Education Evangelism Theology

The Apologetic of Evil (1)

This is part one of a three part summary of my talk given to the Keswick convention on the 16th of July. It is not the actual talk itself but rather notes and a summary but you get the main gist. You can get the link here.

You can get the original here audio here –



  1. Yes – a very important question about evil and one which many people question about God, why he allows it. The Psalms are full of it!

    I’m not sure precisely what your argument is David. I’m genuinely seeking to understand where you are coming from on this as to what you are arguing against? Is it the premise you have that that the atheist position is one of moral relativity and therefore cannot talk of evil as we are just blobs of carbon and “Dachau is wrong is not a fact” in the atheist worldview?

    I don’t have any problem with there being some atheists who are inconsistent with their position. At the same time I have had fulling discussions with atheists on occasion regarding the question of evil and the existence of God. One discussion where the atheist asserted that either God must not exist or he must be evil to allow all the suffering that goes on in the world.

    the best I could do on this occasion was to enter into dialogue with respect for him and to challenge his assumptions. We came to the conclusion that I was coming for a position of faith and he was coming form a position of scientific proof of the existence of God, we shook hands and agreed to disagree.

    I think you have mentioned elsewhere something I have found helpful David in talking about “proof” as in what would be the “evidence” that an atheist would need for the existence of God.

    Another good way of engaging I have found is that rather than evil being an indication or either no God or an evil God that doesn’t intervene, it being a sign of God that allows choices to to evil or good and a measure of the freedom he gives. For, if he were not to allow evil then that would be removing choice. Also that according to the biblical account, he does intervene. God did not even withhold his son Jesus who shared in the suffering of humanity in order to reconcile humanity to God and it was the evil of humanity that put him on the cross and crucified him.

  2. David, just because you don’t like the implications of a godless universe doesn’t make it untrue. Craig suffers from this same problem. He just doesn’t like it. In the end, his and your response seems to be the intellectual equivalent of “Waaaaah”.
    You think this world is Hell without a God? Then what is it with a God? Different? Dead babies are suddenly glorious? The holocaust is somehow less tragic? I don’t understand how you think. I really don’t.

  3. Also, BTW, Craig immediately retracted his “Evil proves God” argument when it was pointed out that you only need to change the word “evil” to “suffering”.
    I’m going to challenge you to think of the world as Godless. I’m going to challenge you to think about the world as though there is only Us: Humans, some other life forms, and then vast, indifferent space. That’s it. That’s all we have.
    The reason we humans think the holocaust was so horrible was that it was unnecessary and led to the cessation of human life. If there is no afterlife (God or no god), then this is all we have – and Hitler, and his minions, took it upon themselves to dictate who would live or die. That’s an offense to anyone who wants to live. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

    1. Love such simplistic world views. I don’t share your blind faith – it is so logically inconsistent. For example you condemn the holocaust because it was unnecessary (who says?) and led to the cessation of human life. But why would the latter bother you if you believe that humans are just chemicals who are all going to die anyway. Besides which do you agree that we have the right to determine whether babies in the womb live or die?

      1. I condemn the holocaust because they killed atheists – and 12 million other people. I don’t want to live in a world where that happens. Why is this so mysterious for you?
        Humans ARE chemicals – chemicals I can relate to. And if I’m going to die anyway, then wouldn’t that make life infinitely precious?
        Further, you always take this tact: “I don’t like to think of death being forever, therefore you’re wrong.” The challenge isn’t to come up with reasons to dislike Reality but to understand it.
        As it is, sadly – truly tragically – those people who died in the Holocaust are gone. Many of them forgotten forever. That’s what a tragedy is. In your world view it was a glorious event where men, women and children were able to teach us heroism, compassion, and ultimately, they were able to meet God. To you, abortion is a fast-track to God. The only true tragedy in your view is that people don’t love Jesus like you do.
        I think starvation is tragic. They die in agony and sorrow, and then they are gone. But you would say “oh, no, if you give me money in the collection plate, i’ll tell you a happy tale about how their deaths end in glory, and we are better for it – because I wouldn’t want a world without pain!”

      2. Brent – I almost admire the intensity of your faith and belief! You accept that humans are just chemicals and that we are as Betrand Russell puts it ‘a blob of carbon floating from one meaningless existence to another’ – and yet you claim that life is ‘infinitely’ precious. Not bad from someone who does not believe in the infinite!

        Yes the people who died in the Holocaust are gone. So are most of the people who lived at that time. It takes a really bizzare and sick kind of perverse reasoning to think that I exalt in the holocaust and regard it as a ‘glorious event’! Even more so to say that abortion is a fast track to God – what kind of sick mind thinks that? Possibly the same one that would justify abortion anyway (I note you did not answer my question)….I think you really need help – perhaps you need to stop obsessing on a website of someone you do not agree with? Maybe its about time you actually tried to think, empathise and work out why the holocaust, abortion etc are evil?

