Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

The problem of evil - the #1 atheist argument - how do we respond?

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Discussion The problem of evil - the #1 atheist argument - how do we respond?

    The problem of evil has been called both by various Christian apologists and atheists the #1 atheist argument to support a claim that God does not exist. It appears in various formats. Some simply ask, "Why is there suffering or evil in the world?" If God knows how to prevent suffering and evil, wants to do so, and is able to prevent such in the world (which it would seem that since God is omnipotent, He can), then why doesn't He prevent suffering and evil?

    How do we respond? I am curious what various arguments you guys see for such an argument?

    Here is how the argument typically goes:
    If there is a God, He knows how to prevent evil.
    If God exists, He is able to prevent evil.
    If there is a God He surely wants to prevent evil.
    Evil prevails in the world.
    Hence, there is no God.

    I'll wait awhile before suggesting any responses. Hopefully I will have a little time during lunch. One suggestion is to consider the causes of suffering in the world. A second suggestion is to ask, "Can we know for sure that evil is pointless and accomplishes no good?" Do not forget to consider natural disasters, diseases, and random evil acts perpetrated upon relatively innocent people. Another question to ask ourselves is, "Just what is evil?" Another: "Why doesn't God end all evil immediately?" Yet another, "Why didn't God create people unable to suffer? He surely could have done so." Finally, "What are some good reasons for allowing suffering?"

    I will eventually share some of my thoughts on this, most of which was not original with me (I am simply not that clever ), but I really want to hear some arguments on this.

    I would also encourage any atheists or agnostics lurking out there to feel free to jump in. (That was one reason I made this a "discussion" thread.)

    Perhaps after milking this one dry, we could also discuss the stone to big too move dilemma or the question about who created God? Those are other common objections by atheists. We'll see how this one goes. Perhaps they should just be new threads.

    But please feel free to jump in and share your thoughts or questions. There are basic, logical answers to claims such as this one.

    Take care,

    BD
    3 John 4 - "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my [spiritual] children walk in the truth.

    BadDog!

  • #2
    Originally posted by BadDog View Post
    The problem of evil has been called both by various Christian apologists and atheists the #1 atheist argument to support a claim that God does not exist. It appears in various formats. Some simply ask, "Why is there suffering or evil in the world?" If God knows how to prevent suffering and evil, wants to do so, and is able to prevent such in the world (which it would seem that since God is omnipotent, He can), then why doesn't He prevent suffering and evil?

    How do we respond? I am curious what various arguments you guys see for such an argument?

    Here is how the argument typically goes:
    If there is a God, He knows how to prevent evil.
    If God exists, He is able to prevent evil.
    If there is a God He surely wants to prevent evil.
    Evil prevails in the world.
    Hence, there is no God.

    I'll wait awhile before suggesting any responses. Hopefully I will have a little time during lunch. One suggestion is to consider the causes of suffering in the world. A second suggestion is to ask, "Can we know for sure that evil is pointless and accomplishes no good?" Do not forget to consider natural disasters, diseases, and random evil acts perpetrated upon relatively innocent people. Another question to ask ourselves is, "Just what is evil?" Another: "Why doesn't God end all evil immediately?" Yet another, "Why didn't God create people unable to suffer? He surely could have done so." Finally, "What are some good reasons for allowing suffering?"

    Take care,

    BD
    Without evil it would be hard to understand what is good.

    There are multiple angles that this argument can be dealt with. One I listed above, another is that God wishes for mankind to choose to love Him, in doing this man must have a free will to make that choice. If given a free will some men will choose evil.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by BadDog View Post
      Here is how the argument typically goes:
      If there is a God, He knows how to prevent evil.
      If God exists, He is able to prevent evil.
      If there is a God He surely wants to prevent evil.
      Evil prevails in the world.
      Hence, there is no God.
      I've bolded the part that I think breaks the whole argument. It assumes God wants to prevent evil by any means possible. But God gave us a free will - we can choose to love him and obey him, or choose to hate him and disobey him, or choose to ignore him completely.

      The way I see it, God wants us to do good rather than evil but through our own choices rather than imposition, he wants us to choose his way rather than going his way because there is no other way available.

      That free choice crops up in all sorts of issues relating to suffering. If I've got a big stick and hit you with it, you will suffer. The only way to forcibly prevent that suffering is to deny me the free choice that lets me hit you with the big stick. So from that perspective the existence of free choice creates the potential existence of suffering. And as above I see God's desired situation as being one in which I have the big stick and choose not to hit you with it rather than me either not having the big stick at all or being somehow prevented from hitting you with it. Whether in human terms you "deserve" to be hit with the stick or not is secondary - whether I'm seeking revenge for something you've done or simply picked you at random because I had a stick and felt like hitting someone with it doesn't make being hit with it hurt any less.

