Have you ever started on a long article and ended up with so many scattered fragments here and there that you didn't think you would ever get it put together into one solid piece? Yeah, me too. That was the case with this article. I had put it off for the longest time.
But here's the "kick in the butt" favor that God often does for lazy me: I'll see a post or video or article on the internet somewhere that can be answered by some small, specific chunk of that article I'm struggling to put together. So, I'll respond with that small chunk, but then it will end up having a perfect segue into another chunk of that article, and then another, and another, and so on. By the time I'm finished, an entire article is complete. That was the case with this article.
I had responded to a facebook post in which a girl was asking for help countering the highly-used atheist claim that the suffering in the world was proof that a perfectly righteous and all-powerful God didn't exist. As I would finish one part, I could mentally hear atheists piping up with more typical objections, so I went on to answer those too, copying chunks from this fragmented article I hadn't finished yet. By the time I was finished I had nearly compiled and ordered my entire refutation against atheism. So, I thought I would share it. I don't have specific points labelled and numbered or anything, but I think you'll still find the answers to a lot of the questions you've heard atheists bring up before. Particularly, it answers the questions as to who is really responsible for evil and why God allows it.
Epicurus' 'Problem of Evil' is the philosophical argument I see being cited the most by atheists to support this claim that the suffering in the world proves that God doesn't exist, but 'The Problem of Evil' is nothing more than a glorified False Dilemma. A False Dilemma is a logical fallacy in which only a few options or conclusions are offered as an answer to a dilemma, when there are actually more options.
The Problem of Evil goes like this:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
Thus, the 'Problem of Evil' offers one of these two conclusions:
(1) God is able to stop evil, but not willing, therefore, he is evil.
(2) God is willing to stop evil, but not able, therefore he is not all-powerful (thus, not God).
This throws the responsibility of evil at God's feet for not stopping it and gives him the options of (1) stopping all evil or (2) stepping down as God. However, there is a third option that Epicurus' false dilemma overlooks, and that is MAN'S responsibility to stop COMMITTING evil.
See, if God doesn't exist, as atheists claim, they HAVE to blame evil on man, simply by process of elimination. Who else are they going to blame it on? And if man is responsible for evil under the scenario where God doesn't exist, then he's just as responsible for it under one where God does exist. (Of course, it's usually at this point that the atheist runs and hides behind relativity and starts changing his/her definition of evil, even going so far as to say evil doesn't really exist.)
If atheists still insist that it's God's responsibility to stop evil instead of man's responsibility to stop committing evil, here's a question for them: How much evil would an all-powerful, perfectly righteous God get rid of? All of it, of course. Every drop. And how many people on earth are perfectly righteous? None. (Proven, in part, by the atheist's own lamentation about how evil the world is.) So, how many people would God get rid of if he were to visit and get rid of all of the evil?
So, atheists had better be glad God is still allowing man the chance to curb evil with his own responsibility, because the time when God DOES come down and get rid of all the evil is coming.
By the way, if you're going to say that the prevention of evil is God's job instead of man's job, how do you get away with claiming that people can be moral without God?
Here's another question for atheists: If they're blaming God for all the evil that man does, are they crediting him for all the GOOD man does? Of course, not. When man does something good, atheists declare that man can be moral without God. Soon as man does something evil, however, they switch the credit to God and say that a loving God would have prevented it. That goes for natural disasters, too. If atheists are going to blame God for all the natural disasters, are they crediting him for the days that they DIDN'T happen?
Besides, the Bible shows us that God doesn't punish the righteous with the wicked (Genesis 18:23-25). It also shows us that if the righteous DO die, it was to spare them even worse suffering (Isaiah 57:1). And if the righteous live and suffer, they are appointed vessels being used to demonstrate the world's mindless hatred for God, and will be rewarded accordingly (Matthew 5:10-12, Romans 8:36-37, 1st Corinthians 4:8-13, Hebrews 11:38).
God knows that the whole creation is groaning under the burden of sin:
22. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
But the Bible shows us that the current state of the world isn't God's fault:
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Guess what that means? It means that all the bad things happening to us right now, individually, and as a world, aren't just bad, incidental dice rolls, but ripples that are hitting us for a reason. It means that these carnal urges of ours aren't just "selfish genes," but destructive illusions created by a very real Satan. It means we aren't just the world's most badly behaved mammals, but spirits with choices that have powerful consequences. And guess what all of THAT means? It means we have to sow something besides evil if we expect to REAP something besides evil. Like the saying goes, "You can choose your sin, but not your consequences."