      3. My “religion” is superior, so I feel good about it. I’m sure you feel the same about your choice of religions. But, I’m not sure how to respond to this wonderful example of Christian Apologetics! Did you not say that you wouldn’t want to live in a world that didn’t have pain – because without pain you wouldn’t know good things? Didn’t you use a chair as an example? Don’t you often appeal to the wonder of the universe as evidence of God? The universe has pain in it. It has horror. “And He saw that it was good.” Isn’t this the exact world your Good and Loving God would have made if he could do it again?
        How quickly you back away from your claims! Now you’re saying this world has horror and pain and it’s bad? Which is it? Is this the world your god made or not? Or, are you suggesting your god had no clue that Adam and Eve wouldn’t cause earthquakes, Hitler and disease by their actions?
        BTW, you said I didn’t answer your question. Which question? About abortion? I will never shy away from a question. I am against abortion personally, but feel it is important to keep legal. “Legal but rare” works for me – especially as we develop scientific means to reduce unwanted pregnancies, and care for orphaned children. We, not God, are our only help. Either we come up with a solution or pray our way to destruction – waiting for Sky Daddy to solve our problems – to wipe away our tears – and all that pablum Christians are quick to regurgitate.

      4. No – thats not what I said. I said I would not want to live in a world where there was ‘unnecessary’ or purposeless pain. Big difference. I also believe in The Fall – there was a change in the universe. Does legal but rare work for murder/drug taking/paedophilia? Either something is right or wrong. Do you think killing the child in the womb is right or wrong?

      5. 1. I’m pretty sure you made a reference to a chair. I’ll listen to your talk again. (And I do mean you did a good job, even though I disagree with 90% of it… and can’t remember the other 10%). But, if you don’t want to live in a world where there is ‘unnecessary’ or purposeless pain – why are you still here? There is, in this world, unnecessary pain. Now your gambit is to say “oh, prove there is no purpose”, which I would reply, “prove there is purpose in anything outside of human’s will.” Asserting there is a God, therefore everything has a purpose is speaking for God.
        Maybe God doesn’t agree with you?
        2. You assert there was a Fall. Prove it. You rest your eternal salvation on it, and you tell that story to grieving mothers and widows, and tell it to children. I think you have some obligation to back up the claim. Pointing the the OT is hardly proof.
        3. What’s wrong with drugs? Don’t they help people? Or are you talking about bad drugs… things that have “bad” as part of their definitional ontology? Like water. Too much water kills people. So, we could have a great conversation about this, but right now, I’ll say that it’s obvious to me we judge things on the relative harm it does to other sentient Beings.
        4. Is murder wrong according to the Bible? What is murder according to the Bible?
        Is pedophilia wrong according to the Bible and Church? Where does it mention it?
        Is taking drugs wrong, according to the Bible?
        5. “Either something is Right or wrong”: It’s not a B&W world… as someone recently reminded me. Which side of your mouth are you talking from today? I think killing a child in the womb is a difficult and calculated act. Like bombing Nagasaki. For a woman who was raped while she is going to college to be the first to graduate in her family – having a child would destroy her life, because of the society we live in (the society you claim from one side of the mouth is gloriously Christian, then from the other side, say is fallen). Our society treats unwed mothers viciously, and even Christians aren’t willing to enforce Yahweh’s rules that the victim must marry her rapist. Maybe if Christians were more focused on caring for the Born, rather than the Unborn and Reborn?

      6. YOu claim there is unnecessary pain- how can you know that? unless you know everything and are God!

        Prove the Fall? I see its consequences every day in the world.

        Yes – murder is wrong according to the Bible, so is paedophilia, so is reducing your humanity and rationality by getting drunk or out of your head on drugs.

        So you think it is ok for a mother to kill her child if looking after that child is going to prevent her going to college?! And Christians care for all life, born and unborn…atheists should try that!

      7. 1. If you believe in suffering in Hell, then you believe in unnecessary suffering. You have a self-contradictory position. The suffering of Hell is eternal – far longer than the universe will exist, and longer than if I was simply “snuffed out” – after the first trillion years, what possible need would their be for my suffering? To teach me a lesson? What lesson could I possible not have learned after a trillion years? To teach others? There will be no one left except those in Heaven, who won’t be aware of my suffering – or have no need for it.
        2. If you believe the flesh is inferior than it is you who is anti-Life. You may claim there is some “life force”, but that is contrary to all evidence but the ONLY life force we know of is made of flesh. If you think this is untrue, then clearly killing babies isn’t bad since removing them of their fleshly body simply frees them to enjoy their spiritual body. That’s Christianity for you. Which way do you want to spin this?

      8. Again you will note that you seem to be the one who determines what is necessary and unnecessary suffering. If God exists and is omniscient that surely he is in a better position to know that you?!

        Your omniscience clearly does not extend to your knowledge of what I believe otherwise you would not spend so much time arguing against what I do not believe! I don’t believe the flesh is inferior. And you have no evidence whatsoever that the only life force is the flesh. I don’t wish to spin anything – I just look for truth and logic….try it!

