Answering Atheism (Eight)

It is written:

“And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10  if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.” (Jeremiah 18:9-10)

In order to adequately answer the atheist argument from evil against God, we must understand what evil actually is.

Atheists, of course, hold to the view that there is no such thing as evil because they claim that there is no ultimate and objective source of morality. Of course, the moral framework within mankind as evidenced through every culture throughout time shows they this isn’t the case. So also does the fact that the objective code within mankind does not describe what cultural morals are, but rather what they “ought” to be.

For example, even though many of the Germans in World War 2 were indoctrinated through cultural brainwashing that exterminating the Jews was in the best interest of Germany, many of the citizens of that nation helped to protect and deliver Jewish people. Why? Because it was “the right thing to do.” Objective morality transcends the cultures of man and testifies of God’s existence.

Yet we are still left with the puzzle: what exactly is evil?

Many teach that evil is some kind of living being, the very antithesis of God. This is a view taught by many of the religions in the world. Yet two evidences establish very clearly that evil is not some eternal being who is equal in strength and power with God.

First, evil can only exist in that which is first good, showing us that evil cannot be eternal. Lewis has well pointed out:

“In other words badness cannot succeed even in being bad in the same way in which goodness is good. Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled. We called sadism a sexual perversion; but you must first have the idea of a normal sexuality before you can talk of its being perverted; and you can see which is the perversion, because you can explain the perverted from the normal, and cannot explain the normal from the perverted. It follows that this Bad Power, who is supposed to be on an equal footing with the Good Power, and to love badness in the same way as the Good Power loves goodness, is a mere bogy. In order to be bad he must have good things to want and then to pursue in the wrong way: he must have impulses which were originally good in order to be able to pervert them. But if he is bad he cannot supply himself either with good things to desire or with good impulses to pervert. He must be getting both from the Good Power. And if so, then he is not independent. He is part of the Good Power’s world: he was made either by the Good Power or by some power above them both. Put it more simply still. To be bad, he must exist and have intelligence and will. But existence, intelligence and will are in themselves good. Therefore he must be getting them from the Good Power: even to be bad he must borrow or steal from his opponent. And do you now begin to see why Christianity has always said that the devil is a fallen angel? That is not a mere story for the children. It is a real recognition of the fact that evil is a parasite, not an original thing. The powers which enable evil to carry on are powers given it by goodness. All the things which enable a bad man to be effectively bad are in themselves good things—resolution, cleverness, good looks, existence itself. That is why Dualism, in a strict sense, will not work. But I freely admit that real Christianity (as distinct from Christianity-and-water) goes much nearer to Dualism than people think. One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe—a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 43-45 (Kindle Edition); HarperCollins e-Books)

Second, before anything can be identified as evil, there must be an ultimate standard of goodness by which the evil is judged as such. Therefore when we speak of God (the uncaused First Cause), we are speaking of that ultimate Goodness which is an intrinsic part of His Nature. Being the uncaused First Cause, God is that goodness which is prior to the existence of evil.

Evil is not some separate form of life which is the opposite of goodness (ie, the philosophical ideology known as dualism). Instead, evil is a corruption of goodness, a rebellion against the perfectly holy God and His moral framework evidenced throughout the universe.

Is this not exactly what God told Jeremiah evil really is-when people refuse to hear and heed God’s Word?

Yet how did evil arise in a perfectly good universe? How could perfectly good creatures (like Satan/Lucifer and Adam and Eve) choose to do evil?

That will be the focus of our next study.

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