      For apparently random events (earthquakes etc) I'm reminded of the first few verses of John 9, where Jesus said the man was blind so that God's works could be revealed. If people suffer we have an opportunity to show them God's love; if there is no suffering and no need to help people we lose that opportunity.
      24 August 2013 - I've decided to take a break from a number of internet forums, including this one, for my own reasons.
      I expect to be back at some time in the future, although at present don't know when that will be.
      I've been here just a few days shy of six years, and those six years have been greatly blessed.

      ---

      1Jn 4:1 NKJV Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
      1Th 5:21-22 NKJV Test all things; hold fast what is good. (22) Abstain from every form of evil.



      Comment


      • #4
        Two great responses already. I can see that any thoughts I had anticipated sharing won't be needed in a short while. I teach physics in a Christian HS, and always deal with scientific evidence of the existence of God as a project for the 2nd semester. Having just done so, I've been thinking about this much recently.

        BD
        3 John 4 - "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my [spiritual] children walk in the truth.

        BadDog!

        Comment


        • #5
          Why doesn't God just end all evil immediately?

          To the answer for the heading above, what would God need to do IOT end all evil now? My response: He would have to destroy all causes of evil... which unfortunately would include you and me.

          Another question: Why doesn't God just stop those particular evil acts that cause innocent people to suffer? IOW, why doesn't He just miraculously intervene to stop that drunk driver from running over a mother with her children, or stop those stray bullets from a drive-by shooter which snuffed out the life of a 12 yo, or prevent a 5 yo kid from developing terminal cancer or some young girl from getting raped? Obviously He could... why doesn't He?

          BD
          3 John 4 - "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my [spiritual] children walk in the truth.

          BadDog!

          Comment


          • #6
            If he did, where would you draw the line?

            In human terms it's easy to argue that "a loving God should protect the 5-year-old from the paedophile" although that then just raises the issue of what level of evil should God allow to happen? It keeps coming back to giving us freedom of choice - obviously in this case the 5-year-old didn't get any choice in the situation but without overriding the free choice of her attacker the situation can't be prevented. And if we override freedom of choice in some situations, why not others? We're back to the big stick situation.

            We might ask why such things shock us at all - if we're here as a result of a cosmic fluke and after our time is up we're worm food, why should we care about the plight of the child abuse victim at all? Why should we care about those suffering after natural disasters if they just become worm food earlier than they might have expected? We can look at altruism within an evolutionary context but even then it's usually about making sure our genes survive - altruism is usually associated with protecting a genetic family. Why, then, would we care about people we have never met, probably never will meet, and have nothing in common with us aside from being the same species? Doesn't our instinctive compassion for others who suffer point to something within us that's more than just a cosmic fluke, perhaps something put within us by a loving Creator?
            24 August 2013 - I've decided to take a break from a number of internet forums, including this one, for my own reasons.
            I expect to be back at some time in the future, although at present don't know when that will be.
            I've been here just a few days shy of six years, and those six years have been greatly blessed.

            ---

            1Jn 4:1 NKJV Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
            1Th 5:21-22 NKJV Test all things; hold fast what is good. (22) Abstain from every form of evil.



            Comment


            • #7
              Good Question.

              And the Answer is because God is good.

              Part of being good is that those who are good forgive when someone wrongs you.

              God cannot create evil. Everything that God creates is perfect, pure, and good...IE holy.

              Man however was created with not only the capacity for goodness but also the capacity of free will. (to choose something other than good)

              Man chose evil. And because the way this planet was created. (everything reproduces after it's own kind) the amount of sin in this place has multiplied greatly.

              Ever have a broken arm?
              The restraint of it being in a cast and sling is most annoying. You can't move it. It was made to move and assist us in daily life. God's forgiveness (which is normal goodness in his nature) had nothing and no one to forgive until man was created.

              Does this mean that we should sin more so God's arm gets a good workout?
              NO...man is more than sinful enough, even by the "good guys".

              God has never needed us...He has just wanted us. Blaming God for the existence of evil is about the same as someone intentionally cutting off their own arm and then blaming someone else for their lack of an arm. It just isn't right.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by tango View Post
                If he did, where would you draw the line?

                In human terms it's easy to argue that "a loving God should protect the 5-year-old from the paedophile" although that then just raises the issue of what level of evil should God allow to happen? It keeps coming back to giving us freedom of choice - obviously in this case the 5-year-old didn't get any choice in the situation but without overriding the free choice of her attacker the situation can't be prevented. And if we override freedom of choice in some situations, why not others? We're back to the big stick situation.

