This is a continuation of the 50 supposed questions Christians could not answer. You can find the full list here.
3. If God is so perfect, then why did he create something so imperfect allowing pain, suffering and daily atrocities?
The question that is really being asked is why would a perfect God allow evil if he is all powerful, all knowing, and all loving. To many atheists and skeptics, this would not be sensible. So conversely, if we have pain, suffering, and atrocities, there is no God.
*God is not perfect
*God does not exist
The Greek philosopher Epicurus put it this way.
“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?”
The problem of evil is one many Christians have a hard time responding to, but if Christian’s recognize that it is impossible to have ‘evil’ without a base line to measure exactly what evil is, then evil is simply a matter of opinion. Simply put, evil is the absence of good. Let me give you three examples that will help you understand my point.
How do we gauge cold? Cold is the absence of heat, more specifically the absence of the kinetic energy in the molecules of a substance, or the motion of the molecules. In 2010, NASA data recorded a new record for cold here on earth at -135 in Antarctica. Absolute zero is defined to be -273 degrees. At -273, all molecular movement stops. No molecular movement and you have cold, our base line to measure heat.
How do we convey blackness? Blackness is measured by the absence of color. For those who are tech savvy, it is obvious in our everyday 24-bit computer monitors. All the pixels that make up a computer screen have a red, green, blue, (RGB), display and each RGB has a range of 0-255. If all three have a range of 255, 255, 255, you see white pixel your screen. Alternatively, if you have a value of 0,0,0 you have black pixel. So 0,0,0 is our base line to measure color.
How we we judge darkness? Darkness is measured by the absence of light. When you don’t have any electromagnetic waves, (light), you have complete darkness. Darkness is not a color, so complete darkness is without light waves. You can’t measure darkness, because there would be nothing to measure. Absolute darkness is void of light waves. Light and dark are not two separate things, just as hot and cold are not two separate things. Cold and hot are both a measure of temperature. You measure one by the absence of another.
Those three examples should give you an idea on how to deal with the problem of evil. Evil and good are not two separate things, they are both a measure of morality. The character of God, his perfect character, is the baseline to which we measure all evil. Anything which is not inline with His flawless character is evil.
Carl Gallups put it this way, “In the same way that cold, dark, and black only exist in the absence of heat, light, and color, evil only exists in the absence of good.” 1
Problems arise when fallen man starts to set the base line, or the standard to which we measure moral behavior. Michael Welner created the ‘Depravity Scale‘, which measures the degree of cruelty and wickedness that can be applied to a crime. His intention is for jurors to use it to measure the severity of a crime, just as we might use a ruler to measure the length of a 2 x 4 Doug fur.
As the system stands now, “you run the risk of what’s heinous to one person is not heinous to another person,” says Jack Doherty, head of the disciplinary board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and a former defense attorney. He believes the Depravity Scale will bring the courts out of the “dark ages” of subjectivity in weighing particularly horrible crimes. 2
What they fail to realize is that they are only measuring the current culture’s definition of cruelty and wickedness. We live in a time that Francis Schaeffer, (founder of L’Abri), called ‘sociological law’. Our laws and entertainment change as our cultures change.
During the Roman Civilization, it was lawful and entertaining to throw people to wild animals, and to watch gladiators fight to the death. In the 1950′s, it was unlawful for homosexuals to be married, for women to have abortions, and for men to pay for sex. Sixty years later all are lawful, all are acceptable, and in some instances, celebrated, depending on the state or city.
In another sixty years, we might be shocked to the extent of our moral decay. Certainly someone who was transported from the 1950’s to 2014 would be appalled at what popular culture considers acceptable behavior and qualifies as moral or ethical mainstream.
And no, I don’t have naive Norman Rockwell view of the 1950’s, or even the 1850’s. Yes there was murder, rape, prostitution, and abortion in the 1950’s. I get that. But we have indicators which attest to the godless direction our country is heading. One example is the original motto of Harvard University which demonstrates how far we have slipped into moral decay.
“Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3). 3 Harvard is now one of the most anti-god, secular universities in the U.S.
Timothy Keller wrote, “One of the most frequent statements I heard was that, ‘Every person has the right to define right and wrong, for himself or herself.’ I always responded to the speakers by asking, “Is there anyone in the world right now, doing things you believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about the correctness of their behavior?” They would invariably say, “Yes, of course.” Then I would ask, “Doesn’t that mean you do believe there is some kind of moral reality that is ‘there’ that is not defined by us, that must be abided by regardless of that a person feels or thinks?” Almost always, the response to that question was a silence, either a thoughtful or a grumpy one.” 4
Now we can come up with examples like the Holocaust, and hundreds of other historical events, that tug on our heart strings. Just about everyone would agree that the Holocaust, or the torture of young children ‘for the fun of it’ is evil, but there are a few who don’t see it that way. Yes, they agree it is wrong, in a natural sort of way. It is wrong because that kind of behavior does not aid in human flourishing. The atheist does not believe it is wrong because some higher being would tell us it is wrong.
What they don’t realize, or choose to ignore, is you can’t call something evil unless you have something to refer back to. Without the moral compass Christ provides, our actions as a culture sway with the wind of popular opinion.
If we just rely on opinion polls, (as politicians often do so they can be re-elected), to decide what kind of behavior is acceptable, then behavior is nothing more than a favorite flavor of ice cream. Those who don’t believe in right or wrong behavior, are firm in their convictions until someone cuts them off on the highway, or steals their wallet. Those who say they don’t believe in evil might think differently if you kidnap and torture their family.
Cold is our baseline to measure heat. Dark is our baseline to measure color. Black is our baseline to measure light. Each exist only in the absence of another. God’s perfect character is the baseline to measure evil.
You see, to measure anything you need to start somewhere. When you measure a 2 x 4, the beginning of the tape goes on one end so you can determine the length. Minus 273 is the point we begin to measure cold. RGB 0,0,0 for each is the point we begin to measure color on a computer screen. The absence of light waves provides us with a beginning to measure light. Finally, God’s perfect character is the starting point we begin to measure evil, the beginning of the tape measure.
Anything outside of God’s perfect goodness is evil, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant the sin. Our fallen nature, our freedom to choose to do things outside the character of Christ, will always leave us short of the perfect base line God’s nature provides us to value morality.
So when atheists or skeptics bring up the problem of evil, and why a perfect and loving God would allow evil and suffering, they have already, unbeknownst, acknowledged that God exists. Because, without the starting point of good, you can’t weigh evil.
1. Gallups, Karl. The Magic Man in the Sky. WND Books, 2012. Print.
2. Libaw, Oliver. “Creating a Scale to Measure Evil” ABC News abcnewsgo.com, 14 May 2014. Web. 29, June 2014
3. Roberts, Mark. “Harvard Ironies” Patheos. patheos.com, 2010. Web. 30, June 2014.
4. Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God. New York: Penguin Group, 2008. Print.
48 Questions Christian’s can’t answer by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.