Thursday, January 5, 2017

Three Quick Approaches to Responding to the Problem of Evil

Suppose someone told you that they were a skeptic or they had a loved one who was a skeptic, and that the biggest "bug" for them about the existence of God is the problem of evil. This conversation actually happened to me one night as I was closing up the dealership. I had a daughter with her Mom, who were believers, asking this question as part of an off the subject of buying a car.

As someone who teaches on the subject of apologetics and worldview, this problem cannot be answered by any worldview outside the Christian worldview.  The pantheistic religions say that evil does not exist or that it is maya (non existent). The atheistic worldview finds it a problem that we all have to reconcile in ourselves, or blame someone, and for those who are its victims, one just needs to tough it out.

Only the Christian worldview has three approaches to answering to the problem of evil, and this what I would like to address in this posting.  I have written on this subject in the past, so some of this might sound a little familiar.  While we have storms (natural evil) and sickness, illness and disease, this posting will address the third kind of evil.  This is the problem of moral evil.

What are those approaches?  One approach addresses the objection to the problem evil from a logical angle. The second one addresses the fact that man is created by his/her Creator as a free "moral" agent.  The third and final approach comes out of the cross.  I will address each of these and then let you mull them over as you read them.

Approach #1: The existence of evil breaks down logical when countering the existence of God.  Whenever someone presents an objection pointing to the problem of evil there are a couple ways to address this objection.

One way is to use the approach of one of my literary mentors, Ravi Zacharias, who was once challenged with this objection in a Q and A forum. We need to the understand that the objection on the problem of evil is making a moral pronouncement.

So if one were to say that there was such a thing as evil, then there must be, in the eyes of the objector, such a thing as "good." But if there is such a thing as good, there also has to be a standard by which one can use to determine good from evil. Let's assume that standard to be some kind of "moral law."  But if the one making the objection grants that a moral law exists, they are assuming that there is a source for that "moral law" or a "moral lawgiver.

This is where the objection self-destructs. For if there is no moral lawgiver (God), then there is no moral law.  If there is no moral law then there is no good.  Lastly if there is no good, then there can be no way to determine or say there is such a thing as evil.

Another way to look at this is that whenever one raises the objection of the existence of evil, and in particular moral evil, it must be noted that they recognize a problem. Another response would be to ask the person making the objection that since they recognize there is a problem, are they willing to begin with the problem of evil within them.

This brings us to the second approach, and this reinforces the first approach.

Approach #2:  Man is created as a "free creature," and as a "free creature" man can use that freedom responsibly or misuse that freedom irresponsibly.  If we say that God is loving, and that love is the highest ethic, we must acknowledge that God created mankind as a free autonomous creation capable of expressing him or herself in the image of God. That being said, that God-given freedom can be used or abused.

We look around us today and we good and bad all around us. You look on Facebook and we see the misuses of human freedom all over the world and we call that evil. Why. Because man is fallen and misused his freedom in bad ways.  By creating man as a free creature, God made evil possible. But it is the creature who makes the evil actual.  What is the solution?  That comes in the third approach to this problem.

Approach #3: The cross of Christ was an act of evil upon an innocent Man who committed no sin, and spoke no guile.  Christianity is full of paradoxes and one of those answers the problem of evil from the cross of Christ at Golgotha.

At the cross we have an act of evil upon an innocent man. We know that Scripture tells us that Jesus was tempted like you and I are tempted, but He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).  The Romans were masters at torturing slowly their victims by the placement of the nails and the positioning of the body of those who were being executed.

Jesus did not die as a misguided martyr. He willingly died for the things He taught and did, that were seen by the religious establishment as heresy and magic. This was not an act of suicide by a lunatic but a willful act of love to pay for the penalty caused by the evil in our own hearts.

Through the evil action of the cross, God turned the tables and turned it into an act of love (John 3:16; Romans 5:8), a declaration of forgiveness by Jesus toward those who sinned against Him (Luke 23:34); and a pronouncement of one's justification before God for all who believe (Romans 5:1).

Putting this all in one neat package, in responding to the objection against the existence of God that is  appealing to the problem of evil, you and I can respond with the fact that the one making the objection has to deal with a few issues. As I just shared,  God made evil possible by creating man as a free creature. It is the free man who makes that evil possible by misusing that God given freedom to commit acts of evil against his fellow man and against a holy, righteous, just, and loving God who created man with a sanctity of human life.

Remember that this objection breaks down logically and ultimately turns the objection on the one making the object, to address the problem of evil in their own heart. As we respond to this objection, we need to remember to keep it humble. Let us remember that when we bring the person with the objection, we need to remember that it is not just their heart, but it is also about the problem of evil in your heart and mine that can only be solved by going to the cross, where love, justice and forgiveness are answered in the action of the sinless Savior on a cross.

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