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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label why does God allow evil. Show all posts
Showing posts with label why does God allow evil. Show all posts

Monday, May 15, 2017

Don't Be Afraid of Questions about Evil

One of the most difficult objections a Christian faces is what to do with the problem of evil. They claim the Christian God doesn't make sense given all the evil we see in the world today. Some non-believers play the objection like a trump card, thinking this proves the irrationality of believing in a divine being.

I would encourage the Christian to not shy away from the question of evil in the world, but embrace it. That's because the problem of evil is a problem not simply for the Christian, but for everybody.

There are a lot of things on which people of different political and social viewpoints disagree, but I think everyone can be in agreement that the world isn't as it should be. When atheists complain that all the evil in the world shows there is no God, they are admitting there is a right and wrong, and there's too much wrong in the world. Social justice warriors on college campuses try to silence what they deem as evil speech while those on the other side see the act of censorship itself as evil. ISIS, people suffering in the inner cities, regimes ruled by tyrants, kids starving in underdeveloped countries are all serious issues in need of thoughtful solutions.

Because the problem of evil is a serious one, no one is off the hook. Every worldview needs to be able to at least begin to answer the question "what can be done about it?" How does the objector's worldview correct the problem? All seem to agree that the world is out of sorts and things aren't the way they should be. But what can be done to make evil less than it is now? How do different worldviews solve the problem of evil?

Three Choices for a Broken World

When a man on an expedition finds he has damaged his only transport vehicle to the point where it isn't running reliably, he is faced with choosing one of three options. He may try to fix it himself. This is certainly the quickest way to solve the problem, but it isn't as easy as it sounds. Repairing a vehicle is complicated. It requires the proper diagnostics, the proper tools, the right replacement parts, and the proper knowledge. For example, modern vehicles equipped with computers and sensors cannot be fixed without high-tech tools. And the risk of assuming one is more capable than the person's skill warrants could lead to making things worse.

A second option is the man may ignore the issues and continue to drive the vehicle. He may place a piece of tape over that warning light and hope all the stalls and grinding won't get too bad until he arrives at his destination. But when survival is at stake, this is certainly not a prudent idea. There's a high risk the vehicle will fail completely, leaving him stranded and in danger for his life. Or perhaps the brakes fail or the accelerator sticks and the vehicle could then cause his death.

The third option for the man would be to return to the company from which he obtained the vehicle and ask those responsible for it to correct the defects or replace it. Once his vehicle is running as it should, he may proceed to explore the wonders of the unknown without concern for his travel. These strike me as the only options available and the man must choose at least one of them.

What's the Solution?

The options we face with the problem of evil are much like those the explorer faces. Some believe we can fix it all on our own. However, not everyone is agreed even on what constitutes evil. Hot button issues such as abortion, immigration, dictatorial regimes, persecution of people of faith, or persecution of LGBT people are just a few of the many, many, difficult and contrasting viewpoints we face today. How do we fix that?

Further, what are the proper diagnostics to use? Everyone may say certain issues are obvious. Going back to our analogy, a fuel leak would certainly be a problem in need of repair. However if the vehicle you're diagnosing is an SR-71 plane, the plane is designed to leak fuel while on the ground. In the air the tanks expand and seal. If you "fix" the fuel leak on the ground, they will burst in operation.

The second choice is to try and ignore the issue. One may hold this world as ultimately meaningless. In the final reality, one must not love too much or hate too much. All desires equally lead one astray. One must simply retreat within oneself in order to find Nirvana and become like a candle that has been blown out.

Interestingly, there is a contingent within modern atheism that has chosen this second option in a different way. Given that we are all simply electro-chemical matter that happened to evolve over time by chance, good and evil don't really make sense. Nature is red in tooth and claw and that is simply the way it is. Black widows devour their mates, male chimps cannibalize male infants, and cone cannot assign a moral value to those acts. As animals, we are simply acting upon our urges, too.

The third choice is to try and seek out the one who made the world in the first place.

Certainly, there are people who don't fall neatly into one camp. They try to balance two or three of the options based on the situation at hand. But Christianity holds the high ground here. The Christian worldview holds that we cannot fix it ourselves, nor should we ignore evil. Christianity teaches that God must come down and fix the problem himself. And since it is God is the one who grounds all good, he can be relied upon to properly diagnose and fix the problem. This makes perfect sense.