      9. David, that’s the default “Lazy Answer”: “God knows better than you!” I don’t think god is in a better position – nonexistence is not a better position. In reality, what difference is your answer that of someone defending Odin? “Oh, you think Frost Giants are ridiculous, who are you to question what Odin can do?” In reality, it reeks of a person who doesn’t know everything trying to speak for their God – how do you know God knows all that you claim? Have you spoken with him about it? Oh, wait, because some other guy like you, 5000 years ago, said his God knows everything…
        What does the Bible say about flesh? What about Paul?

  4. If I were an atheist
    I would have a real problem with:
    The indescribable beauty of the world
    The wonder of what I can see and hear and touch and feel
    The delight in making, inventing, planning, designing and building
    The promise of each new dawn and the glory of each sunset
    The pleasure in the great and the small things
    The crazy joy of human love and friendship
    The unquantifiable richness of companionship
    The support of fellow travellers
    It would be with:
    Joy and Peace and Hope
    With love……
    That would be just some of my problems

    1. I’m an atheist and I have no problem with any of those things. They are all wonderful and magical. There is a reason ancient people wrote them down as “goods”. There is a reason people think of those things so highly that when they invent their religion, they incorporate them into it. All of those things exist, as does the Joy, Peace and Hope when you become an atheist – and then you get the bonus of not having to worry about Hell, or wonder why there is so much suffering, or wonder why God would torture people in the first place, or why God loves the smell of burnt flesh, or why he required himself to sacrifice himself/his son… or, how does one reconcile the Flood with the lack of evidence, or how one is supposed to parse difficult passages.. etc……….
      Imagine – you can have all the good you mentioned, and get rid of the evil in the Bible if you would stop being a religionist. BUt, I bet the fear of losing it all – instilled in you at a young age and propagated by people like David – will keep you from enjoying all of life, not just the little bit you mentioned in your post.
      There is Joy, Peace and Hope in atheism – and Reality. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

      1. I understand that is your faith position…and I understand that you can offer no evidence whatsoever for it and so have to justify it by caricaturing and mocking a position you do not understand. I understand but I don’t believe you – at least not until I see the evidence!

      2. That’s not an answer. What does evidence for Lizard People look like, for example? Millions of people actually believe in Lizard People. What evidence do you have that proves them wrong – or in your worldview are their feelings and reasons are acceptable?
        Put another way: “Prove there are no pixies.”
        Can you do it? Yet you ask atheists to prove there is evidence for a godless universe?

      3. Sadly Brent – you are now showing your true colours and the fantasy world that NFA’s seem to live in….’there are millions of people who actually believe in Lizard People”?! you been on the wacky baccy? You think Star Trek is real?! Weird but funny….

      4. BTW, David, did you see the latest Barna Poll? It seems about 75% of Christians act and think like Pharisee’s, not like their Christ.
        However, I bet 100% of Christian Apologists claim they fall in the 25%… How is religious belief NOT emotional and ingrained in our dna, if it is so obviously irrational?
        These are questions religionists need to ask, but refuse to because they believe God doesn’t make sick people.

      5. Look up “Reptilians”. About 5 million people in the US claim to believe in them. Even if 75% are joking, that’s still over a million in the US alone. Scoff if you want, but some people believe some wild things. Some people even believe a guy rose from the dead. Look up supernatural beliefs, I think you’ll be astounded at the ideas out there, all competing in the marketplace of ideas. All vying for the attention of people who are ready to believe anything.
        The point, and the question you put to me, but you are avoiding: How do you prove they don’t exist? Is scoffing enough? Is that the response I should have toward your beliefs? Lead by example – how would you like me to treat you? You know, “do unto others…” I know it’s not a Christian ethic, but it’s a good one.
        Can you prove pixies, Santa, mermaids, greek gods, reptilians and other such things don’t exist? Should be easy, right? Or is ridicule your only response?

  5. The problem of evil is not resolved by the argument from morality.

    1. You assume that for the atheist it MUST follow that there is no such thing as objective morality. This is based on an over-simplified interpretation of the terms “objective” and “subjective”. You are failing to distinguish between the metaphysically objective/subjective and the epistimologically objective/subjective. This distinction is crucial. A full discussion of it can be found here:

    2. You assume that if God exists then that guarantees the existence of objective morality. You do not explain how or why this should be so. You are presumably familiar with the Euthyphro dilemma?

  6. DR’s understanding of naturalism is certainly way too simple. Naturalism leads to a completely coherent understanding of free will compatible with accountability and well described here: Of course it doesn’t fit with religious expectations, but it’s where the evidence leads. The challenge to Christians is to maintain a belief in a God who could prevent tsunamis and cares about suffering in the teeth of the evidence that tsunamis are not prevented. Whatever the naturalistic view of evil, it’s logically irrelevant to this challenge.

    I would agree that “There is no God and I hate Him” doesn’t make any sense at all. But I’ve never heard anybody say or imply it. There is however a certain disdain for people claiming that God agrees with them (or equivalently that they agree with God) as an excuse for imposing their views on other people – an attitude both anti-intellectual and immoral.

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