Kristie 1 Kristie Philosophy 2010 The famed philosopher John Hick once wrote that “To many, the

most powerful positive objection to belief in God is the fact of evil” (Bowen, p. 344). There is no doubt the Problem of Evil has become a real thorn in the side of theism. Theists all around the world have had the nature of their God questioned and the existence of their God denied because of all the evil that has existed and still exists in this world. The hardest issue seems to be the question of how a God can exist when there are such great atrocities of evil in this world. It appears that certainly an all-good, all-powerful God cannot exist if evil exists in this world. This is perhaps the strongest argument against the existence of God. Not only does this argument suggest that God does not exist, it accuses God of being evil. However, unknown to the accuser lies a contradiction in their claim. I will point out this contradiction of one using the Problem of Evil to argue against the existence of God. I will prove that it is impossible to use the Problem of Evil to deny God without actually affirming His existence at the same time. It is not a mystery to us that evil indeed exists in our world. N.T. Wright points out that “Just as Auschwitz posed the problem in a new way for the previous generation, September 11, 2001, and the ‘natural’ disasters of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean and the hurricane on the American Gulf Coast, have now jumpstarted a fresh wave of discussion about what evil is…” (Wright, p. 17). When the tsunami struck and thousands of unsuspecting people drowned, when hijacked passenger planes crashed into the Twin Towers, when victims suffered the horrors of the Holocaust, we have been led to question the goodness and existence of a God. In a poem, Voltaire writes of the heart-wrenching catastrophe of Lisbon in this excerpt:

Kristie 2 These women, these infants heaped one upon the other, these limbs scattered beneath shattered marbles; the hundred thousand unfortunates whom the earth devours, who – bleeding and torn, still palpitating, interred beneath their roofs – end their lamentable days without comfort, amid the horror of their torment! […] What crime and what sin have they committed, these infants crushed and bleeding on their mothers’ breasts? […] God holds the chain in his hand, and he is not in any way enchained; by his beneficent will all is determined; he is free, he is just, he is never implacable. Why then do we suffer under so equitable a master? (Hart, p. 20-22) It is true that we can find enough evil in this world to use against God, and the nature of God has often been accused of as being evil. For example, the Bible seems to document several instances in which God has unleashed His wrath on the world in such evil acts as to drown people in a massive flood (Genesis 6-9), order the merciless killing and destruction of seven nations (Deuteronomy 7:1-5, 16), consume a city of homosexuals in a shower of brimstone and fire (Genesis 19:22-25) and savagely afflict a people with several brutal plagues (Exodus 7-11). Our history of atrocities and the religious textual claims to the nature of God as being evil have maimed and disillusioned our spirits and left us all in a wake of grief and unanswered questions about the existence and goodness of a God. Evil plagues us as Os Guinness writes that it “is quite simply the most serious problem in human life, the most serious problem in the contemporary world, and the most serious problem for our deepest human resort in life – our trust in God or in the universe that is our planet home” (Guinness, p. xi-xii).

Kristie 3 However, if we say that God is indeed evil for doing and allowing the existence of all these evil things, we must examine our point of reference by which we can make this claim. In Ravi Zacharias’s book Can Man Live Without God, he writes about an experience he had during a question and answer session with a particular student. The story goes that after finishing his lecture a student shot up out of his seat and blurted out rather angrily “There is too much evil in this world; therefore, there cannot be a God.” (Zacharias, p. 182). Upon hearing this, Zacharias then asks the student, “If there is such a thing as evil, aren't you assuming there is such a thing as good?” to which the student replies that yes there is such a thing as good (Zacharias, p. 182). Zacharias then makes a point that "If there is such a thing as good, [one] must affirm a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil" (Zacharias, p. 182). We must make a note that for us to even be able to say that something is right or wrong we must assume that a standard of right and wrong exists in the universe, thus affirming the existence of a moral law. As C.S. Lewis writes in his book Mere Christianity: The moment you say one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard more nearly than the other… You are, in fact, comparing them both with some Real Morality, admitting that there is such a thing as a real Right, independent of what people think, and that some people’s ideas get nearer to that real Right than others (Lewis, p. 13). One cannot say that something is bad or even that something is good, unless they admit to referencing from some moral law. In conclusion, when we then say that God is evil, we are actually making a moral judgment which assumes the existence of a moral law.