                We might ask why such things shock us at all - if we're here as a result of a cosmic fluke and after our time is up we're worm food, why should we care about the plight of the child abuse victim at all? Why should we care about those suffering after natural disasters if they just become worm food earlier than they might have expected? We can look at altruism within an evolutionary context but even then it's usually about making sure our genes survive - altruism is usually associated with protecting a genetic family. Why, then, would we care about people we have never met, probably never will meet, and have nothing in common with us aside from being the same species? Doesn't our instinctive compassion for others who suffer point to something within us that's more than just a cosmic fluke, perhaps something put within us by a loving Creator?
                Man, you guys are so sharp!

                Just a brief comment on "evil." Just as "cold" does not exist... it is simply the absence of something which does exist: heat, so it can be argued that "evil" does not exist, but is simply the absence of something which does exist: righteousness. Hence as the argument goes What God really did is allow man to have the capacity to choose... to do good or to not do good (evil). And as was shared above, where do we draw the line? Personally, I would like to stop all evil against me, but I do not want God to stop my evil. That movie, Bruce Almighty, actually has some nice theological points.

                BD
                3 John 4 - "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my [spiritual] children walk in the truth.

                BadDog!

                Comment


                • #9
                  posted by BadDog
                  Another question: Why doesn't God just stop those particular evil acts that cause innocent people to suffer? IOW, why doesn't He just miraculously intervene to stop that drunk driver from running over a mother with her children, or stop those stray bullets from a drive-by shooter which snuffed out the life of a 12 yo, or prevent a 5 yo kid from developing terminal cancer or some young girl from getting raped? Obviously He could... why doesn't He?
                  The death of an innocent isn't a bad thing to God.

                  "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." Ps.116:15

                  To the atheist, death is generally looked at as a bad thing. To us, it's a good thing.

                  "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." 2 Co.5:8

                  Also, one reason God doesn't end all suffering is that the longsuffering of God leads people to repent. Ro.2:4
                  Last edited by pekoe; Mar 26th 2010, 01:19 PM. Reason: add on

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by pekoe View Post
                    The death of an innocent isn't a bad thing to God.

                    "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." Ps.116:15

                    To the atheist, death is generally looked at as a bad thing. To us, it's a good thing.

                    "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." 2 Co.5:8
                    Thx pekoe, nice comment. But this naturally leads to the question, "What about the unbeliever, who dies? Can that possibly be a good thing?"

                    And also, "Why doesn't God allow us to choose to get out of this suffering?"

                    Thx,

                    BD
                    3 John 4 - "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my [spiritual] children walk in the truth.

                    BadDog!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      posted by BD
                      Thx pekoe, nice comment. But this naturally leads to the question, "What about the unbeliever, who dies? Can that possibly be a good thing?"
                      No, it isn't a good thing, but whose fault is that? Is the atheist going to argue that God is unrighteous because He often told him to repent and after refusing killed him?
                      Proverbs 29:1
                      He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

                      And also, "Why doesn't God allow us to choose to get out of this suffering?"
                      Not sure which suffering you're talking about (Gods or mans), but King David said one reason Gods allows mankinds sinful acts is that it proves Gods case for judgement against humanity. On that day there will be no defense except a believers faith in Christ.
                      Psalm 51:4
                      "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        BD, the following is mostly a cut and paste from a post in CA of some of my most recent thoughts on some of this. I, like you, take no original credit for this, it is just where I am in my understandning and from all the input I have received and consideration I have given over the years on the subject. I have offered some scripture for consideration also.
                        ------------------

                        We are all subject to the laws of nature that God created. Tornados do not have to be supernaturally created for the intent to destroy orphanages. Floods are the result of rains or melting snow and people who live in flood areas are prone to the suffering of their effects. People can't live in fire without being burned up and earthquakes are the result of the Earth's plates shifting. God may cause and/or intervene in any of these but God almost exclulsively does not and in His infrequency calls attention to judgment and/or miracles.

                        On a smaller scale we many times try to make sense of things when a young teen runs their car off the road at high speed and is killed in the accident or when someone liquors up and wipes out a mom and her children. We know that our bodies have limits of survivability in impacts like these but regardless we put the understanding of such events within a broad spectrum, perhaps something like:

                        There is no such thing as "purpose" and we therefore are merely objects of nature <------------> God took them.

                        Here are a few scripture passages of Jesus on the subject that came to my mind:

                        Matthew 4:1 Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
                        ...
                        5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,

                        6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

                        7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

                        In the above, the expectation of both the devil and Jesus was that because of being subject to the law of gravity, Jesus, as a man, would die from such a fall without a miracle. If you find it strange that Jesus would be subject to death keep in mind that His purpose as a man was to suffer death on our behalf. Thus, when Jesus was nailed to the cross He died. Man can't survive such torture and that is why the Romans used crucifixion as one of the means of their capital punishment. There were those in the crowd who mocked that Jesus should save Himself to prove who He was, but died He did. There is of course more to the story but the point I want to offer is Jesus knew that mankind is subject to the laws of nature and as such we shouldn't take for granted the protection of God against things we knowlingly subject or submit ourselves to.

