There are many reasons why people turn away from believing in God. One reason that stands out is "the problem of evil" - which the theologian Peter Kreeft describes as "the greatest test of faith, the greatest temptation to disbelief". Agnostics and atheists often use the problem of evil as their argument to sow doubt or deny the existence of God. They claim that evil coexists and that God is unlikely (so the agnostic) or impossible (so the atheists). The argumentation chain of the following statement comes from the time of the Greek philosopher Epicurus (about 300 BC). It was taken up and popularized by the Scottish philosopher David Hume at the end of the 18th century.
Here is the statement:
»If it is God's will to prevent evil but it cannot: then it is not omnipotent. Or he can, but it is not his will: then God is displeasing. If both apply, he can and wants to prevent it: where does evil come from? And if neither applies, neither willing nor able: Why should we then call him God? »
Epicurus and later Hume painted a picture of God that in no way corresponds to him. I do not have enough space here for a comprehensive reply (Theologians call it a theodicy). But I would like to emphasize that this chain of arguments cannot even come close to being a knock-out argument against the existence of God. Like many Christian apologists (Apologists refer to theologians who deal with their scientific "justification" and defense of beliefs), the existence of evil in the world is more evidence of, rather than against, the existence of God. I would now like to go into this in more detail.
Evil causes the good
The statement that evil is present as an objective feature in our world proves to be a double-edged sword that splits the agnostics and atheists much more deeply than the theists. In order to argue that the presence of evil refutes the existence of God, it is necessary to acknowledge the existence of evil. It follows that there must be an absolute moral law that defines evil as evil. One can not develop a logical concept of evil without presupposing the highest moral law. This puts us in a big dilemma as it raises the question of the origin of this law. In other words, if evil is the opposite of good, how do we determine what is good? And where does the understanding of this consideration come from?
Genesis 1 teaches us that the creation of the world was good and not evil. Nevertheless, it also reports of the fall of mankind that was caused by evil and caused evil. Because of evil, this world is not the best of all possible worlds. Hence the problem of evil makes clear the deviation from "how it should be". However, if things are not as they should be, there has to be one. If there is a way, then there must be a transcendental design, a plan and purpose to achieve this target state. This in turn sets a transcendental being (God) ahead that is the originator of this plan. If there is no God, there is no way that things should be, and therefore there would be no evil. It may all sound a bit confused, but it is not. It is a carefully crafted logical conclusion.
Right and wrong are opposite each other
CS Lewis took this logic to the extreme. In his book Pardon, I Am Christian, he lets us know that he was an atheist, mainly because of the presence of evil, cruelty and injustice in the world. But the more he thought about his atheism, the more he realized clearly that a definition of injustice exists only in relation to an absolute legal conception. The law presupposes a righteous person who stands above humanity and who has the authority to shape created reality and establish rules of law in it.
In addition, he realized that the origin of evil is not due to God the Creator, but to the creatures who gave in to the temptation to distrust God and chose sin. Lewis also realized that humans cannot be objective if they were the origin of good and evil because they are subject to change. He further concluded that one group of people could make judgments about others whether they had acted well or badly, but then the other group could counteract with their version of good and evil. So what is the authority behind these competing versions of good and evil? Where is the objective norm when something is considered unacceptable in one culture but is considered acceptable in the other? We see this dilemma at work all over the world, (unfortunately) often in the name of religion or other ideologies.
This remains: if there is no supreme creator and moral legislator, then there can be no objective norm for good. If there is no objective norm for good, how can someone find out if something is good? Lewis illustrated this: »If there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we would never know that it is dark. The word dark would have no meaning for us. »
Our personal and good God defeats evil
Only if there is a personal and good God who opposes evil does it make sense to accuse evil or to call for action. If there were no such god, one could not turn to him. There is no basis for a view that goes beyond what we call good and evil. There would be nothing more than what we have a preference for to label with the label "good"; however, if it conflicted with someone else's preference, we would label it "bad or bad". In such a case there would be nothing that could objectively be called evil; nothing to complain about and nothing to complain about. Things would be simple as they are; you can call them what you like.
Only by believing in a personal and good God do we really have a foundation to disapprove of evil and can turn to "someone" to be destroyed. The belief that there is a real problem of evil and that one day it will be solved and all things straightened out provides a good foundation of belief that a personal and good God exists.
Although evil persists, God is with us and we have hope
The evil exists - you just have to look at the news. We have all experienced evil and know the destructive effects. But we also know that God does not let us survive in our fallen state. In an earlier article, I pointed out that our fall has not surprised God. He did not have to resort to Plan B because he had already put into effect his plan to overcome evil and this plan is Jesus Christ and reconciliation. In Christ, God has defeated evil through his authentic love; this plan has been ready since the foundation of the world. Jesus' cross and resurrection show us that evil will not have the last word. Because of the work of God in Christ, evil has no future.
Are you longing for a God who sees evil, who takes responsibility for it in his grace, who has committed to do something about it, and who ultimately manages everything? Then I have good news for you - that is exactly the God that Jesus Christ revealed. Although we are in "this present, evil world" (Galatians 1,4), as Paul wrote, God has neither given us up nor left us without hope. God assures us all that he is with us; it has penetrated into the here and now of our existence and thus gives us the blessing of receiving the "first gift" (Romans 8,23) of the »coming world» (Luke 18,30) - a »pledge» (Ephesians 1,13-14) of the goodness of God as it will be present under his rule in the fullness of his kingdom.
By the grace of God we are now embodying the signs of the Kingdom of God through our life together in the Church. The triune God living in us enables us to experience something of the community that he has planned for us from the beginning. There will be joy in communion with God and with each other - true life that never ends and in which no evil occurs. Yes, we all have to struggle on this side of glory, but we are comforted knowing that God is with us - His love lives in us forever through Christ - through His Word and Spirit. Scripture states: "who is in you is greater than who is in the world" (1 John 4,4).
by Joseph Tkack