We've not yet come to the end of all evil. That will happen. But of all the different worldviews available, Christianity offers a rational solution to a pressing need. But remember the next time you may be asked "What about all the evil in the world," the problem of evil is as much of a problem for the atheist as it is for anyone else.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Answering "Why Does God Hate Me?"

Yesterday, I wrote about an article chronicling how Google searches for God have been changing. While searches for churches have been declining, questions about God's existence and the problem of evil are increasing, making them the first and second most commonly asked questions about God on Google.1 These aren't really that surprising as the culture moves further and further away from its Christian worldview.

While questions one and two were familiar, it is the third most popular search that caught my eye. Over 1900 people a month are asking Google "Why does God hate me?" Looking beyond that specific phrase, Google's AdWords tool reports that "god hates me" is queried 880 times and "does god hate me" 590 times per month. That's over 3300 times each month people are desperate enough to go to Google and search for an answer as to why God hasn't helped them out of their problems.

These searches about the person's problematic lives are not only due to event-driven factors. The New York Times article I referred to above also notes that the most common search term to complete the phrase "Why did God make me ___?" is the word "ugly" by a wide margin.2 So, either difficult times or difficult features of one's life can prompt people to search for resolution as to why their lives are not easier than they are currently.

God Doesn't Hate You and He Proved It

First, let me say to those who are asking this question that God doesn't hate you. He really doesn't. I know exactly how it feels when life is crashing all around you and you see a glimmer of hope that somehow vanishes into thin air. You can get bitter very quickly. You see no way to escape and you become frightened. Perhaps you've prayed for a miracle, for that's all you can fathom to alleviate your suffering, but that miracle never comes.

In such situations, it's easy to turn and blame God for not rescuing you. After all, he has the power to do so. What would it cost him? But I think you know such a view is a little too easy, a little simplistic. God is not a genie in a bottle to be summoned when life gets hard. Such a God is unworthy of worship; he becomes the slave of the petitioner. Instead, God desires that you know him. Sometimes he uses the difficult times of our lives to get our attention. It was C.S. Lewis who said "Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world."3

You may ask "but how can I even trust God when he allows me to hurt so much?" That's a fair question, one that deserves a thoughtful answer. One of the ways you can tell how much a person values another is by counting what it costs him or her. In marriage, a person will sacrifice his time, his comfort and his finances for the sake of his spouse. A man who is unwilling to sacrifice his desires for his wife is selfish and a cad.

What could a relationship cost an all-powerful God? Quite a bit, actually. In order to reconcile you to himself, God sacrificed his own dear son who was crucified on a cross. As a father, I know that this is the ultimate cost; I would much rather die myself than give up my innocent child to be put to death for the sake of someone else. That means a lot. It shows that God is serious. How serious will you be about getting to know him?

Even Though God Loves You, He Won't Rescue You from All Your Troubles

I don't really fault those who seek to blame God for difficult circumstances in their lives. Many people today simply don't know enough about God to have a clear picture of him. Pain is never a pleasant thing but as I said above God is not going to come to the rescue of everyone who is in a bad situation. Any father who bails his child out of all their difficulties spoils the child and diminishes his own role. If God is shouting to us in our pain, perhaps we should look to see what we can learn from our situation. Do we place a higher value on looks than on the character of the person we should strive to be? Did we ignore God while success was easy or perhaps ignore his commands on how to live? Or did we simply ignore God until times got tough?

Every story is different, but I guarantee God wouldn't allow you to go through this period of pain unless there was a reason, even if that reason is to learn how to endure. Corrie Ten Boom had to suffer the loss of her family and the horrors of the Nazi Concentration camp Ravensbruck for saving lives of Jewish refugees. She was doing good and yet she still suffered greatly for her actions.4 She said even there she found a purpose for her suffering while in the barracks, claiming "in darkness God's truth shines most clear."5

God doesn't hate you. He gave up everything for you and wants you to draw closer to him. If you would like to do so, simply use this form to get in contact with us. We would love to hear from you.


1. Stephens-Davidowitz, Seth. "Googling for God." The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Sept. 2015. Web. 29 Sept. 2015.
2. Stephens-Davidowitz, 2015.
3. C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001). 91. Print.
4. "Corrie Ten Boom." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.
5. Ten Boom, Corrie, John L. Sherrill, and Elizabeth Sherrill. The Hiding Place. Washington Depot, CT: Chosen, 1971. 183. Print.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why Would a Loving God Allow the Earthquake in Nepal?

