Why Does God Permit Evil to Exist/Part 5

By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©2001
What do you say to someone who says they’d like to be a Christian, they’d like to believe in God, but all the evil and pain and suffering in the world are getting in the way?

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Why Does God Permit Evil to Exist?—Part Five

Dr. John Ankerberg: What do you say, Norm, to a person who says, “You know, evil has wiped me out. I’ll tell you, I have struggled with it. I’d like to be a Christian; I’d like to believe there is a God; I’d like to believe that He loves people; but I can’t handle it. There is just too much suffering. There is just too much evil in this world and I’ve come to the conclusion that God just can’t be there because there is just too much evil.”

Dr. Norman Geisler: Well, let me tell you what actually happened. I’ve had a number of debates with atheists around the country. I pointed out to an atheist in a process of a debate once this very dilemma. I said that C. S. Lewis was an atheist. He said that athe­ism is circular, it is arguing in a circle for this reason. I said there is no God because there is injustice. Then I started to think, injustice. That means not just. I must know what justice is. And then the atheist has to say not only is this unjust, but it has to be ultimately unjust. If you get a ticket for speeding when you weren’t speeding, then you go to the judge and he throws it out, it was immediate injustice, but ultimately it wasn’t unjust. So the atheist has got to say there is no God because it is ultimately unjust. Now that he can’t say for two reasons. One, he doesn’t have any ultimate standard of justice. That is God. So if he says there is an ultimate standard of justice—God—by which I know this is unjust, he is saying there must be a God in order to show that there is not a God. Secondly, he can’t know it is ultimately unjust unless he is omniscient. How does he know what today seems to be wrong, tomorrow could easily be made right. So he has to presuppose God and presuppose that he is God in order to disprove God. He is arguing in a circle. Do you know what the atheist looked at me and said? He said, “I don’t presuppose any ultimate standard of justice. The only reason I have for saying there is no God is “my own benign moral feeling.” Well, of course, if I had said to that university audience, “the only reason I have for believing God is my own benign moral feeling,” they would have laughed me off as an experiential fundamentalist who just had a liver quiver and he doesn’t really have any reason for believing in God. But in the final analysis, he either has to have an ultimate standard of justice or just a liver quiver that he doesn’t want to believe in God.

Ankerberg: Some people would say, “Okay, but what if we just all grew up and were conditioned to have these feelings?” What would you reply to that?

Geisler: Well, I would say, if we all grew up and we were conditioned, that he would have a good case. But that is not the case. We do have freedom. God has revealed Himself and conscience and creation in His word to men, and it is not that they don’t know. It’s not that they don’t have a standard. Because the very people who say there is no standard act in accordance with the standard. Let me illustrate it this way. There is a young man in University of Indiana who wrote a term paper to a former student of mine who was teaching philosophy at that university. And in this term paper he said that there are no morals in the universe. There is nothing like good and truth and justice. He gave a scholarly, brilliant, very well written term paper proving there were no moral principals. When he handed it in to the teacher, the teacher put on it “F—I don’t like blue folders.” And he sent it back to the student. The student came storming into his office and said, “That’s not fair, that’s not just, that’s not right. You should have graded it on its merits, not be­cause it had a blue folder!” The teacher said, “Oh, I didn’t know you believed in fairness and justice and rightness. You said in the paper you didn’t believe in any moral things. F—I don’t like blue folders.” Now after he made the point to the young man, he changed the “F” to an “A”. You see people say there are no moral absolutes, but they don’t act like that when you try it on them.

Ankerberg: I don’t want to drop that point yet. I think you have got somebody’s atten­tion out there that’s doubting. Say a little bit more about this thing of if an atheist tries to deal with this problem of evil, how it goes around in a circle on him. Let’s take it from an­other viewpoint. I know C. S. Lewis also wrote a book and showed how the Ten Com­mandments can be found across society in the world, where maybe they didn’t have the command, “Thou shall not murder,” but they didn’t want anybody murdering them. Maybe you are not supposed to steal. They could go and steal from somebody else, but they didn’t want somebody to steal from them. They could go and sleep with somebody else’s wife, but they didn’t want somebody to come sleep with their wife. And he just went down and said, “Why do you feel so strongly about those things?” He went down to show that the Ten Commandments were already in their hearts. I would like to just pursue that one step further again, for those that would say, “but the evil is there. And I can’t get away from the fact that I don’t have so much experience about God, but I have a tremendous amount about evil. Evil is the proof and so overwhelming to me that it is driving me to say that, if there is a God in any shape or form, I can’t have anything to do with him.”

Geisler: I think that the thing we want to say to him is that he has no objective absolute moral standard to make that statement. So either it is merely an expression of his own feeling, his own opinion, “I feel, or my opinion there is no God,” or he has some objective, ultimate, absolute standard as a basis for making that statement. If the latter, then he is arguing in a circle because he is assuming an absolute moral prescription and you don’t have moral pre­scriptions without a moral prescriber. You don’t have laws without a legislator. So he is assum­ing God to disprove God or else he has no basis for his disproof except he doesn’t like it. As Ivan in Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov, who said, “if there were a God I wouldn’t believe in him.” Nietzsche once said “if you could prove this Christian God to me, I would believe him all the less.” See the real problem isn’t that they have reasons for doing it, it is that they are in moral rebellion against God. The fool has said, not in his mind that there is no God, “the fool has said in his heart that there is no God.”

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