exists
- Therefore, there is no all-powerful, perfectly good God.
- An all-powerful God could destroy evil
- A perfectly good God would destroy evil
- Evil exists
- Therefore, God is not all-powerful and perfectly good.
From this the atheist argues that God is either not all powerful or God is not perfectly good. But Christianity claims that God is both all-powerful and perfectly good and admits that there is evil present in the world. The existence of such a God and of evil represent an obvious contradiction in Christian belief. Therefore, Christian belief requires Christians to affirm an irrational system. No rational person should subscribe to an irrational system. Therefore, Christians should reject Christian belief. How do we response to this argument? The argument is logically valid and probably represents the most forceful argument to date launched against Christianity. So this is how I restructure to argument.
- God is all-powerful
- God is perfectly good
- Evil exists
- Therefore, God has a perfectly good reason for the existence of evil
Notice that this argument is just as valid as the objection to God from evil. What is the difference? (1) seems to be uncontroversial in both arguments. (3) is clearly uncontroversial in both premises since they are identical. The conclusion is different because (2) is remarkably different. The atheist presumes that a good God would never allow evil or would destroy it the minute it showed up on the scene. Well, from my point of view, if the atheist is right, evil would never show up on the scene. Nevertheless, what the atheist will have to defend is his view that God cannot possibly have a good reason for allowing evil. But the problem is worse than this. You see, the atheist is attempting to demonstrate incoherence within the Christian system of belief. He thinks there is a contradiction. But there is no contradiction. If the argument I put up actually reflects Christian doctrine, and I am confident it does, then the atheist’s argument does not. And if the atheist’s argument does not actually reflect Christian belief, it is hard to see how it could constitute a contradiction with the Christian system. In short, Bob’s argument fails from beginning to end. I will disclose to Bob that I have offered a 9th rebuttal of his objections and invite him to critique my rebuttal. So far, Bob has been content to remain among his atheist friends/minions at Patheos and has refused to leave the safety of that environment. Perhaps this will be enough to get him to come out of his shell.