Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Problem of Evil: A Biblical Answer

A common argument against Biblical Christianity goes something like this: A good, omnipotent, and omniscient God is incompatible with the presence of evil in the world. Ironically, this argument from atheists is something that a Christian can actually agree with: evil is incompatible with the nature of God! However, the atheist then goes a step further and adds, there is evil in the world; therefore, there cannot be a good, omnipotent, and omniscient God, i.e., the God of Biblical Christianity.

The biblical answer to this dilemma must begin in Genesis, where God creates both the physical universe and mankind. These creations, by His own testimony, were "very good" (Genesis 1: 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, and 31). There was no aging, sickness, death, or futility, in the lives of men. However, Adam chose to reject the goodness of the world and rebel against God (Genesis 3:1-19). Thus, Man chose to bring the debilitation of age, sickness, death, and futility, both for himself and for the physical world over which God had given him dominion. See the explanations of these curses in Romans 5:12 and 8:22.

So, the response of the Christian to this challenge of the atheists is straightforward: God did not create a world containing evil. Rather, mankind chose to reject the good world we had been given, for a world of hardship. And, out of justice, God allowed Man to have the world he preferred.

Now, we can turn this question back on the atheist: by what standard do you claim that some of the conditions in this world are evil? Afterall, the atheist rejects the overarching authority of God to define good and evil. This is what apologists call "precept stealing." The atheist actually requires the truth of Christian theism to provide his understanding of evil. His very question assumes the truth of what he seeks to undermine! By positing the very idea of "evil," the atheist demonstrates the truth of Paul's words in Romans 1:18-19, "[They] by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them." That word "atheist" is a misnomer, in fact, a deception. The atheist knows the truth of the existence and righteousness of the triune God of the Bible. He then suppresses that knowledge, because he commits that sin of Adam all over again: he chooses to be his own god, but refuses to confess the consequences of that choice.

[This argument is borrowed, in part, from Scott Oliphint, the Professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia.]

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