Hear No Evil…See No Evil…Speak No Evil

I hope to show two truths today: There is a good God and evil exists in the world, and evil is proof for the existence of God.

I would like to preface with sympathy toward any and all who struggle with the problem of evil in our world. Many who believe in God struggle with the problem of evil. It is not an easy problem to swallow or ignore. I am not going to try to wash over the problem or say “you just have to believe,” “pray more,” or “have more faith.” However, I am going to give reasonable answers to the issue that I hope will cause you to understand the problem of evil and God more clearly. Then in the midst of our frustration of evil, we can still have hope in the truth of the matter, which is there is a God and He is good.

There Is A Good God and Evil Exists In The World
A common argument against a good God is…

Premise 1: God created all things,
Premise 2: and evil is a thing,
Conclusion: then God created evil.

The syllogism above is valid, but the problem is the second premise is not true.

What Is Evil?
In solving the problem of the argument above the question “What is evil?” must be asked. By clarifying what evil is, the argument above becomes invalid.

Evil does not have an ontological status in itself (ontology deals with the nature of existence). Evil is not a thing. To help understand this I will give you several illustrations:

1. Cold is not a thing. Actually, cold is the lack or absence of heat. The idea of cold is only used when describing a circumstance in which heat is missing. When we remove heat from something is gets cold. Unlike heat, which can be measured, cold is not a thing.

2. Darkness is not a thing. Light can be measured and is a thing, but darkness is the absence of light.

3. Another example by Greg Koukl: “Here’s another way of looking at it. Did you ever eat a donut hole? I don’t mean those little round sugar-coated lumps you buy at the donut shop. I mean the hole itself. Donut holes are actually what’s left when the middle is cut out of a donut. There’s a space called a hole, a “nothing,” the condition that exists when something is taken away.”

The loss of good is evil, just like the absence of heat is cold, the absence of light is dark, or the absence of a donut is a donut hole. Understanding evil for what it is (or should I say isn’t) helps clear up the problem of God creating evil.

Now we can see a more clear argument:

Premise 1: God created all things,
Premise 2: evil is not a created thing,
Conclusion: then God did not create evil.

We have covered that God couldn’t have created evil because evil is not a created thing. However, another issues arises: Why did God allow evil to infect His creation?

How Could A Good God Allow Evil?

The second most common argument against God because of evil is…

Premise 1: If God exists, He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good,
Premise 2: and if this kind of God exists, he would not allow evil to occur in the world,
Premise 3: but we see that evil does occur in our world,
Conclusion: therefore, and all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good God does not exist.

There are several parts that need to be understood more clearly to realize the argument above is not reasonable: (1) defining all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, and (2) understanding free will.

When we say that God is all-powerful, or omnipotent, many think this means God can do anything. He can cause Himself not to exist, make a square circle, or a rock too big for Him to lift. However, that God is all-powerful does not mean He can do anything, for example: (1) God cannot sin, (2) God is unchanging, (3) God cannot learn anything new, and (4) God cannot contradict truth (create square circles).

I want to focus on the idea that God cannot contradict truth. When God created the world and gave free will to His creation it had to include the choice to do evil. It would be a contradiction for God to give free will mankind while giving no possibility of choosing evil. (I will expand on the importance and relevance of this in the Free Will section).

God is all-knowing, or omniscience, so He knows the present and the future. That means He knows present good and evil, and future good and evil. A loving God, being vastly wiser than humans, could deliberately tolerate evil because in the long run people will be better and happier than if he were to miraculously intervene every time. We may not always see the way this could be true, but here are couple examples:

1. Christ, or God in the flesh, came down to the world He created in order to die for mankind on a cross in the most painful way for the sins that are committed by man against God.

2. Suffering that produces better character in a person.

James Russell Lowell sums it up well: “Mishaps are like knives that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or the handle.” God has chosen to allow evil, and since we know He is a loving and good God then He must have allowed it for a necessary reason. Like Lowell’s illustration, we can either learn and grow through the evil situations or become more hurt and embittered by them. Paul in Romans 8:28 encourages followers of Christ “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

We understand that humans can do good, but I think it is important to clarify the great difference between man’s goodness and God’s goodness. God is vastly above us in all aspects, including in His goodness. So how can a God that is vastly more good than us sit back and watch us suffer? We must trust that an all-good God, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, has a necessary reason to allow it. He allows suffering or deprives us of some good to help us toward greater moral good or spiritual growth. Suffering produces moral character: courage, hope, love, etc. On the other hand, without God there is no redeeming the evil for good.