But we don't think we should have to accept that in this soft age of blaming the mirror for the reflection. Everyone is right in their own eyes, just like the Bible says (Proverbs 21:2). That's why some people can only accept God as being weak, wicked, or altogether non-existent when things don't go their way. It's easier to just blame it all on God. We blame God for cancer without considering that there are so many man-made carcinogens in the air and water that it's a miracle we don't ALL have cancer. We blame God for birth defects without considering that there is so much sodium fluoride and fertility-killing GMO's (genetically modified organisms) in our food today that it's a miracle we aren't ALL being born with birth defects. (We ARE getting closer to that, though. The cancer rate has increased by 1000% in the last 40 years, and in just the last SEVEN YEARS the autism rate has increased from 1 in 150 to 1 in 86. Did you know that?) We blame God instead of weak parenting for daughters that get pregnant at thirteen and misguided sons that go on killing sprees. We tell God, who upholds and maintains all order and life (Colossians 1:16-17, Hebrews 1:3), to get out of our lives, our schools, our workplaces, our homes, our WORLD, and then blame him for natural disasters when he obliges us and takes his maintenance out from in-between us and destruction. On and on, when disaster strikes we just shake our fist at the sky, having suddenly become experts on what a loving God should do when things go bad, even though we've spent our whole life denying him when things were going good. When things go wrong, we say things like, "One simple act of God could have prevented this." But would we have still called it an "act of God" if things had gone like we wanted? Or would we have just seen it as more proof that things can go smoothly without God? This comic panel says it all:
Get the picture? The dismal state of the world isn't proof that God doesn't exist; it's proof that we don't listen to him.
After you point all of this out to an atheist, they will still try to blame all of the sin in the world on God by asking why he made man capable of so much sin. But they forget that man was only capable of ONE sin in the Garden of Eden, and that all of the rest of sin was a result of that one sin. Atheists ask why God even allowed that one sin, but they forget that if God wants his creations (us) to be just as knowledgeable and aware as he is, their knowledge will have to include the knowledge of evil:
And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
In fact, the range of his creations' awareness and choices will have to include taking opposition to their creator, and that will have to include everything up to even trying to take the place of their creator. The higher the creation's awareness of its freedom to oppose its creator, the more valuable its decision to ~join~ the creator, instead, becomes.
Any intervention or prevention on the part of God at all is going to reduce a creation's individualism and make it closer to just being a guided automaton. All God can do is give instruction as to the right course of action, which he does (The Bible).
Atheists then argue that if God had made man truly perfect, man would have been unable to commit evil. But God only made man AWARE of evil (for the reasons I just stated above) and mere awareness of evil doesn't make someone evil; COMMITTING evil does. Even Satan was called perfect before he sinned:
14. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.
15. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.
God only made man to where he COULD sin, not to where he HAD to sin.
Atheists then try to fault God for making man when he knew he would sin, but they never credit God for fore-seeing this and planning an easy redemption for man (trusting in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ).
Besides, when people ask the question as to why God created certain people when he knew they would deny him, they always pose it in a past tense, at the beginning of time, looking across a span of time from which nothing can be changed. But they never realize (or admit) that everyone who has ever asked this question has asked it from a PRESENT point in time, from which things CAN be changed. Namely, the chance to accept God's redemption for man (Jesus Christ).
It's lunacy for an atheist to shake their fist at God and declare that it was wrong for him to create them when he knew they would reject him. They are implicitly acknowledging his existence at that point (and arguing against their own creation, to boot.)
The biggest point that atheists miss, however, is realizing what the point of all of this turmoil is:
It was from the desire to take God's place that all sin descended: Satan tried to take God's place (Isaiah 14:12-15 "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God... I will be like the Most High"), and then succeeded in tempting mankind with the same proposition in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6 "ye shall be as gods...").
The evil world we're seeing now is the result of God letting Satan and mankind try their hand at doing God's job. When all is said and done, no human, no angel, no spirit, no creation will ever again try to take God's place and do his job because they will have seen that only God has the knowledge and ability to be God. THAT is why he is allowing the evil he is allowing. One day soon, he WILL come to clean all of the evil up, but until then, men and angels are learning a very important lesson: Only God has the ability to be God.
Atheists will next appeal to God's omnipotence and omniscience (let's call it God's sovereignty) and try to use it against him. For example, they say that, if God is really all-powerful and all-knowing, he should be able to be make people have free-will AND be able to make all the right decisions at the same time, so it's immoral for him to send someone to hell. BUT soon as you turn that appeal to God's sovereignty back on them and say that with that same sovereignty he can make sending them to hell immoral and moral at the same time, they disagree and declare that his sovereignty doesn't go THAT far, as if they can put an on/off switch on it.
The argument that God is cruel or immoral simply doesn't hold water. We've shown why God has allowed the things that have happened, but add to that his patience and grace to send us a redeemer who saves to the uttermost just for asking (Hebrews 7:25). There simply is no excuse for not accepting him.
