The Question of Good and Evil

The Devil and The Question of Good and Evil

When you hear people talk about Satan, do you visualize a little man with horns wearing a red suit and holding a pitchfork? In our modern world, many people dismiss the idea of Satan as a long-discarded relic of ancient myths. The movie industry creatively portrays him as a human in a business suit in “Damn Yankees” or a monster in Halloween horror films. In considering the reality of Satan, we must examine the question of good and evil.

Some atheists maintain that there is no such thing as evil. Perhaps the leading spokesman for atheism in today’s world is Richard Dawkins. He wrote,” The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference” (River Out of Eden, page 133). If you believe that the physical world is all there is, then no behavior is right or wrong. Therefore, sin doesn’t exist, and there is no act a human can do that can be logically called evil. Dawkins admits this by continuing with, “DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.” 

Those who have worked in prisons or served in the military (and your author has done both) find this position unacceptable. It is naive to say that war, abuse, rape, pedophile behavior, murder, or racism are not evil. Dawkin’s position makes any meaningful standard of morality useless. Nothing can be immoral or evil if evil doesn’t exist. It is difficult for me to believe that an honest, thinking person would attempt to deny that there is such a thing as evil. 

The question of good and evil then becomes, “How are good and evil brought into the world?” Evil is not a physical thing like a rock. Evil is a choice of a sentient being. Some people say that God created evil, but that is an ignorant position. James 1:13 tells us God cannot tolerate evil in any form (no temptation). God is love—it’s His very nature. Jesus brought the concept of agape love that sees something infinitely precious as its object. If you don’t comprehend that, you will never understand much of the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5 – 7.

The Old Testament uses the Hebrew word for evil means to spoil, break into pieces, or make worthless. The Greek word for evil in the New Testament means to have a hurtful effect or influence. If God exists and is good and love, it is logical that there would be the absence of good and love. It is not reasonable to deny that hate and evil exist. The question of good and evil that remains is how evil came into the world. If God brings us love and good, how do hate and evil come to us? Tomorrow we will explore that question. 

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Comments on Human Suffering from a Reader

Comments on Human Suffering from a Reader

We don’t often publish a response from a reader, but the following comments on human suffering were so good I had to share them:

“The classic argument against the existence of God fails because of a false dichotomy. Quite simply, no one is in a position to know that it is God’s agenda to remove all suffering and evil from the world.
*God created neither good nor evil. Good is an extension of His essence. Evil is merely the absence of good.
*Although God is ultimately in control, He does not control every event. The One who created the world – electrons, protons, energy, physical parameters – does not micromanage.
*Those who blame God on account of suffering – or deny there is a God, given the degree of the world’s suffering – are open to the charge of hypocrisy unless they are actively involved in doing something about the problem.”

Each of these three comments on human suffering raises many questions for discussion. The last point is especially interesting. It is easy to sit in the philosopher’s chair and complain about why God doesn’t or can’t do something about human suffering. It is more important to get involved in correcting those things that cause much of the suffering.

Pollution, violence, prejudice, hate, greed, selfishness, arrogance, etc. are things we can all do something about. “Survival of the fittest” does not address these causes of suffering. In fact, it is one of the major causes of suffering.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Existence of Evil Challenges Atheism

Existence of Evil Challenges Atheism

One of the challenges atheists frequently raise to belief in God is the question of evil. The argument is that if God exists and if God is good and all-powerful, why does evil exist? If there is evil, according to the atheist view, then that God does not exist. The truth is that the existence of evil challenges atheism.

The presence of evil is a bigger problem for atheists than it is for Christians. From a Christian perspective, evil is a product of the rejection of God. The Bible portrays human existence is as a battleground between good and evil, between God and the forces of Satan. The book of Job is the clearest example, but the Bible covers this theme again and again.

The existence of evil challenges atheism as the famous philosopher Alan Plantinga describes:

“Could there really be any such thing as horrifying wickedness if there were no God and we just evolved? I don’t see how. There can be such a thing only if there is a way that rational creatures are supposed to live, obliged to live… A secular way of looking at the world has no place for genuine moral obligation of any sort … and thus no way there is such a thing as genuine and appalling wickedness. Accordingly, if you think there really is such a thing as horrifying wickedness and not just an illusion of some sort, then you have a powerful argument for the reality of God.” (From Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God pages 26-27)

Atheism has no way of giving a purpose for human existence. That leads atheists like Richard Dawkins to maintain that there is no such thing as good or evil (see Dawkin’s book River Out of Eden, page 133). If an atheist rationally believes that evil does not exist, they negate their challenge to belief in God. Therefore, the existence of evil challenges atheism.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Take the High Road

Take the High RoadSeveral years ago, I was giving a lecture on the existence of God in a university science auditorium in downtown Chicago. I had shown the strong evidence that the cosmos was not the product of chance. At the beginning of the question/answer session, an atheist jumped to his feet, ran to a window on the edge of the auditorium, drew open the curtain, and pointed to the ghetto that surrounded the university. “If there was a God,” the atheist shouted, “He would never let a mess like this exist!” He then went into details about the pain, disease, loneliness, and poverty that was so dominant in inner-city neighborhoods. A huge sign left over from an inner-city high school career day hung in the auditorium where we were meeting. The sign said, “Take the High Road out of the Neighborhood-Get an Education.”

I asked the atheist about the meaning of the sign. He responded that it meant that the university offered programs that would help young people develop their talents so they could get a job and work their way out of poverty. “Does it take any effort or involvement on the part of the young people themselves?” I asked. “Of course,” he said. I replied, “God has never done for us what we could do for ourselves. If you want to take the high road out poverty, drugs, abuse, prostitution, or any other destructive behavior, you have to take advantage of the opportunities given to you.”

The road to destruction is a road of inactivity. It’s a road where we expect God or other people to solve our problems with no activity on our part. If we follow the low road, it won’t solve the problems. It will lead to a lack of appreciation, lack of satisfaction, lack of identity, lack of commitment, and poor self-esteem. There are many applications of this to welfare, foreign aid, and other problems of our government.

When people look at the problems of society today and ask why God doesn’t solve them, two fundamental principles apply. The first is that God is not the source of our problems. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that there is a spiritual battle going on between good and evil. Galatians 6:7-8 also tells us that a large percentage of what happens to us is our own doing. The purpose of our existence requires us to have the choice between good and evil, but with that choice comes negative consequences when we choose evil.

The second principle is that God expects us to be involved in overcoming the destructive forces in our lives. I firmly believe that my journey out of atheism and my ability to cope with a severely damaged child did not happen because of my own strength. But God did not step in and force a solution on me in either of those situations. I had to make an effort and do what I could. Once I had done all I could and gone as far as I could go, God did the rest. You will not see a single case in the Bible where God forced a person to take the high road.

A large percentage of the good things that are happening in the ghettos and substance abuse clinics is because the people doing them have tapped into God and believe that He will make things happen when they do all that they can. Deciding to take the high road to the solutions to human problems involves work and allowing God to supply what you cannot do yourself. If you have not sincerely tried it, please do not knock it, because it works.
— John N. Clayton © 2019