I type this as Russian helicopters fly over Ukrainian villages. People in Ukraine, likely including people I know and have taught and baptized years ago, are suffering and dying. From my perspective, all of this is happening because of greed and selfishness. It’s such a waste. It’s needless and it’s horrible.
It’s also nothing new. Suffering and evil exist in the world. We all know it. We see it just about every day, if not in our own personal lives then whenever we turn on the news. We deal with it ourselves, as does everyone else. We try not to let it overcome us, and sometimes…or oftentimes…we fail. This applies to Christians and non-Christians alike.
When those outside of Christ experience evil and suffering and see others experience it, it motivates some of them to refuse to believe in God. They conclude that the God of love talked about in the Bible cannot exist if he allows horrors to occur. This also is nothing new. It’s a question which has been asked for millennia. How can a loving God allow evil, pain, and hardship to exist in the world he created? Can he not stop it? That would not make him God, would it? God is supposed to be all-powerful, after all. Perhaps he could prevent it but chooses not to do so. If that’s the case, how could he be good as the Bible describes him to be? And if he has both the power and the willingness to stop evil from occurring, why does evil continue to exist?
Here’s my question in response. Is it possible that a legitimately good and just purpose is served by God allowing evil and suffering in the world?
Consider this. What exactly is evil? Basically, evil is the absence of good. That means that in order for evil to exist, there must be some standard of good which is violated by whatever is called evil.
Friedrich Nietzsche didn’t believe in absolute good and absolute evil. He wrote in Beyond Good and Evil, “There are no moral phenomena at all, only a moral interpretation of phenomena.” Yet if I told him that morality exists, he would say that I was…wait for it…wrong. Well, how could Nietzsche say I was wrong if the concept of wrong doesn’t exist?
Wrong does in fact exist…which means that the concept of right also exists. If wrong exists, right must exist. If evil exists, good must exist. Parents might smile when our kids watch Frozen and sing along with Elsa when she sings, “No right, no wrong, no rules for me”…but if we met someone in real life who promoted that worldview we’d think them extremely immature at best and insane at worst! Ask anyone if it would be okay to steal from them, rape them or their loved ones, or take their life. Almost everyone would quickly abandon the “anything goes” philosophy.
So evil exists, which means good also exists. Yet that raises another question. If God does not exist, then from where did this universal standard of good come?
Many who deny the existence of God say that morality comes from ourselves. They’re called naturalists. Naturalists also promote the notion that morality evolved from animals. For example, naturalist and atheist Michael Ruse wrote an article for The Guardian called “God Is Dead. Long Live Morality.” In it he says, “Morality then is not something handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is something forged in the struggle for existence and reproduction, something fashioned by natural selection.”
Let’s examine that notion. Did morality evolve from animals? Sure, I see animals caring for their young like humans do. I also see animals killing their own children at times and more, with no sign of remorse when they do so. I also see that human beings who supposedly evolved from animals oftentimes DO feel remorse for killing, stealing, and violating our moral standards in other ways. In fact, if such remorse doesn’t exist within a person, we diagnose them as sociopaths. We also feel the need to punish those who violate our moral code and even feel the need to discuss it, as I’m doing now. However, we don’t observe animals telling other animals that they need to discuss morality and ethics and punish those who violate them.
Besides, I thought humanity evolving from animals was all about “survival of the fittest.” Isn’t that the point of Charles Darwin’s theory of macro-evolution? Take note of the title of his famous book: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. The second part of that title is ignored these days, but consider its implications nonetheless. Favored races. What Hitler was all about. Natural selection, also. Evolving from animals is all about survival of the fittest…and our morality supposedly evolved from animals.
So why do I see living, breathing, thriving, completely immoral animals all around us every day? Shouldn’t these immoral animals not exist anymore? Yet animals have no sense of right and wrong, and they seem to be surviving just fine without them.
Naturalists would then posit that morality comes from ourselves. Let’s examine that notion. Picture two ancient cavemen sitting around their small fire next to the unconscious cavewoman they’ve just clubbed over the head and raped to satisfy their primitive, animalistic urges. Suddenly one of them says to the other one, “You know, we just did something bad. I propose that from now on we ask the woman for permission first. In fact, we need to fall in love with a woman and she also needs to fall in love with us. Furthermore, we need to make a life-long commitment of monogamy before any sort of consensual sex takes place. We’ll call this commitment…marriage. Oh, and knocking her out is also prohibited from here on out. Sound good?”
Why would the caveman have come up with these moralistic notions in the first place? I ask because Darwin wrote in his autobiography, “A man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal God or of a future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulse and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones.”
That caveman isn’t doing himself any favors by putting these moralistic limitations on himself. Without morality, he can satisfy any desire he wants simply by taking from others, even to the point of violating them or taking their lives. He doesn’t have to practice any kind of self-control or make any sacrifices whatsoever. It’s “his way or the highway.” He is king. So why would he come up with these rules of right and wrong which would require him to practice discipline, sacrifice, and put others before himself?
What influenced him to do so? If it was another caveman, where did that guy get the idea? He didn’t get it from the animal kingdom, that’s for sure. Those immoral animals from which he supposedly evolved still exist. Besides, no human being (in this hypothetical world we’re discussing in which God does not exist) has ever completely done what is right in all situations, nor has anyone ever known what is right from their first moment of existence. Right and wrong has always had to have been taught to all of us.
So from where did morality come, if not from mankind or the animals? From where did the concept of good come? The only answer available is God.
In order for evil to exist, the concept of good must exist. In order for good to exist, God must exist. Evil’s existence proves good’s existence…which proves God’s existence. That’s one reason why a loving God would allow evil and suffering to exist in the world which he created.