Does Evil Disprove God?

For the Christian with a biblical worldview, we have a solid foundation from which we can view evil and suffering. God has set a standard of perfection.

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The Problem of Evil

For the skeptic who doesn’t believe in the existence of God, you may find that one common reason for this has to do with the existence and prevalence of evil and the suffering we experience in the world. Some common questions I’ve heard and had to deal with are, “If there is an all-loving, all-powerful God, how could He allow evil to exist?” and “How can I believe in God when there’s so much evil in the world?”

These are indeed thoughtful questions that even Christians grapple with. When we see a world riddled with corruption, racism, hate, murder, war, disease, poverty, etc, we can’t help but ask “why?” and “how?” Even more so, if we say we believe in the existence of an all-loving, all-powerful God who allows these things to continue.

However, does the existence of evil itself disprove the existence of God? I don’t believe so. To really tackle this question, it’s vital to first examine the underlying presuppositions that give birth to it: moral truths and worldviews. My goal for this article is to give the skeptic something to think about, and to give the Christian a set of tools you can use to give a reasoned argument for the existence of God in the midst of evil and suffering.

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” – C.S. Lewis

Materialistic Worldview

Before answering this question, I believe it’s important to nail down some key ideas people have when they ask this question. The first idea being a “worldview.” A worldview is essentially the “lens” in which every human being uses to see the world around them. For example, as a Christian who believes the Bible is the ultimate source of truth, I have a Biblical worldview. Society, on the other hand, is quickly embracing a materialistic worldview – a worldview that believes the physical, material world is all there is, and that there is no God, the supernatural, or immaterial.

We need to understand that many people who use evil to claim God doesn’t exist have a materialistic worldview. This materialistic worldview often goes hand-in-hand with the theory of evolution and the belief that we’re byproducts of millions of years of evolution. Usually, this question or claim is made with these presuppositions. This fact will be important later in the article.

Moral Truths

The next key idea we need to understand is morality. When we bring up the topic of evil and suffering, we’re invoking a set of moral truths. In my article Do All Religions Lead to God?, I examined what it meant for something to be objective or subjective. I’ll do the same here, but instead take a look at objectivity and subjectivity in the context of morality.

  • “Objectivity is a philosophical concept of being true independently from individual subjectivity caused by perception, emotions, or imagination. A proposition is considered to have objective truth when its truth conditions are met without bias caused by a sentient subject.”
  • Subjectivity is “based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.”

If morals are objectively true, that would mean there are a set of moral guidelines that are true for all people, regardless of ethnicity, social status, sex, education, place of origin, time period, etc. However, if morals are instead subjective that would mean something I may believe is “wrong” may not be so for someone else and vice versa. Objectivity tells us if something is wrong, it is objectively wrong whether I or anyone else believes otherwise.

When dealing with the question, “If God exists, how can He allow evil to exist?” it’s important for us first to recognize this question presupposes there is some kind of “good” we’re using to compare the “evil” we see or experience. From where do we get our justification to be able to judge “right” from “wrong” or “good” from “evil?” This may seem a bit confusing, at first, or it may seem like pure semantics and wordplay, but I ask that you follow along with me as I slowly piece this argument together.

“The Shadows prove the sunshine. There can be sunshine without shadows, but there can’t be shadows without sunshine. In other words, there can be good without evil, but there can’t be evil without good; and there can’t be objective good without God. So evil may show there’s a devil out there, but it can’t disprove God. Evil actually boomerangs back to show that God exists.” – Frank Turek; Why Evil Disproves Atheism

Although the question is legitimate in its own right, it presupposes objective moral values exist since the questioner is appealing to those (objective morals) to make a distinction of right from wrong. My question to you is where does our morality come from?

Earlier we also took a look at subjectivity. Our culture today is increasingly embracing relativism (the view that all truths are equally valid) as well as subjectivity. Many people claim morals are subjective and would, in fact, disagree with my earlier statement that morals are objective. By and large, our culture believes that morals are based on culture, location, time, etc. Many of us hear “your truth is your truth, and my truth is my truth” to appeal to the idea that ultimately, there is no ultimate moral standard by which mankind is held.

Why does this matter? When a skeptic either asks or claims that the existence of evil itself disproves the existence of God, all the while claiming that morality is subjective (which is too common in today’s culture), that individual is contradicting themselves. Earlier we looked at worldviews, and I noted that many people who challenge Christianity or the God of the Bible have a materialistic worldview.

Often times, they may also believe morality is subjective. Without thinking about it, they also ask, “If God exists, how can there be evil?” —this being a question that presupposes objective moral values, something they themselves deny. You see the problem?

Contradictory Worldviews

The skeptic with a materialistic worldview has a few problems:

  • they appeal to morality (of any kind)
  • their question presupposes objective moral values

The main problem here is —how can morals (either subjective or objective) exist in a purely physical world of the materialist? Moral values aren’t solid or material. We can’t observe them with our five senses. They aren’t something we can feel and see or handle. Morals can not exist in a materialistic worldview. The skeptic that asks this question or makes this claim does not have a moral standard by which to judge “good” or “evil.”

“Whenever you find a man who says he doesn’t believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later.” – C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity

Even if we wanted to give the materialist the benefit of the doubt and say, at the very least, subjective morals can exist in a materialistic worldview, we still have a problem: they’re not living by those moral standards. Despite the fact that the materialistic worldview is widely embraced and held in society, most people give no thought to its logical conclusion.