Like most people, I grieve for the tremendous tragedy the Nepalese people are suffering after a violent 7.8 earthquake and its aftershocks devastated much of the nation on Saturday. According to the latest reports, over 4,800 people have dies and at least 9,200 have been injured in the disaster.1 Those numbers are staggering and help is desperately needed for the survivors.

Of course, when a tragedy like this happens, questions of why arise. I saw one meme that shows an image of a girl praying with the superimposed text:
 "Dear God, please help the victims of that terrible earthquake — wait, aren't you the one that created it? Why are we asking you for help? This makes no sense!" (Emphasis in the original.)

As with most memes, this is a dramatic oversimplification of an issue that seeks to sound good without thinking through its underlying assumptions.

I don't think there's any doubt that this meme is meant to argue against the existence of God. It seems to be implying at least two reasons to hold that belief in God is unreasonable. The broader question is "Why would a loving God create something as devastating as earthquakes?" But another question may be "Why would a loving God allow such a devastating earthquake strike such an impoverished nation like Nepal where the death toll would most certainly be high?" Let's look at each in turn.

Earthquakes and Life

The causes of earthquakes are studied by geologists in a rather new field of science named plate tectonics. As this LiveScience article explains, scientists believe the Earth's outer layer is like a hard shell broken into several plates that move over the earth's mantle. When the mantle pushes and pulls these plates, they rub against one another in certain ways, causing earthquakes. Sometimes plates are pulled apart, such as the process that forms the deep trenches in the oceans, sometimes they rub sideways like those like in Los Angeles's San Andreas fault, and sometimes one plate is pushed underneath another, like the plates that for the fault in Nepal.2 The plate movement in Nepal is much faster than most other plates on earth, and it is the reason why eight of the ten highest mountains on earth fall within the borders of the small nation.3

As we learn more about the earth's plates and their movements, astrobiologists and geologists are beginning to discover just how crucial plate tectonics is for life to exist. In their book Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe, Drs. Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee note that of all the planets we observe in our solar system, only the earth has signs of shifting plates in the form of mountain ranges and ocean basins.4 Some of the key benefits they list concerning plate tectonics are:5
  • It promotes high levels of global biodiversity as species as they must adapt to different environments which ensures they don't fall extinct easily.
  • It manages the amount chemicals that form carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, helping to keep the earth's temperature stable, keeping liquid water abundant on the planet.
  • It creates ocean basins and lifts dry land out of the sea, allowing advanced life like humans to be land-dwelling animals.
  •  It also recirculates the minerals that erosion has deposited in the sea,
  • Finally, it creates earth's magnetic field, sheltering life from "potentially lethal influx of cosmic radiation, and solar wind "sputtering" (in which particles from the sun hit the upper atmosphere with high energy) might slowly eat away at the atmosphere, as it has on Mars."
Ward and Brownlee conclude that if there were no more earthquakes, the earths temperatures would quickly become unlivable and "planetary calamity for complex life would occur shortly after the cessation of plate movement."6 Earthquakes are necessary for you and me to exist on earth at all.

Why would such a poor country be hit by such a big earthquake?

At this point the atheist may narrow his claim and simply ask "OK, but why would God allow such devastation in an area where there are so many people?" AS I explained above, there are many areas such as the sea floor where these kinds of earthquakes occur and they hurt no one. But land-based earthquakes are necessary to do some of the things I mentioned above. It is no surprise that Nepal is prone to devastating earthquakes. The Himalayas attest to the fault's activity. In fact, the last devastating quake happened in 1934, killing about 10,000 people. Geologist Hongfeng Yang said that geology of that part of the world is "generally consistent and homogenous" and the region should expect a severe earthquake every four to five decades.7

I live in Southern California, with my house very close to the San Andreas Fault. We know that the San Andreas is overdue for a very large earthquake. While we don't know when it will come, it is a recognized danger. Both private citizens and the government have made preparations for when "the big one" hits. In Nepal, the warnings of the 1990's were ignored, as Samrat Upadhyay explained in his recent article in the Los Angeles Times.8 My survival may depend on having emergency supplies in my home if an earthquake hits. But in other areas of the world, planning and infrastructure buttressing may be thwarted not by God but by the corruption or greed of those responsible for such safeguards. While no one can assume there would be no loss of life in any natural disaster, the loss of lives can be significantly mitigated by those who live in the area.

 The meme seeks to blame God for creating earthquakes.  Yet, without them, our world may be a sterile as Mars or as lifeless as Venus. People have the capability to prevent a significant amount of damage and loss of life from the quakes. Perhaps we should begin by investigating why no one acted on the warnings instead of trying to point an uninformed finger at God.