There's a very powerful verse in the Bible wherein Jesus thanks God for revealing the truth of his existence to the simple and hiding it from those who proclaim themselves to be wise and prudent:
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
Why is it that a lot of simple-minded people who couldn't have won an intellectual or philosophical debate to save their lives are going to be standing in heaven with eternal life, while a lot of the smartest and most cynical people with walls full of prestigious intellectual honors are going to be knocking their knees together out of fear while they face an all-powerful God they spent their lives denouncing and leading others away from?
Because those simple-minded folks HOPED God was real.
For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
This is the hope that Peter said Christians need to be able to give a reason for:
1st Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
Why did those simple-minded people still hope that God was real, even in the face of the most educated and informed cynicism man could produce?
Because within those simpler people lied a nugget of wisdom that those self-proclaimed wise folks never took the time to earn. It was a nugget of wisdom that knew that if there was an all-powerful, all-knowing and perfectly righteous God in control of everything, then everything DOES have a reason. Justice HAS been served, even if we can't see it. There was a reason someone died, even if we can't perceive it. A God that knows far more than any person ever will and is more just than any person will ever be, is watching everything and not letting things slip through the cracks, and if it seems that something or someone HAS slipped through the cracks, if there is some sort of scenario that seems to incriminate God, then there are circumstances that we don't know about. They know that God doesn't punish the righteous with the wicked (Genesis 18:23-25). They know that if the righteous DO die, it was to spare them even worse suffering (Isaiah 57:1). They understand that justice is guaranteed.
As opposed to the atheist view, where there is no guaranteed justice. Under the atheistic view, the serial killer that murders 10 babies and then shoots himself in the head gets away with minimal suffering and those 10 babies are truly deprived of their whole lives, with no next life to go to. Under the Christian view, the killer gets what he deserves and the babies go on to be with the Lord. The atheist then creates the scenario of an evil person killing a good person and then getting saved and going to heaven. I remind them that such a person was an atheist when they committed that murder. The atheist then asks about priests who molest altar boys and then go to heaven, but I tell them that such people are not saved, and that wielding the word of God deceitfully is a sure-fire way to end up cursed (Jeremiah 48:10, 2nd Corinthians 4:2). Someone who molests kids isn't hoping for justice, therefore they aren't hoping that a perfectly righteous and all-powerful God is real.
Christians and atheists have the same amount of evidence for the existence of God. What separates them is the one thing that's available to all people, smart and dull: HOPE. It all comes down to what you hope for. The reason for hope in the Christian heart towards God's existence is wisdom, even in the most simple-minded of us. And the Bible shows us what someone who lacks that wisdom truly is, no matter how many trophies and honors they have on their shelves:
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
The atheist then tries to infer that there is no difference between Jesus and Muhammad or Buddha or Dionysus, etc, and that Jesus is just another counterfeit. But counterfeit gods do not invalidate the one, true God any any more than a counterfeit coin invalidates the authentic coin. Besides, Jesus is proven the true redeemer of mankind, and the one true God above all other gods by one simple question:
"How can God be infinitely merciful and infinitely punishing at the same time?"
In other words, how can he be merciful enough to FORGIVE all sins, but then be just enough to PUNISH all sin, as well? Here's the answer: Infinite mercy and punishment CAN co-exist if God suffers that punishment in our place, which he did as Jesus Christ on the cross. Thus, he can be infinitely merciful to those that accept that sacrifice and let it represent them, and infinitely judgmental against those that reject it. This is a question that disqualifies gods such as Allah, Buddha, Shiva and any other god besides the God of the Bible. (That includes the Catholic Mary, by the way.) None of them suffered the price of sin and died in our place. Jesus, is the only way to heaven, just as the Bible declares (Acts 4:12).
To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just [punishing], AND the justifier [merciful] of him which believeth in Jesus.
The atheist will then resort to truly juvenile questions such as, "Can God create a rock that's too heavy for himself to lift?" But such a question merely stresses and confirms the point that there is no power greater than God, so much so that one is forced to pit God against Himself in order to find His equal.
Besides, this particular question could actually be mechanically answered. God could create TWO stones too heavy for himself to lift, then create a chain and pulley too strong to break, then use one stone to easily lift the other. :)
The atheist will then bring up the controversial Bible verses that supposedly condone rape, genocide, slavery, etc, etc. Even though every single one of these accusations can be refuted, I won't do that in this article I've already done that in another article, "In defense of the Old Testament." But I will borrow the first paragraph of that article to point this one thing out:
The people who accuse the Bible of condoning rape, slavery, and genocide are the same people who remind Christians that the Bible says "love thy neighbor" when they're trying to have their pet sins in peace. Ever noticed that?
Atheism is simply a frustrated denial of the war between the spirit and the flesh. Truthfully, everyone believes in God to some degree, whether they admit that or not. Some people just don't like what his existence means about THEM. So they spend their entire lives trying to convince themselves that he doesn't exist, under the guise of trying to convince everyone else. Like a lot of pastors have said before, Atheists can't find God for the same reason a thief can't find the sheriff.