If there is an act of evil, such as a school shooting, the nation may grieve and mourn the loss of lives or those affected (as we should). However, if we wanted to take the materialistic worldview to its logical conclusion and appeal to the idea that this world is purely physical and morals are subjective, who’s to say (based on this worldview) an act of violence such as this is “bad?”

The perpetrator believes what he did was “good” and to say otherwise (again, based on this worldview) would be forcing our views on them and would be hypocritical. If morals are subjective, we have no standard by which to judge “right” or “wrong” other than ourselves, which fails miserably when put to the test in the real world.

The point is, although many people love the idea of morals being subjective, as soon as our possessions are stolen, our house broken into, an injustice committed, or act of violence and “evil” witnessed, we all of a sudden react as if morals are objective, that there is, in fact, a moral law, a standard that’s beyond us with which we use to judge what’s “good” and what’s “evil.” I ask again, where does this come from? I believe that evil does not argue against the existence of God, but evil actually is an argument for the existence of God.

If Evil…therefore, God

If we say there’s evil, we’re comparing it to a standard of “good.” For those that don’t believe in God, but think the physical world is all there is, there is no objective moral standard by which you can judge “good” or “evil” to begin with because, at best, morality would be subjective (if it even existed at all).

At best, acts of “evil” would only be preference from one person to another, while suffering wouldn’t matter as we’re all byproducts of millions of years of evolution and no different than a fly or monkey – it would be do or die, survival of the fittest. However, none of us truly live life thinking this way, but this is the end result once you follow this worldview to its logical conclusion.

“When you say there’s too much evil in this world you assume there’s good. When you assume there’s good, you assume there’s such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But if you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral Law Giver, but that’s Who you’re trying to disprove and not prove. Because if there’s no moral Law Giver, there’s no moral law. If there’s no moral law, there’s no good. If there’s no good, there’s no evil. What is your question?” – Ravi Zacharias

When we closely examine the idea whether the existence of evil disproves the existence of an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God, we come to find out that this first requires us to presuppose a set of objective moral standards to judge “evil” from “good.” If this weren’t true, then there would be no reason to conjure up this notion in the first place.

However, in a materialistic worldview without the immaterial, without God, these objective moral standards can not exist. I believe it’s because God exists, that objective moral values exist, and therefore we are able to pose such questions in the first place. As a rebuttal, the skeptic may refer to evolution as the means by which mankind has a form of morality, but this doesn’t address the prior points.

How could morality exist in a purely physical world, and if it did exist in a subjective context, how then can we truly judge “evil” from “good?” When we see animals hunt and kill, we don’t cry foul and claim what they did is wrong. Animals don’t have morals, but in the evolutionary worldview, evolved just like humans did. So who’s to say humans, just like animals, don’t behave purely from instinct or other biological processes?

In fact, Stephen Hawking—who was a well-known physicist and cosmologist—took a deterministic approach to this view, a belief that, ultimately, humans have no free will, and everything is pre-determined by stating, “It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behavior is determined by physical law, so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.”

If free will is just an illusion, this then doesn’t allow for morals of any kind.

Any “act of evil” would actually be a simple act done purely due to biological reactions, in which the “perpetrator” had no control or will over anyways. This is the conclusion one can reach when we take the materialistic evolutionary worldview to its logical conclusion.

  • Determinism —A “theory that all events, including moral choices, are completely determined by previously existing causes. Determinism is usually understood to preclude free will because it entails that humans cannot act otherwise than they do.” – Encyclopedia Britannica

For the Christian with a Biblical worldview, we have a solid foundation from which we can view evil and suffering. God has set a standard of perfection through the law and He created us with a conscience by which we can differentiate between right and wrong —an argument for the universalism of objective morality (Romans 2:14-15, NKJV). If objective moral truths are indeed universal, then they derive from a source that transcends humanity —this being God.

Through the fall of mankind and the influence of spiritual entities (i.e. satan, fallen angels, demons) in this physical world, the fallout is an imperfect world with evil and suffering that is outside of God’s original design, as God created everything originally as “very good” (Genesis 1-3, Job 1-42, Romans 5:12-20, Ephesians 6:12, NKJV). However, the good news for those who have put their trust in Christ is that we are promised that one day evil and suffering will be done away with, and we will live within God’s intended design forever (Romans 8:18-25, Revelation 21-22, NKJV).

This good news is God’s free gift of salvation to mankind. Jesus makes it clear to us that this world will have its ups and downs. We will experience various trials and tribulations, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NKJV).

However, these trials, suffering, and evil we experience in this world is not evidence for the absence of God but they instead allow us to make sense of His existence. Time is short and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Make sure you’ve made the right decision about Jesus today! It will be the most important decision of your eternal life.

Navigate to my article “Why Does God Allow Evil to Exist?” to dive deeper into what the Bible has to say about the problem of evil in our world.

“Let us remember that every worldview —not just Christianity’s —must give an explanation or an answer for evil and suffering…this is not just a problem distinctive to Christianity. It will not do for the challenger just to raise the question. This problem of evil is one to which we all must offer an answer, regardless of the belief system to which we subscribe.” —Ravi Zacharias

 

 

This is an updated edition of a post originally published on himitsustudy.com.

Featured Image by Aaron Thomas

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About the Author

Ayo is an energetic blogger striving to use his insights and God given talents to share the Gospel. Through his blog, he aspires to point skeptics of the bible to the truth of the Gospel using apologetics. His aspires to also inform others - both believer and non-believer - regarding the times we're living in preceding the Lord's soon return through the study of prophecy. He hopes to both inform his readers with facts, equip them with tools to communicate the Gospel, and offer hope and encouragement through God's Word.