If God Exists,
Why Is There Evil?
Response idea: "What do you mean by 'evil'? Isn't it the 'bad' we see in the world around us? It may seem contradictory, but when given some thought, the recognition of the existence of evil is actually one of the strongest evidences for God. How do we decide that something is evil? The only way evil can be recognized is if there is an objective standard of good to compare it to. Much like darkness being compared to an objective standard of light (lumens) and cold being compared to the objective standard of heat (degrees). Without objective good, everyone decides their own standard of good. This is subjective and not objective. Objective good has to be a standard outside our individual choice, and thus can only be established by God.
The following is a portion of the larger Evil, Suffering, and Pain subsection in Chapter 5, Evidences for Christianity, but is included here because of this being such a strong challenge to Christianity for those who haven't learned how to respond to it.
The existence of evil is considered one of the strongest challenges to the existence of God. And when we hear someone use the logic of the next paragraph as the reasoning it initially seems very convincing. I believe that after reading this section though, you will see the existence of evil in a way that you hadn't previously, and that the existence of evil is actually one of the best proofs for the existence of God rather than being a strong challenge to God’s existence.
Many who don't believe that God exists believe this because of the existence of evil. Essentially, their logic is as follows as I heard Greg Koukl (www.str.org) mention:
1. If God is all-loving, He would want there to be no evil.
2. If God is all-powerful, He would be able to eliminate evil.
3. Since evil exists, God either lacks the will to save us from evil or the ability to save us from evil.
4. If He lacks the will, He is not all-loving.
5. If He lacks the ability, He is not all-powerful.
6. Therefore, the existence of evil stands as evidence that God cannot be both all-loving and all-powerful, or it is evidence that God doesn't exist at all.
This argument seems very logical and convincing at first, because the only options considered as proof or disproof of the existence of God in reference to evil are the ones given. What if there is another option in the way to look at the reality of evil?
Greg Koukl, (www.str.org) gives insight into this subject. When you look at the above references to evil the underlying assumption in the statements is that evil is an actual thing, that it is a substance that has material properties which can be measured. The statements are valid if evil is an actual thing. But that is the question. Is evil a thing?
Let’s look at a few illustrations which should answer the question. One of Greg Koukl’s illustrations for the concept of evil is hot and cold. When we say that something is cold, are we using the description of cold to indicate an actual substance or property of something? No. To say something is cold we are not referring to cold as a substance in and of itself or a property of something, but as a description of a lack of heat energy. Heat energy can be measured, but there is not a measurement for cold energy because there is no such thing as cold energy.
Another illustration he uses is Light and Dark. The same is true with the concept of dark as the concept of cold. Dark doesn't exist in and of itself. Darkness is a description of the absence of something, the absence of light. You can measure light but you can’t measure dark.
My favorite illustration from Greg Koukl is that of a donut. Think about a regular glazed donut with the opening in the center. What is the opening called? A doughnut hole, right? Now think. Have you ever eaten a donut hole? Not the small pieces of dough that are sold at donut stores, but have you ever eaten the opening in the center of a donut called the doughnut hole? You haven’t, have you? Why not? The doughnut hole in the center of a regular donut is not an actual substance. The name doughnut hole describes the absence of something. It describes where the doughnut is not. Greg Koukl humorously illustrates this absence description by saying,
“Cold is the absence of heat, darkness is the absence of light, and the donut hole is the absence of donut”.
Evil is like this. It is not a substance that can be measured. It is not something in and of itself. It is the name for the absence of something. What is that something that is absent? That something is good.
The challenge/assumption is that God can’t exist because the existence of evil. Again, this is the misunderstanding that evil is a thing. But as we've seen, evil is not something but a description of a lack of something. If there is no God then there is no standard for good. If there is no standard for good then nothing can be considered good. Without good nothing can be called evil, because there is nothing to compare it to, nothing to contrast it with.
If there is no standard for good, nothing can be described as evil. Just like there can’t be cold without heat; and there can’t be dark without light; and there can’t be a donut hole without a donut; There can’t be evil without good. If there is no God, there is no good or standard for good, and without good, there can be nothing called evil. An example of this is to compare Mother Theresa to Hitler. We innately know that one was good and the other evil.
Recognizing evil in the world is only possible because we recognize a standard of good to compare it to. A standard of good is only possible if God exists, and only with a standard of good can things be recognized as evil. So when we understand this relationship between evil and good we understand that the existence of evil is actually one of the best evidences for the existence of God rather than an evidence for His non-existence. Jeremiah 31:33 shows that God has instilled this recognition of right and wrong within each of us.
Jeremiah 31:33 “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts”.
NEXT CHALLENGE: "Christians shouldn't be so intolerant"