Kristie 4 Since we have indeed established the existence of a moral law, as Zacharias goes on to further say, we must posit a moral law giver (Zacharias, p. 183). Even though we have concluded that it would be impossible to call something evil without referencing to a moral law, many would question as to how having the existence of a moral law must presuppose a moral law giver, for many will question as to why reason alone cannot be our moral law giver. However, the answer to this question comes from the elimination of all other possibilities. If our moral law comes from reason, that is, from man, we will face the issue of which man’s moral law to follow. We could follow the moral law of Hitler, or the moral law of Gandhi; the moral law of Stalin, or the moral law of Mother Theresa. Immanuel Kant further points to this need of objectivity in the moral law in his argument on morality which claims that each of us is morally obligated to strive to promote the highest good, but that we cannot do this without being under the condition of the existence of God since each of us is obligated to pursue the highest good, we cannot do so unless we believe that the highest good is attainable, and we cannot believe the highest good is attainable unless we believe there is a being who will make it possible that the highest good exists, and the only being who can accomplish this is God (Wielenberg, p. 80-81). Kant’s theory then points to objectivity necessary in morality that can only come from God. French atheistic philosopher Jean Paul Sartre also admitted this necessity of God with a moral law as he writes “everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself… Nor on the other hand if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimize our behavior” (Marsak, p. 485). We

Kristie 5 must then realize that the moral law cannot be subjective, but it must be objective, and such an objective moral law can only come from an objective source, God. Since the existence of a moral law points to the existence of God, the atheist who uses the Problem of Evil to deny the existence of God faces a contradiction in their argument. To say that it would be evil for God to do something assumes the existence of a moral law, and if one assumes the existence of a moral law, one must also posit a moral law giver who is God. The accuser becomes ensnared in their own position as they have unknowingly smuggled in a theistic attribute into their argument against God. In conclusion it is impossible to deny the existence of God using the Problem of Evil without actually affirming the existence of God at the same time. Although many people may find it difficult to deal with the evil in this world, we must remember that God must and does exist in a world full of evil and that we must be able to incorporate His existence into our questions. As English philosopher and theologian Ralph Cudworth writes: [D]iverse modern theologers do not only seriously, but zealously contend… that there is nothing absolutely, intrinsically, and naturally good and evil, just and unjust, antecedently to any positive command or prohibition of God; but that the arbitrary will and pleasure of God... by its commands and prohibitions, is the first and only rule and measure thereof. Whence it follows unavoidably, that nothing can be imagined so grossly wicked, or so foully unjust or dishonest, but if it were supposed to be commanded by this omnipotent Deity, must needs upon that hypothesis forthwith become holy, just, and righteous (Wielenberg, pg. 48). Bibliography

Kristie 6

Bowen, Jack. A Journey Through the Landscape of Philosophy: A Reader. New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2008 “Deuteronomy.” The NIV Study Bible. New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995. Pg 251-252. “Exodus.” The NIV Study Bible. New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995. Pg 95-100. “Genesis.” The NIV Study Bible. New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995. Pg 14-34. Guinness, Os. Unspeakable: Facing Up to Evil in an Age of Genocide and Terror. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005. Hart, David Bentley. Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2005. Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001. Marsak, Leonard Mendes. French Philosophers from Descartes to Sartre. New York: Meridian Books, 1961. Wielenberg, Erik J. Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Wright, N.T. Evil and the Justice of God. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2006. Zacharias, Ravi. Can Man Live Without God? Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.