In a new book, Why Believe?, author Neil Shenvi tackles head-on one of the most powerful arguments against the existence of God.
The problem of evil was most famously formulated by the ancient philosopher Epicurus, who asked how evil could exist in a world ruled by a perfectly good, all-powerful God. It’s like saying that a square circle exists, he claims, a logical contradiction.
Without question, the problem of evil is the most formidable argument against God’s existence. Few people can see and experience the horrendous evil in the world and not wonder how a good, loving God could allow it.
But it may be surprising to learn that it is an even bigger problem for atheism. Far from being evidence against God, the existence of evil is a powerful pointer to God.
Renowned Christian apologist C. S. Lewis writes of his own experience as an atheist:
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world really was unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies.”
Imagine a naturalist asking, “How can an all-loving, all-powerful God exist if evil spirits exist?” Does the naturalist really believe evil spirits exist? On one hand he might mean something like “Of course evil spirits don’t exist. But Christianity claims they do, and that claim is incompatible with the existence of God. Therefore, Christianity is internally inconsistent.” On the other hand, he might be saying something like “Yes, evil spirits really do exist. Therefore God cannot exist.” If he is posing this kind of argument, he needs to explain exactly how the existence of supernatural evil beings is compatible with his belief – as a naturalist – that there is no supernatural realm at all.
If the atheist is claiming that objective moral evil actually exists, then he has to answer where this moral reality comes from? What is the objective standard by which some action or event can be judged to be evil? If the universe and human beings are reducible to molecules in motion, why does anything have moral value?
Content taken from Why Believe? by Neil Shenvi, ©2022. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, crossway.org.