Category Archives: Problem of Evil

Religion: Saint or Sinner?

Some claim that Christianity is not the “saint” many assume it to be. Rather Christianity has been the cause of the most atrocious evils in history. Instead of spreading peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, and all the good qualities it claims, it has only spread division and hate. This argument can be seen in many of the new atheists’ books, such as A Letter To a Christian Nation by Sam Harris or God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

When the argument that Christianity is responsible for many of the great atrocities in history often there are several events mentioned: The Crusades, Salem Witch Trials, and the Inquisitions. When considering the claim against Christianity and the events associated with it, then are three arguments to consider in light of these claims: (1) Many of the events mentioned were exaggerated, (2) those who committed these atrocities were not Christians or following the teaching of the Bible, and (3) more unimaginable mass killings have been done through secular ideologies, such as nazism and communism than any religion, especially Christianity.

Often the Crusades and Inquisitions there are claims that millions of people died. However, thousands in the Inquisitions and in the tens of thousands in the Crusades died. This is not to make light of the deaths from these events, but exaggerated claims can make something seem one way when it is not. More specifically during the Salem Witch Trials only around 30 people died and hundreds imprisoned. In the end, those who were imprisoned were released, given public apologies, and many were compensated afterwards. Also many Christians fought against the trials, and helped end them, too. In all of the events mentioned often the number of those killed are drastically exaggerated to make the events seems much more than they were. (Again I am not making light that people died. Even if it were one person dead it would be a problem. I am trying to give a clearer perspective and one part of a larger argument.)

The claim is that Christianity has been the catalyst in all of these events. Problem is that the Bible does not condone any of the actions committed during the events. Those who were leading these events were either wrongly informed through high up people twisting the Bible, or they misinterpreted the Bible to either fit their agenda or through poor reading of the Scripture. I know many of you may think right now: Exactly! It was their interpretation. Maybe they interpreted the Bible right or there are many interpretations of the Bible. As Sam Harris put it in Letter to a Christian Nation, “While we may want to ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that such hatred draws considerable support form the Bible. How do I know this? The most disturbed of my correspondents always cite chapter and verse.” May we be extremely careful not to think the Bible claims something because someone uses verses. The authors of the Bible had certain intentions and it is possible that people can misinterpret and in the process misuse the verses. I do not want to spend lots of time in this article covering that topic because I have already covered this problem in another blog titled Thats Just Your Interpretation(Click on the title to read the blog). It seems logical to judge a religion off its foundations and authorities, not off certain individuals. Just because someone claims the name doesn’t mean they are a true follower. For example, if there were someone who claimed to be with a certain company and acted in their name, but was given no instructions to do so then whose to be blamed? In the Bible, 1 John speaks very clearly throughout the letter that those who act against God’s commands are not off or for God. So it seems reasonable to judge a religion by these foundations and authorities that instruct a them. For Christianity that would be the Bible. The Bible and the teaching’s of Christ, the ultimate authority, do not teach these actions. On the other hand, there are other religions and ideologies that do condone certain acts that are violent or a way of thinking, so if someone were to commit some of these crimes then it would be consistent. Unlike Christianity were it would not be consistent.

Many more unimaginable mass killings have been committed by secular ideologies than Christianity. Nazis and communism both have had their hands in millions of deaths through people like Stalin, Hitler, or Pol Pot (for actual numbers check into an old edition of Guinness Book of World Records under “Judicial”, then “Crimes: Mass Killings”). Many may claim that they had religious influence, but if we look at history you will see that they had socialist, communist, or atheist ideas not Christian ideas. Nazi’s were given several books to read when entering the Red Army, and one of those books was Origin of the Species. The idea of “survival of the fittest” gives power to the Nazi’s to do things like eliminate other races.

In conclusion, may we at learn one important thing here: Many people may do acts in the name of God (that is of Christianity), but unless His instructions (the Bible) condone it then it is false and should not be used as ammunition against Christianity.

Articles:

The Real Murderers by Greg Koukl

God Is Not Responsible by Greg Koukl

Christianity’s Real Record by Greg Koukl

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Filed under Christianity, Morality, Other Religions, Problem of Evil, Uncategorized

Selfish Is As Selfish Does

Why are people so selfish? How is it that it can be so easy to look after ourselves, but so difficult to think of others? Why do we choose what we want, rather than what is right? All of these are good questions and I am sure have gone through many people’s minds at some point (especially when something is done to them as a result of selfishness). Selfishness not only effects others, but it can be a detrimental to our own character, relationships, and life.

In the face of many different horrible acts around the world, whether it is mass genocide, oppression of a race or gender, murder, the question still stands why are people so selfish? Our planet is being misused and so are it’s inhabitance, and yet many know what they should be doing. In light of this thought, I would like to argue that selfishness is wrong (absolute, not relative morality) and must defined correctly. Also it is not the result of evolution, rather a result of sin (disobedience toward God).

The comment I received was that selfishness originated from a natural, animal instinct for survival. However, as time went we realized the pleasure in serving ourselves and began abusing that natural instinct that helped us survive in ways that were wrong. I cannot say where they get the idea of wrong from, whether it is part of evolution or culture, but it seems their idea of wrong is not absolute.

