Social media does strange things to us. While it promotes communication, it can stifle meaningful conversation. Folks like to post brief shallow thoughts to virtue signal or leave quick messages of agreement or disagreement in the comments, but seldom is there meaningful conversation that develops understanding or empathy.
Recently on Facebook, I read a lengthy post on the topic of religion and the day’s current events. A few comments down, someone left a zinger expressing his disagreement with the status. The original poster asked him why he felt that way, but got no response. He tried to prompt conversation a few more times with subsequent comments. When no reply came, he got understandably frustrated.
This type of exchange is totally counterproductive and all too common in today’s social media world. I’d like to use this blog post to spark the opposite type of exchange. I’d like your thoughts on two challenges to belief in God (Theism) and one challenge to (Atheism).
- Argument Against Theism – Problem of Suffering & Evil:
The problem of evil and suffering is one of the most common arguments against God. The argument relies on the following premises:
1) If God exists, he is all-powerful and all-loving.
2) An all-powerful and all-loving God would not allow evil to exist or bad things to happen to good people.
3) Evil exists and bad things happen to good people.
… Therefore God does not exist.
There are three powerful counter-arguments that show how the evil and suffering in the world can coexist with all-loving, all-powerful God. The first and most obvious is the existence of free will. God, of course, could have chosen to make humans like robots or puppets, only capable of showing him and each other love, but then it wouldn’t really be love would it?
Humans’ free choice to choose good over evil and love over apathy or hate is necessary for love to truly exist. God cannot force people to be good and loving without taking away their free will, but with free will, they can also freely choose evil and do morally wrong actions. Bad things therefore will happen to good people, but as we know from the story of Joseph – who was sold into slavery by his own family only to later save them and the entire land of Egypt from famine – God can use evil things for good. After all, arguably the worst possible thing (torture and hanging on a cross until suffocating to death) happened to the best possible person.
Secondly, we make too big of a leap to assume that an all-loving God would not want there to be any suffering in the world. We know that oftentimes personal growth comes with struggle. A good parent must sometimes let their children fail to learn from their experiences. Without all knowledge, we cannot fairly conclude that the world could be better if the laws of the universe were changed to prevent some aspects of our sufferings – and certainly not all of it.
And lastly, to even make this argument one has to cede that there is such a thing as good and evil. This in itself is self-contradictory without objective morality, which can only come from an all-loving God. More on this in the next argument. First, check out the video below to wrap up discussion on this question:
Let me know in the comments or on social media what you think of this argument and defense? What have I forgotten?
Argument for Theism: Moral Argument
While it is obvious that you can be good without believing in God, there cannot be such thing as “good” without a good God. Without God, there is no basis for objective moral values. We’re left with no basis to declare anything as right or wrong beyond personal preferences and cultural morays. Well-known atheist Richard Dawkins explains:
“The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” – Richard Dawkins
This is a huge problem with atheism, because we know that some things are simply wrong. If you’ve ever said “that’s not fair” or “that’s wrong” or “its an injustice” you are appealing to this sense of objective morality.
“The man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children, is just as mistaken as the man who says that 2+2=5.” – Michael Ruse
I’ve never heard a coherent argument against this logic. In fact, all the atheists I’ve ever introduced this argument too, were quick to agree with it and admit that there are no objective values in their worldview. The problem with this is they don’t behave in a way that indicates they believe this. In fact, they’re loving people who care deeply about other people and injustice in the world, yet on their own view they can’t logically denounce it.
Let me know what I’m missing. Feel free to send me a DM if you’re not comfortable sharing on a public forum.
Question I’m Pondering: Finally, I’d like to ask one question that I think doesn’t get asked enough. Of all the arguments against God, this is one I see used very little, but it is far more compelling that others such evil in the world or hypocrisy of Christians. While we know God loves us because he sent his son to die for us, why doesn’t he make himself more present in our everyday life? Why doesn’t he perform some of the miracles of the Old Testament? God is sovereign, but I wonder why he chooses not to make himself more known to us today.
I’d love this to start a conversation so please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear them no matter your faith background.
Regarding that last statement: I think we do experience miracles more often than we think (transformed lives), but they’re not what we typically define as miracles; and that big “sign” miracles don’t actually inspire trust in God.
There’s something profound in that, whenever humans enjoy Gods presence in the most overt way in the Bible (Eden, the Exodus, Jesus, and the Millennial Reign in Revelation, depending on how figurative or literal you take it), they end up rebelling against Him (The Fall; Golden Calf; Crucifixion; Armageddon). Why? In each of those instances, God’s presence wasn’t met with faith (trust or heart-obedience) from those who ended up rebelling against Him. So “see it” doesn’t actually result in “believe it”.
This is seen specifically in the NT Gospel accounts, a lot. For example, in the famous story of Jesus feeding 5,000 out of just a couple fish and a few loaves of bread, the miracle didn’t inspire any faith from those that didn’t already believe; instead, all they wanted was more bread.
The biblical record seems to indicate that God, as King, desires His people to serve Him from the basis of His redemptive grace, in love and faith instead of cowering fear. And the way to that isn’t through “sight” or miracles as we commonly think of them, but through the miracles of Gods sovereignty of guiding all things “for the good of those who love God” (Romans 8) and the profound miracle of a transformed life (changing the human heart from death to life through the gospel). Or as Jesus tells Doubting Thomas, “do you see, and believe? Blessed are those who don’t see, and yet believe”.
So it’s about trusting what God has already revealed about Himself, rather than needing to see another “miracle”. And I don’t meant that in some flippant way like “just believe it and it’s so”. I mean that trusting someone’s word is the true test of the depth of a relationship, rather than needing them to constantly prove themselves. Or in kingly terms, following God as King means faithfully trusting his character and his word instead of submitting because of his use of force.
Great thoughts. Thank you for sharing them. While it will always probably be curious to me that we don’t see obvious manifestations of God’s presence in the manner that they did in the Old Testament (a cloud of fire), I thought this video explained it well:
It is largely making the point you are highlighting, but further explains that he doesn’t want belief, but trust and relationship which is a bit different.