Doesn’t the amount of evil make God’s existence unlikely? Last week I discussed two problems with this objection. This week I’ll offer a third response: it is reasonable to believe God does limit evil, for our good. Though we cannot know this through empirical investigation (by looking around, as discussed last week), upon further reflection we have two good reasons to believe that God does limit evil.
The Dot On The Whiteboard
First, consider a whiteboard. If I put one black dot on the whiteboard, you will have no problem finding it. It will stand out sharply against the white background. This is true if I add a second dot, a third dot, and a fourth dot. As long as the majority of the whiteboard is not covered with dots, you will notice the exceptions—the dots. Only when dots cover much of the whiteboard will it be hard to notice the dots. At that point they have become the “new normal.”
In a similar way, the reason we notice evil so quickly is because it stands out against the backdrop of good. Evil tends to be the exception. Most children do not die. Most people are not maimed. Most houses are not uprooted by tornadoes. Most people do not die in tsunamis. If these occurrences were commonplace, we would get used to them and rarely take notice.
But these evils do stand out. This is good reason to believe God is limiting evil, so that it is (by far) the exception, and not the norm.
How Much Is Too Much?
Second, there is only too much evil if it no longer makes life worth living. Only if there is so much evil that it outweighs the good does evil become “too much.”
Furthermore, this must be true for all, not just an individual here and there. So, we must ask the question: Is there so much evil in the world that life is no longer worth living?
Our history answers this question with an emphatic “No!” Evil has never been so great that we have concluded it’s not worth it to go on. We have continued to develop civilizations, fight diseases, and advance knowledge.
Nor has evil ever been so great that we have been unable to succeed in these endeavors. But why? What have to explain the fact that evil, overall, has not triumphed over good. The best explanation seems to be that God limits evil so that good could prevail in most cases. And it has.
(Furthermore, while not an apologetic argument persuasive to the atheist, the Christian theist has reason to believe, in light of Revelation, that God has limited evil in another, even more grand way. The greatest evil would be separation from God for eternity. We know God limited this great evil by his death on the Cross. He experienced the greatest evil himself, on our behalf. By doing so he limited evil and sealed its fate, though evil continues its slow death in the present age.)
This is all further proof that the amount of evil in the world is not a good reason to believe God does not exist. Therefore, the Evidential Problem of Evil also fails to show God does not exist.
Summing Up This Series
Over the past 12 weeks I have discussed a number of issues related to this topic, and it may be helpful to offer a final summary of what I’ve argued.
I’ve argued that evil as evidence against God’s existence must be balanced by other evidences in favor of God’s existence, and not evaluated in a vacuum. When all the evidence is considered, the evidence for God’s existence outweighs the evidence against God’s existence from the reality of evil.
I’ve also argued that the very fact of actual, objective evil is evidence God exists. Without God, as an objective standard, there can be no such thing as “Evil,” but only “evil” (my, or my culture’s subjective, relative definitions of evil). Such “evils” are not adequate to make an argument against God’s existence. Only if real, objective Evil exists can it be used in an argument against God’s existence. So, the argument against God from the reality of Evil is self-defeating (if it is true, it must be false).
I then delved into the first of the two forms of the argument against God from the reality of Evil. The first is the “Logical Problem of Evil” which maintains it is logically impossible for God to exist given the reality of evil. This argument begins with the premise that it is impossible God has morally sufficient reasons to permit evil.
I offered arguments showing there are at least two morally sufficient reasons God has to allow evil: the preservation of freedom and obtaining of second-order goods. Therefore, the first premise in the Logical Problem of Evil is false, and the conclusion (God does not exist) is, therefore, also false.
Finally, I discussed the second form of the argument against God’s existence from the reality of evil: the “Evidential Problem of Evil.” This form of the argument grants that it is not impossible that God exists due to the reality of evil, but rather that it is unlikely that God exists due to the amount of evil. I offered three responses to this form of the Problem of Evil that show this argument does not succeed either.
Therefore, the reality of evil does not defeat Theism. Rather, it makes sense of Theism, and especially Christian Theism.
Until next week, grace and peace.