Defining Terms

I believe it is actually not best to use the word selfishness when speaking about survival. It is possible to do something selfish that helps you survive, but I don’t think that is what was intended by the use of it above. Selfishness is defined as “(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.” If selfishness is only “instinct”, then it seems you are unable to do it for selfish reasons because you can’t control it. The idea of selfishness implies a wrong doing or inconsideration towards others. I think it would be better to use the word self-preservation, which is defined as “the protection of oneself from harm or death, esp. regarded as a basic instinct in human beings and animals.”

Why Not Evolution?

Selfishness cannot have come from evolution because selfishness has to do with morality, absolute morality, and I strongly believe the evidence shows that evolution has no grounding for morality, especially absolute morals.

Not all, but many who argue for evolution take the idea of morals as being genetic. It makes most since if you are going to hold to an evolutionary position, but not everyone is consistent with their worldview. If morals are genetic, then we have a huge issue: What is the difference between Mother Teresa and Hitler? Also how could be praise Mother Teresa or condemn Hitler? We cannot praise nor condemn anyone because genetics are not something we can control, rather it is through time and chance that we gain a certain genetic disposition.

Robert Wright in his book The Moral Animal says, “My hope is that people will use the knowledge [in this book] not only to improve their lives–as a source of ‘self- help’–but as cause to treat other people more decently.” And also on pg. 377 Wright says, “Go above and beyond the call of a smoothly functioning conscience; help those who aren’t likely to help you in return, and do so when nobody’s watching.  This is one way to be a truly moral animal.” The problem is he’s making morally objective statements, which is transcendent in nature. However, evolution is descriptive, or can only describe how to act at that moment, and not how one should act in the future. Why “ought” we be moral tomorrow? Morality has an “oughtness”, but mere behavior is descriptive. It is a mere function of the environment to select anything that will benefit the survival of the species. Wright attests to this in the same book by saying, “Human beings are a species splendid in their array of moral equipment, tragic in their propensity to misuse it, and pathetic in their constitutional ignorance of the misuse” (pg. 13).

Also science is based on empirical evidence, and there is no empirical evidence for morality. In the evolution morality must be assumed because it won’t work otherwise. Let me give an example that Greg Koukl used. Suppose there were a group of chimps, and one chimp does something that is “selfish” behavior. Then the other chimps proceed to “punish” that chimp for his “selfish” behavior. From the empirical, or external, evidence this situation could easily look like morality. However, one must not assume external behavior is all that is there, because there are also non-behavioral elements. There are two important elements that are part of morality, but cannot be observed by external behavior: Intent and motive. Intent is whether something was done on purpose or accident, and motive is why the person did it. Neither of these two elements can be observed through external behaviors. Yet we know that morality depends deeply on these elements. For example, if a young man stuck out his foot to trip an old lady it would be wrong. On the other hand, if the boys foot was sticking out in an isle and the old lady tripped on it by accident it would not be the same. We can clearly see the intent matters and the same goes for motive.

Morality is not explained, it is denied because it is only something condition by the environment for survival. We may call it morality, but there is no right or wrong. Again evolution cannot explain morality’s oughtness. Why shouldn’t the chimp be selfish?

Anyways moral choices need to be made by free agents, not dictated by internal mechanics like natural instincts.

Christianity Is The Perfect Fit

Just like I wrote in A Spiritual Journey Less Taken, Christianity has an amazing worldview fit. This means what Christianity says fits well with reality. I believe that when it comes to selfishness and morality, Christianity does a great job of explaining it and it fits with reality.

Since the beginning of time man of his own free will, and able to make moral choices, has chosen to disobey God (sin). Adam and Eve when given a choice made the decision they would rather be god of their lives, rather than the actually Creator of the Universe (rebellion). Their act of choosing the tree of the knowledge of good and evil could even be deemed selfish. For many years to come throughout the Old Testament, and many other ancient history, we can see selfishness pervade much of mankind’s choices. It even speaks in Romans 1  of men who dishonor and disobey God, whom are given up to the lusts of their hearts. Again another picture of selfishness.

The more dreadful part of this is that all are enslaved to there disobedience to God, or sin, (Romans 6:6) and obey the passions of their disobedience (Romans 6:12). It isn’t an instinct, but it is something that is keeping people blinded to the truth. The most glorious part is that it doesn’t have to be that way. God has chosen to redeem mankind from this disobedience, and freely give us a pardon from it. Even though we deserve justice, which is death and eternal separation from God. Through Jesus anyone can have that reconciliation that we all desire and long for in our hearts. However, it is only through Jesus (John 14:6).

Conclusion

I hope you can see that it is most reasonable to believe that morality cannot be based in evolution. Also that selfishness is not only morally wrong, but it is best explained by a Christian worldview. Most importantly, there is Good News, and that is God sent Jesus to reconcile his creation and we can accept this free gracious gift and begin to rid ourselves of this selfish way of living.

Sources:
Robert Wright, The Moral Animal–Why We Are the Way We Are:  The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology (New York:  Pantheon Books, 1994)

Koukl, Greg.  Monkey Morality: Can Evolution Explain Ethics http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6221

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Filed under Bible, Christianity, Problem of Evil

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.

All-Powerful
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).

All-Knowing
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.”

All-Good
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.

Conclusion
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.

Articles
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

Books
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

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