I’ve heard people claim that there cannot be a God, because there is so much evil and suffering in the world. That is, if there WAS a God, He certainly wouldn’t allow all the bad things that we see happening in our world. So, the reasoning is that since there is so much evil and suffering in the world, there cannot be a God– at least not the Christian God, who supposedly is loving and merciful and is a personal force (not just the creator, who lit the match and then left things to turn out however they will).
When people use this objection, there are two things that are misunderstood and need to be explained:
- By identifying certain things as “evil” it shows that the objector has some standard of goodness that they think the world doesn’t live up to. They obviously think that it is more than just their mere opinion that evil exists. Everyone can recognize evil actions or activities without much effort. But where does this idea of good and evil come from? What makes one action good and another evil? We all have an innate sense of right and wrong that need explaining. If you are going to complain that there is too much evil, you need some objective standard to go by. D.L. Moody once said, “The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or to spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it”. This straight stick is the goodness of God’s character. He is the standard of goodness. Anything else is merely a subjective declaration than could be changed anytime.
- There is an assumption that people are “good” and that bad things shouldn’t happen to us. That we deserve good things. The Bible says the opposite. The Bible makes it clear that the entire human race is corrupt and that by nature we disobey and rebel against the God who made us. God gave us 10 moral laws to keep: the Ten Commandments. Mankind has trampled on these laws and taught other people to do the same. The Bible says that we are born into this world as “children of wrath”, that there is no one who does good, no one who seeks God [Romans 3:11]. We are not “good” at all. We are rebellious brats in the site of the holy and righteous God.
Sometimes I will ask people, “If God were to eliminate all evil in the world at midnight, where would you be at 12:01?” You see, if God judged all the evil in the world right now, that would include not just murderers and rapists, but also liars and blasphemers. So, where does that leave the non-believer? Ouch! You guessed it. Because God is good, He must punish sin, rebellion, and disobedience to His laws.
2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” That means that God has been waiting with great patience for people to turn to Him before it is too late. God has been holding back His judgement of this wicked world so that more people will hear the Gospel and be saved from their sins. It is because of God’s mercy that He is allowing the human race to continue on its self-destructive path. But God is not at fault for causing the evil and suffering, that has been man’s doing. Man can choose to make the world better or worse.
Christianity has a reasonable explanation for the existence of evil in the world. Atheism has no explanation for the existence of evil or justification for calling anything “evil”.