Should God prevent evil in the world?

Skeptics often cite some circumstance in the world to argue that God doesn’t, or likely doesn’t exist.  Excessive poverty, hunger, and other evils are among the top complaints.  They seem to think that God should provide solutions with no explanation of where this ideal comes from, it certainly doesn’t come from any holy writ.

What I mean is that I don’t know of any religion which boasts that people won’t experience hunger or suffering, or receive equal blessings, in fact many of them predict it.  Why then would this be seen as a liability for the existence of God?  How can it be a liability if no religions make the claim?

What about atrocities present in third-world countries?  Have critics failed to consider a significant reason for it: third-world countries are overwhelmingly run under dictatorships, and not benevolent prosperity minded leaders.  They are frighteningly oppressive.  When financial and food aid is provided by nations like the United States, it is often confiscated by the government.  Impoverished nations aren’t poor by chance or accident, they are poor by the will of their government.

I generally like to offer skeptics who protest the evil and suffering in the world a couple of things to consider.  Humans generally suffer at the hands of other humans.  Third-world poverty is inflicted on those people by their government.  Rape victims suffer at the hand of the rapist, and the murdered by their murderer.  This complaint against evil and suffering omits human freedom from the equation.

To the skeptic who replies: “Although we have free will, God supposedly is in control of what we do and plans for us to do what we do.” I must ask: How much of your freedom are you willing to relinquish to eliminate evil and suffering? Who decides how much suffering is too much?  What is the right amount?  How should it be reduced or eliminated?  Where is the cut off, and how is that decided?  Should God allow any evil or suffering?  But what would that look like?  If we are asking God to rid us of evil and suffering, we must use His definition of evil, not ours.  Is the skeptic prepared for that?  According to God’s standard, every white lie is evil.  Every missed opportunity to do something good is evil.

We surely cannot separate the act from the actor.  It is the heart of a man from which flows his actions.  Have you lied?  I have.  How many times?  People who lie are liars.  Are liars good people?  Ever said something hateful or felt hatred for a person?  Is hate good; do good people hate?  When you ask God to eliminate evil from the world, take a step back and contemplate where that might leave you.  We need to think carefully about the things we ask God to correct.  Evil is more than “more evil than me”.  We cannot overlook our own evil when making this objection, we all are part of the problem.  Remember, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it, and may not like it when you do.

Comments

  1. Here’s a link that some of your readers might find interesting: http://fellowshiproom.org/2013/12/23/reminder-about-the-apologetics-press-2014-debate/

  2. paynehollow says:

    John, interesting post, interesting questions. Where you ask this line of questions…

    How much of your freedom are you willing to relinquish to eliminate evil and suffering?

    I certainly agree with your conclusion: The “problem” of atrocities is laid at our feet. As long as we have free choice, we will have some of us make decisions that cause pain and suffering. To eliminate bad choices, you have to eliminate people.

    But just to clarify a side point… Where you say…

    Impoverished nations aren’t poor by chance or accident, they are poor by the will of their government.

    I would just add the caveat that impoverished nations are poor for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to poor governance. It would be too simplistic to lay poverty at only this one source. The actions of other nations (wars, the installation of puppet regimes, support for thugs and terrorists, etc add to problems and poverty of nations), limited resources, etc. all contribute to the poverty of nations.

    But that is an aside…

    ~Dan

  3. Sadly, I agree with Dan on the last point. Nations are poor for many reasons, including – but not limited to – bad government.

  4. vincedeporter says:

    Excellent article, well argued.

    I do agree that man is the reason for this world’s ills.
    I cannot accuse God, as I do not believe he is a real person — at least described in the Bible.

    So again, humanity is suffering the greed, oppression, and wickedness from it’s own species. By far the most self destructive in the Natural world.

    However, when we discuss the Bible, I must point to the fact that the Creator is also called “Heavenly Father”, and many times He is compared to a Father, not only for heavenly creatures, but mankind.

