My last post covered reasons 1 and 2 that blogger Staks Rosch wrote on “5 Pretty Good Reasons to be an Atheist”. This post will cover reasons 3, 4 and 5. Here are his five reasons:
1: The Bible is ridiculous.
2: We don’t need no stinkin’ deities.
3: The Problem of Evil
4: Oh, Hell!
5: You just don’t know.
3: In his third argument Rosch assumes that there is a problem of evil and summarizes it by quoting Epicurus: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
Rosch then claims that we have yet to hear a valid response from religious leaders. But I would argue that he hasn’t searched very hard for valid responses or answers, and that there is no problem of evil. If he was really serious about finding a valid answer, he could have found one. In fact any assumed problem vanishes when we read through Scripture and begin to understand God’s nature and his ultimate plan for those who love him. God is both willing and able to prevent evil, and he certainly does prevent evil at times, but he also allows it for our good (Romans 8:28). In his infinite wisdom he decided that allowing evil to enter into his creation would, in the end, be a benefit to those who love him.
God originally created the universe without sin, evil, death, pain or suffering. In fact God created everything “very good”. And it’s important to understand exactly what that means. When God proclaims something to be “good” or “very good” he is placing great emphasis on it and expressing his approval. His definition of good far exceeds what we mean when we use the word. In Luke 18:19, Jesus says, “No one is good- except God alone.” We often hear people call others “good”, but Jesus rejects the notion that humans are good. Only God alone is good; he is perfect and without blemish or defect. Therefore, when God proclaimed his creation to be “very good”, he was signifying a perfect creation without sin, death, disease, or suffering.
So where did evil come from? We know that God also created Satan along with all the other heavenly beings. Revelation 12:7-9 tells us that Satan was thrown out of heaven along with his angels, and it is he who led the world astray. He was originally created without sin, but he knew between right and wrong and chose evil. He then deceived Adam and Eve, and they sinned against God’s command. And when Adam sinned, that brought God’s curse upon him. God had given Adam freedom, but he also gave him one command- and that was that he “must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:15-17). When Adam disobeyed God by eating from the tree he was told not to eat from, he brought sin, death, disease and suffering into the world. That’s why there’s pain, wars, famines, hate, thorns and other problems. Since we are Adam’s offspring, we are born into sin and are subject to the curse.
But the story doesn’t end there. God gave us hope when he told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heal” (Genesis 3:15). God was speaking of Jesus’ victory over Satan on the cross. John 3:16 also tells us that, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
This explains why there’s evil; it also explains how the problem of evil has been dealt with and resolved. After we pass away, if we are born again, we will have eternal life in new spiritual bodies on a new heaven and earth where there will be no more tears and no more suffering (Revelation 21:3-4). Just as the original creation was perfect, so will be the restored creation.
More to Rosch’s point, he doesn’t see how a loving God could allow horrible suffering and death, especially for children. But in order to answer that, we need to understand just how much God hates sin. Firstly, God is holy and righteous, which means he’s perfect and without blemish or defect. There is no sin in him. And since he is holy and righteous, sin cannot be in his presence. He hates sin and will punish it with the ultimate penalty- death. This is because God is also just; the guilty will not go unpunished, and only death can satisfy the debt that must be paid. Now that doesn’t mean that infants and children are guilty in the sense that they committed a crime that we could quantify by human standards; it just means that they’re born into the same sinful condition that each one of us were. So it’s our sinful condition that is responsible for the suffering that occurs. And if we’re offended by that, then our anger should be directed appropriately at ourselves and Satan. If we truly hated sin as much as God, then we’d work to lead as many people to salvation as possible. So if Rosch really had a problem with evil, he should be explaining why people should come to know the Lord.
Sin is the reason why Jesus died on the cross. Just as sin and death came into the world by the one man- Adam- so eternal life comes through the redemption provided by the perfect sacrifice of Christ Jesus, the last Adam (Romans 5:12-21). Essentially, Jesus died in our place so that we wouldn’t have to suffer eternal death. He received the punishment for our sin because he was perfect and without sin. He was a worthy sacrifice in God’s sight, and satisfied his wrath and justice.
Another point to address is whether or not there’s any value in death, disease, pain and suffering. And the Bible makes it clear that there is value. In James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:3-5, God tells us that trials, suffering and the testing of our faith produce vital qualities such as perseverance, maturity, hope, character and completeness, so that we lack nothing. If we never suffered we would be missing out on these important attributes that couldn’t be obtained in any other way. In Romans 8:28, God also promises that he’ll work all things out for the good of those who love him. That means we’ll eventually see the benefits of all our suffering come to fruition and realize the awesome rewards that will result from enduring it. We also know that we’re being sharpened and refined, (Isaiah 48:10, Jeremiah 9:7, Daniel 11:35, Daniel 12:9-10, Zechariah 13:8-9, Malachi 3:2-3).
1 Peter 1:6-9 sums this up very well:
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
God allows evil to work as part of his redemptive plan so that we can share in his righteousness. Obviously he thought his plan was better than a plan where there was never any suffering. After all he became a man and suffered himself. He didn’t make us suffer without being willing to do so himself.
4: Rosch begins this argument with a statement of faith- namely that hell is an idea conceived by man, and that God doesn’t exist. He’s claiming that because he believes this, God, therefore, doesn’t exist, and we should all be atheists. Obviously that’s not a valid argument; such a belief cannot be used as evidence that hell doesn’t exist. Otherwise the opposite would be true- if one believes that God does exist and has provided us with an accurate depiction of hell, then hell does exist and is not an idea made up by man.
Hell may be a disturbing thought, but that doesn’t nullify its existence. Further, Jesus came to conquer sin and death so that we wouldn’t have to go to hell. All we have to do is confess our sins (1 John 1:9).
5: Lastly, Rosch argues that there’s no valid evidence for any deities. But I’d argue that there’s plenty of evidence for God’s existence. Such evidence would include his creation- the universe, earth and man (Romans 1:20). For example we can observe the complexity of a cell and DNA. The existence of the first living organism arising from non-living material can’t be explained naturally. No one knows how this could have spontaneously happened all on its own. But even if secular scientists could imagine a scenario (plausible or not) in which life could have arisen on its own, the cell and DNA are still evidence for God because of the information it contains that cries out for a designer.
Another example would be the Anthropic Principle and fine-tuning arguments. This states that the universe is well suited or designed for mankind. We can observe how everything in our solar system works together for the benefit of man, such as the earth being the right distance from the sun, the sun being the right mass and color, the helpful tidal effects of the moon, the protective atmosphere, the earth’s magnetic field, axial tilt and rotation, the symbiotic relationship between and among animals and plants, how robust the Earth is and how well it cleans itself, how there are resources for us to harvest for our use, etc. Then, when we observe how baron and lifeless the universe is once we leave our planet, the likelihood of God existing makes far more sense. The available evidence demonstrates that our universe and solar system have been fine-tuned just for us. To think otherwise requires a giant leap of faith.
Other evidences for God include fulfilled prophecy in scripture and credible eye-witness testimonies from those who’ve personally witnessed encounters with God- whether Biblical writers or people alive today.
Finally, if there was no evidence for God’s existence, then no one would believe in God or gods. The fact that man is the only creature that is religious (84% of humans are religious) is compelling evidence for God’s existence, and that’s because God created us to worship him. But if Rosch is correct that there is no valid evidence for God’s existence, then no one would believe in God, gods, deities, or any kind of religion (including atheists).