1. Watson, Ivan, Jethro Mullen, and Laura Smith-Spark. "Nepal Earthquake: Death Toll Climbs above 4,600." CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Apr. 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.
2. Oskin, Becky. "What Is Plate Tectonics?" LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 04 Dec. 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.
3. McClain, Sean, and Shirley S. Wang. "How the Nepal Earthquake Happened Like Clockwork." WSJ. The Wall Street Journal, 26 Apr. 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.
4. Ward, Peter D., and Donald Brownlee. Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe. New York: Copernicus, 2000. Kindle Edition. 194.
5. Ward and Brownlee, 194.
6. Ward and Brownlee, 206.
7. McClain and Wang, 2015.
8. Upadhyay, Samrat. "Nepal Earthquake: We Had Been Warned." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 28 Apr. 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Questions for Skeptics: Why Aren't You More Skeptical of Your Morality? (Video)

A lot of skeptics object to the God of the Bible as being cruel, intolerant, genocidal, or worse. All of these claims hinge on a specific moral position, though. How does the skeptic know that he or she has the appropriate moral high ground? From where does their morality stem?

In this short video, Lenny discusses the problem of moral grounding and asks why these skeptics don't question their own moral position in the same way they question God's.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Can We Understand Unspeakable Evil?

Horrific. Senseless. Insane.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings is a tragedy beyond words. We think of the innocent lives lost because a young man sought revenge for either real or perceived wrongs from his mother.

"But they were kindergartners  really just babies… how could someone look into innocent faces and take their lives? It's insane."

We try to process such brutality. We seek to have it make sense to ourselves and so we start to put labels on the actions of Adam Lanza. It's evil. It's monstrous. It's insane.

That's the word that people keep falling back upon. Insanity. Certainly, no one in their right mind would do such a thing to such precious children. Some discover that Lanza had Asperger's syndrome, which is a mental condition, and conclude that this must be the cause. I have a different word for Lanza's evil, a word that has lost much of its power in our modern discourse. Lanza's actions were sinful.

We don't like to label this tragedy as simply "sinful". It doesn't seem, well, extreme enough. But why is that? It is most likely because we recognize that we are sinful ourselves. There are enough remnants of the Christian worldview left in our society that we can remember phrases such as "He who is without sin cast the first stone" and we know that we have failed. We know that we have sinned.

Because Lanza had some type of mental condition, we try to separate his actions from our own. He's not like us, we say. Except that he is. Lanza's actions were driven by a selfish need. All sin is ultimately selfish, it seeks one's own feelings, one's own desires above God or another person. The base motivation is the same; it simply becomes a matter of degree afterwards.

"But I'm not like that! What he did was something totally different than any little wrongs that I may commit."

Before Christianity was prevalent in the world, slaughtering innocents was a much more commonplace occurrence. Canaanites and Israelites would sacrifice their children to the fires of Molech. There is evidence of the Incas performing child sacrifice in ancient America. Romans would abandon unwanted infants so they would die of exposure. Modern Americans abort their children so it won't interfere with their personal plans and desires.

Because we live in a post-Christian society, sin is a word we wink at. Las Vegas is known as Sin City and whatever you do there better stay there. The City developed the idea as a marketing catchphrase.  But why? Because the idea is that while in Vegas one should live for him or herself. To find out the things we did, the selfish pursuit of pleasure, we could damage our reputation. We could hurt someone with whom we have a relationship. We could hurt other people. Think about that. Selfishness damaging another. It happens every day.

Lanza's actions are horrific. But this is why God takes sin so seriously. He knows how sin damages lives and he cares about those lives. We see the immediate devastation of families in Connecticut and immediately recognize that the pain they experience will be with them for life. We look at a pornographic image and don't think about the life-inflicting pain on the girl who has to live with her objectification or how it encourages acts such as sexting by our young.

Sin is real. Sin is dangerous. We need to recognize that. We need to start thinking about the Christian concept that we are all sinners, capable of things that are horrific to a God who sees the end result.

Pray for the families in Newtown. Pray for their comfort and their loss. Then, pray for the rest of our society. For by seeking to dismiss Lanza's actions as insane instead of sinful; by trying to escape the fact that Lanza is not so different from the rest of us, we lull ourselves into a position where such incidents could happen again. May God have mercy on our souls.
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