    What I see is that children, no matter how mature, must abide to a Father’s rules while living under his roof. Symbolically and from a Bible perspective, humanity must abide to the Father’s rules, as they live under his “roof” (Earth).
    How so?
    Because the Father is responsible for his household.
    If the strongest children oppress the weaker ones, this Paternal entity ought to protect the weaker, no matter if they in turn are not perfect children.
    The issue grows thicker as we dig deeper, but my point for now is that man is nothing to rob God from his authority and responsibility.

    In real life, a father that would let his household turn to mayhem right under his nose, letting some of his children die of hunger or controlled and abused by their siblings, would deserve and get prison for neglect and abuse. He cannot evade his responsibility as parent.

    So why the double standard for the ultimate Father of the Universe?

    • Thanks Vince, that was a great comment. I think though I answer that in the post itself. Gow much freedom are you willing to forgo in order to have a more cleaner house? With freedom comes consequenses.

      We can see this in our own lives as parents, to keep your analogy. What if we give our own children free run of their lives? Sure some might be able to handle it responsibly. But most would cause havoc to themselves amd their homes. How is that corrected? We as parents remove degrees of freedom. We make most choices for them.

      So which aspects of your life are you willing to cede back to God in order to alleviate the evil and suffering you deem to cross the line?

  5. vincedeporter says:

    Good point, John.

    Freedom does come with consequences, and it is true that God has given mankind free will.

    May I address two things that still bother me:

    Is it “free will” if the choice is obey or die (or hell)?
    Is this not what we call in plain english an “ultimatum”?
    I believe so, because death/damnation is not a choice, it’s a punishment.

    Granted, I for one choose to not obey the God of the Bible per se (my journey is explained on my page), so you may argue that I chose death — but this is not my understanding of the words “free will”.

    Second point.
    To use a popular truism, “with great power, comes great responsibility.”
    A per Biblical description, God has infinite power, while his children do not.
    Only God has ultimate power.
    This was the premise of my comment.
    No responsible Father would actually GIVE his children the ‘free will’ to oppress each other in his own household, when his wisdom is far above that of his children.

    Am I making some sense?

    • I think we have a choice. Going back to my children, clean your room or … Speak with respect or … Dont lie to us or …

      I think the majority of unbelievers refuse to bend the knee for exactly what your comment states. God seems like a demanding petty narcissist. Its not because theres no evidence. But we have the choice to trust what we are told in the Bible or not. If we dont trust it then there is a consequence for the choice. I dont think its an active “hmm. I think I’d rather be punished and damned in hell rather than go to heaven”. Its more of a choice to rebel and that is the choice, to not believe or obey.

  6. vincedeporter says:

    I apologize as I forgot to address your latter point:
    “So which aspects of your life are you willing to cede back to God in order to alleviate the evil and suffering you deem to cross the line?”

    When I was a Christian, it was never up to me to cede back any authority to God.
    He is the sole decider of our fate. We cannot place this on what we wish or not — either he is the ultimate Judge and Father, or he is not.

    I will stand corrected if my reasoning is flawed…

  7. vincedeporter says:

    I think you make a strong point, with which I must agree:
    “I think the majority of unbelievers refuse to bend the knee for exactly what your comment states. God seems like a demanding petty narcissist. Its not because theres no evidence.”

    In fact, I will admit that before I turned atheist, I had an intermediate stage of anger against Him. Evidence was not my main quest… what turned me around was the character of God thru his Word the Bible.

    Again here, you totally understand the point. I have many times argued my stance like you just did:
    “…we have the choice to trust what we are told in the Bible or not. If we don’t trust it then there is a consequence for the choice.”

    I cannot agree more.

    One can’t really choose to believe one way or another per se — but the SOURCES that we choose to trust are what will influence our beliefs, or question our natural ones.

    My quest is an honest one. I have paid the price of this. Maybe I am wrong, in which case I will indeed be punished. The only thing I can say about that, is that my journey was an honest one. If God exists, he knows that.
    If he is a Loving God, I have nothing to fear. If I get eternal hell, then I was right about his character.

    That is why I do not fear my sincere understanding to date.

  8. vincedeporter says:

    I must go for now, as my children are here, and they are the most important loves of my life! Thank you for this constructive discussion. :)

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