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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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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why I Am a Christian: Because of the Problem of Evil

Yesterday, I began to explain why I hold to Christianity. Of course, as I've said before, there is only one good reason to believe anything and that is if it's true. I believe Christianity is true and I've been laying out my reasons why Christianity is true. One reason I want to talk about today seems rather backwards. In fact, many will tell you that this particular issue is the toughest challenge to Christianity and a lot of atheists became such because of the problem of evil in the world. But I believe that Christianity is true because of its approach to the problem of evil.

The problem of evil is usually presented like this, "How can an all-powerful, all-loving God exists when there is so much evil in the world?" That seems to be a hard question, and even though the argument fails logically, it intuitively strikes people as an objection needing an answer, and Christianity does offer one. Christianity teaches that God simply isn't done with us yet. God allows evil for certain period of time in order to accomplish the purposes He set out for man and His creation. Once those purposes are complete, He will vanquish all evil. The cross of Christ has guaranteed that Jesus has triumphed over death and sin and the Christian rests assured that evil will not exist for all eternity. In a relatively brief period, God will vanquish all evil yet preserve our freedom to exercise our love towards Him forever.

What other worldview provides a better answer?

The interesting thing in this question, though, is that it isn't incumbent on only the Christian to answer it. Evil is recognizable in any religious system or non-religious system. Every worldview needs to account for the problem of evil; not just Christianity. How do the other belief systems measure up?

When someone offers an objection to God on the basis of the amount of evil in the world, they are conceding at least two things:
  1. There is an objective "good" whereby we can measure actions and label them as good or evil.
  2. The fact that evil actions exist means there are problems in the world that need to be solved.
Given that those two facts can be established, they open up questions of their own. For the first, one must ask "Where are you getting this idea of good and evil from? Is evil real? If so, what is that objective standard whereby we can measure actions as good or evil?" The next question can then be, "and what is the solution to evil according to your worldview?"

These questions pose significant problems for other worldviews. Atheists, for example, cannot ground their understanding of evil in anything objective. Evil becomes relative to the individual or the community, and therefore true, objective evil cannot really exist. An atheist who claims that the natural world is all there is would say that's just the way the world works. People are born and they die and eventually our sun will be extinguished with no thought at all toward humanity. The result of an atheist worldview is that suffering will never be able to be overcome. Cruelty is woven into the fabric of life and there is no hope of vanquishing it.

Eastern faiths such as Hinduism and Buddhism would provide a different understanding. They hold that the evil we experience is as illusory as our earthy existence. We have forgotten that we are one with the divine and we need to become one again. Only by being liberated from the cycle of life, death, and rebirth through enlightenment can one escape the karma that is responsible for our discomfort. Once this happens, evil will vanish like the illusion it is. The result of this view is that they ignore the reality of evil and ignore the reality of suffering people experience.

Finally, there are faiths that hold that God exists, but evil is something that sits outside His complete control. Rabbi Harold S. Kushner voiced this view in his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. God is limited in His power so he cannot control all the evil that we see. He can work within the natural order of things, but the conquering of evil is beyond His reach. Such a view robs God of His position as God and is internally incoherent. The result becomes that evil is stronger than God and there is no hope for vanquishing evil.

I've made the claim that Christianity is both internally consistent and externally coherent. It does not contradict itself in its own claims, even though it makes claims about huge concepts like the nature of God, the nature of man, how people work, and the nature of morality. It also helps us make sense of the world and how we experience it. Looking at how other worldviews answer the problem of evil shows that the difficulties their positions create are far greater than the challenge to the Christian. Christianity offers both a compelling understanding of the fact that real evil does exist and it offers the believer the hope that one day that evil will be vanquished.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you. I always want to ask people who say God either doesn't exist or is evil, because of the evil in the world, what is their solution to evil? Should God be evil, then he has at least a solution for evil. God took responsibility for evil through Jesus' death on the cross, and He over came it. When people ask,' why doesn't he just step in and stop evil from happening'?, I ask,' did you want him to stop you doing your evil?' People usually deny that they have done evil, or call evil good.


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