Many still wonder, “What about those who do bad and get away with it?” Kreeft says, “Justice delayed is not justice denied.” There will come a day when God will settle the accounts; it will not necessarily be on our terms. If we have beef with the way God is running the show, then I would like to see what suggestions you might have that would be good, yet not infringe completely on our freedom. Every time that evil is prevented, then freedom is taken. At times God may intervene in His divine providence, but God is not obligated and yet He can still be a good God because those evils come from free will choice.

Free Will
In the book of Genesis, we see that God created Adam and Eve. For God to create humans with the ability to love, yet not be puppets, there had to be free will, which includes moral free will. Adam and Eve -and all mankind- are created with the capability to rebel or choose to do wrong. Don’t get confused here: Adam and Eve were not created with evil in them, because remember evil is not a thing. Evil does not cause our actions, rather actions cause evil and those actions are chosen by free will given to man by God. Also, to love God and others, we must have choice or free will. There can be no such thing as forced love. Since God has given us the choice to love, then He must give us the choice to hate or there is no choice at all.

I guess the questions still stands: Was it worth it? Was it worth giving free will to man and allow evil? We cannot know. We have a limited perspective being finite humans. Again, if God is who He says He is, then we must trust that an all-knowing and loving God knows best.

So there is a better way to state the argument:

Premise 1: If God exists, He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good,
Premise 2: and if this kind of God exists, he would not allow evil to occur in the world unnecessarily or without good reason,
Premise 3: but we see that evil does occur in our world,
Conclusion: therefore, and all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good God may be allowing evil to exist for some necessary or good reason.

Evil Is Proof For The Existence of God
If one is to make the argument that God does not exist because there is evil in the world, and for many this is a stumbling block, then he must also admit that there are moral absolutes. When I say moral absolutes I mean morals (right and wrong) that transcend time and culture, and are always true.

When someone claims that there is evil or God is allowing evil, then they are making a claim that evil isn’t what ought to be (absolute)–they have a notion of what ought to be (absolute). This “oughtness” makes the morals have an obligation to them. Obligations are something that seems to be held between persons. Therefore, if there are moral laws there must be a moral lawgiver who is sovereign to make the laws obligatory. Yet some may say that these moral absolutes can exist without God because they can do good, yet they don’t believe in God. Greg Koukl gives a great illustration of this problem:

Let me give you an illustration that I think makes sense of how this grounding problem works. You can read a newspaper because the skills needed to read newspapers are things that we are capable of developing. So we have the ability to read the information. But what if you said that there are no authors to newspaper articles; there are no delivery boys; there are no editors; there are no headline writers. Those don’t exist. You acknowledge there are newspaper articles, but you deny that there needs to be an explanation for them.

To say that because one is able to act good there is no need for a moral lawgiver is like saying because one can read there is no need for authors of a newspaper. We understand that to be absurd, and so we should think it absurd to say there are moral absolutes without a moral lawgiver.

In conclusion, it seems most reasonable to say God did not create evil because evil is not a created thing. Also we can reasonably say that our good God has good reasons for allowing evil. Yet even the notion of evil, or what ought not to be, proves that God exists.

Good Reasons For Evil by Greg Koukl
Augustine on Evil by Greg Koukl
The Strength of God and the Problem of Evil by Greg Koukl
Moral Evil Proves There Is No God by Jim Wallace
Natural Evil Proves There is No God by Jim Wallace

Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
Letters From a Skeptic by Gregory and Edward Boyd

Other References
Evil, Suffering, and the Goodness of God CD/MP3 by Greg Koukl
Answering the Problem of Evil CD/MP3 by Greg Koukl


1 Comment

Filed under Problem of Evil

One response to “Hear No Evil…See No Evil…Speak No Evil

  1. Pingback: How Much Do You Owe? And Who Can Pardon It? | Reasonable Answers

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