                        But what about other things which we have no control over like injustices or of natural occurances like earthquakes, etc.? The question was apparently put to Jesus:

                        Luke 13:1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

                        2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?

                        3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

                        4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?

                        5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

                        These verses are a little more difficult to discern because Jesus has more than one meaning here. However, from a personal perspective as opposed to a national perspective, I think it would be OK to interpret Jesus to be saying something like: Unless you change your mind about your judgment of these folks (except ye repent), you will yourself perish in the manner that you judge them, suddenly and unprepared as a sinner above all men (ye shall likewise perish). All of Luke 12 prior to this passage in Luke 13 should be read to get the full flavor here, but regardless Jesus does not accept the notion that these perished because God singled them out while sparing these others judgment, but rather the ones killed seem to be victims of injustice or natural disasters.

                        Matthew 5:43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

                        44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

                        45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

                        46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

                        47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?


                        48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

                        I want to call attention to verse 45. We see that God does not cause the sun to rise on just portions of the Earth or rain to fall on only certain fields of agriculture, but rather that these are governed by universal laws that God created and thus show no preference to the just and the unjust. God has created a rational universe from which we can expect certain things to happen. Going back to that Luke 12 chapter that I suggested reading, Jesus offers this:

                        Luke 12:54 And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is.

                        55 And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.

                        56 Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?

                        57 Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?


                        So we see in the above how Jesus says we can predict the coming of certain events in nature. While the natural laws that God has created give us a rational universe, we might say that man operates somewhat outside of that rationality (verse 57 above), even with great unpredictability at times and with much consequence. While God might desire to work His will through all of us it is with man that God also desires to allow free moral agency. So the bulk of what we find most reprehensible in this world is attributable directly to us when we don't allow God to work through us (we do not His will). It isn't hard to come to this conclusion when reviewing history and/or seeing the suffering that continues to this day.

                        We, mankind, aren't willing to give our will over to His, or said another way, we choose to not do His will and then when we see suffering in the world we wonder why God allows it. What we are seeing is the undone will of God IMO. Jesus taught the disciples to pray and in one place He suggests to pray for:

                        Matthew 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

                        10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.


                        That pretty much addresses why we don't live on earth as in heaven right now, it is because we do not His will and He allows that for now.
                        Watchinginawe

                        I Samuel 3:10 And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by BadDog View Post
                          That movie, Bruce Almighty, actually has some nice theological points.

                          BD
                          Hey BD,

                          Just a side comment on this movie. I liked it too, and thought it was interesting how "Bruce" used his "super powers" from a sinful vantage point, (to his own gain, at least in the beginning). It reminds us why God only gives gifts to those who can "handle" them properly.
                          Hell....the nightmare you can't wake up from.

                          Sin is like electricity, it takes the path of least resistance. (the shortest path to ground).

                          Jesus said He is “The Way”, not “A” way. Jesus said He is “the Truth”, not “A” truth. Jesus said He is “The Life”, not “A” life. No man comes to the Father but by Me. Are we serving a man or are we serving God?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I do think that people who ask these kinds of questions forget that man has the capacity to choose our own behavior. We're not puppets. It's easier to blame God, though, than it is to turn attention to ourselves and ask "what am I doing to help perpetuate evil in this world?"

                            If Adam and Eve were to have authority over God's creation, and we are their descendants, then obviously, we have everything to do with whether evil continues or not.

                            We live in a society that loves to pass the buck. It's never my fault. I never do anything wrong. Even if I did something wrong, it's still always more somebody else's fault. I blame my mom. I blame my dad. I blame the government. I blame society. Of course, in such a mindset, the ultimate buck gets passed onto God. So really, this Atheist attitude doesn't surprise me one bit, because it reflects the prevailing American mindset already, just taken to another level.

                            Certainly there are logical answers to these questions. But people who like passing bucks rarely respond to logic. So what must also be addressed in these discussion, is to make it personal and ask "well, what are you doing to stop evil? how are you doing good? what do you think your responsiblity is?" Because that is what God asks us. We will all give account of our own behavior. Certainly God wouldn't think it proper to judge us, if everything was ultimately His doing, and people had nothing to do with anything.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I would also encourage any atheists or agnostics lurking out there to feel free to jump in. (That was one reason I made this a "discussion" thread.)
                              Unless the rules have changed, nonChristians can't post on bible chat though.

                              Anyway I like how Dr. Ravi Zacharias answers this. In order to even know there is evil we have to acknowledge their is good...and by who's standards do we measure what is good and what is evil?


                              Anyway here he explains it:

                              IMPORTANT NOTICE: No media files are hosted on these forums. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website. We can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. If the video does not play, wait a minute or try again later.


                              God bless
                              "People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; We drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; We drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated?" - D A Carson

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X