In the aftermath of recent violence and bloodshed across the world, there has been no shortage of opinions regarding causes, effects, and solutions. Always among the hottest topics have been those involving God and the Christian worldview. Some have grown tired of the many calls for prayer and have expressed their anger toward those who believe that there is a God who both can and will respond. In the wake of these terrible massacres, the atheist is always quick to point out what he believes to be a contradiction in the Christian belief system, specifically the Bible’s portrait of God and his relationship to the existence of evil.
The skeptical argument is this: if God is all-loving and all-powerful, as Christians claim, then evil should not exist. Such a God both could and would prevent mass murders, terrorism, and the like. Yet these evil events keep happening. Since this supposed “God” has not eliminated evil from the world, then either he does not love mankind or he is not powerful enough to stop people from committing the kinds of savage brutalities that we see in the world. In either case, one is forced to the conclusion that an all-loving and all-powerful God cannot exist, and therefore, Christianity is false.
The atheist’s argument, though it may sound reasonable at first glance, fails the test of logical consistency. For moral evil to exist, someone has to violate an objective code of moral conduct to which all men are accountable. But if there is no God, morality can only be subjectively defined by humans. Noted evolutionist and agnostic George Gaylord Simpson wrote,
“The workings of the universe cannot provide any automatic, universal, eternal, or absolute ethical criteria of right and wrong” (180).
If the universe is all that exists (which implies that a God over and above the universe does not), and the workings of a godless universe, as Simpson correctly observes, cannot of itself provide “any…absolute ethical criteria of right and wrong,” then morality is reduced to nothing more than the personal likes and dislikes of individuals. It is, therefore, subject to change from person to person. Who, then, is to say that one man’s likes and dislikes are right or wrong?
If a man decides that he wants to drive a truck through a crowd of people, detonate a bomb in a marketplace, or use chemical weapons on innocent children, who has the authority to judge his actions as objectively and morally wrong? And where does said judge obtain that authority? It is not enough to rest this judgment on civil law alone, for civil laws are created by men, and as such, are subjective. What if a society decided that rape and murder were not crimes? Would those acts then be morally right?
Civil law in Hitler’s Germany not only authorized but obligated the extermination of the Jews. At the Nuremberg Trials, the Nazis argued that the Allies had no right to condemn them because they had done nothing but live in harmony with the only law to which they claimed accountability – German law. But the prosecution correctly argued that the Nazis were being judged, not merely according to International Law (to which the Nazis also denied accountability), but according to a law higher than any human law, a law described by prosecutor Robert Jackson as one that “rises above the provincial and transient” (Nuremberg Trial Proceedings, 26 July 1946). That is, the law extends beyond any national boundary and any era of time. The only source for a law that rises above the provincial and the transient is a Being that rises above the provincial and transient.
If there is no God, there is no evil. If evil exists, then God exists.
Nuremberg Trial Proceedings, v.19, p. 397 (187th day, 26 July 1946). The Avalon Project. Yale Law School. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/07-26-46.asp. Accessed July 19, 2016.
Simpson, George Gaylord. The Meaning of Evolution, a Study of the History of Life and of Its Significance for Man. New Haven: Yale UP, 1949. Print.