Saturday, June 18, 2016

How morality and the problem of evil point to God's existence

Acts 14:14-17 "But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; 17 and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

Would there be no morality if God did not exist? Can we be good without God? Such questions are addressed by one of the most effective arguments for God's existence: the moral argument. 
The moral argument, which is perhaps the most life-practical of all the various theistic arguments, is expressed below: 

Premise #1: If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties don't exist. 

Premise #2: Objective moral values & duties exist. 

Conclusion: Therefore, God exists. 

This particular version of the argument is found on the website: and has a helpful video that captures it quite clearly and powerfully here:

The point of this argument is to show that without God, there is no grounding for moral obligations nor ethics. Because God exists, we have the reality of objective moral values and duties. As an interesting side note, this particular argument can be used in responding to those who attempt to critique Christian theism by appealing to the problem of evil of suffering. If we but add one more premise, namely the reality of evil and suffering, we find that evil ironically reinforces, rather than dismisses the existence of God.

Premise #1: If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties don't exist. 

Premise #2: Evil exists

Premise #3: Objective moral values & duties exist. 

Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.

How opponents of Christianity attempt to get around the moral argument
Opponents of Christianity will often claim that there is a logical contradiction between the assertion that an all powerful, all-good God exists on the one hand, and that evil and suffering exist on the other. The underlying assumption is that God can create any world He chooses, and that He is too good to allow evil. Yet, evil and suffering are clearly in our world. For those who use such reasoning, they contend that evil's reality cancels out any supposed proof of God's existence.

Why the moral argument for God's existence and the problem of evil still do not disprove the existence of God
However, does evil's existence cancel out God? Three responses can be given. First, God can create any logically possible world, however He cannot create a world where logical contradictions would abound (say, the existence of a married bachelor). The laws of logic exist because of God's inherent character as an all good, consistent God. Just as God cannot nor would not violate His Holy character, neither can He violate the laws of logic, since God by nature is a coherent Being. 

Second, God would not create a world populated by free-will creatures that would involve Him making them freely choose anything. Grace is indeed necessary for salvation, since His grace sets the will free from its bondage to sin, and the human will responds freely since it sees the alternatives. The creation of a world with free-will creatures includes the notion that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting the existence of evil. No argument in the history of philosophical thought has ultimately shown there to be a logical contradiction between God's existence and the reality of evil and suffering. 

Then thirdly, if for nothing else, the fact God chose to create a world including the historic crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth meant He permitted what He hated (evil, rebellion by free-moral agents) in order to accomplish His ultimate good ends (the revelation of His glory, the salvation of those who responded freely to His gracious offer of salvation). The Bible itself indicates that God, though not being the Author of evil, yet chooses to include the sinful choices of free-moral agents in achieving His greater purposes (see Genesis 50:20; Acts 2:23-24; Romans 8:28). 

Closing thoughts
Today we considered the moral argument for God's existence. We provided links to a video that features this argument. We also noted that even in the face of the problem of evil and suffering, such realities don't cancel out God's existence, but only reinforce the reality of God. We may not be able to comprehend why evil and suffering occurs in all circumstances, yet to paraphrase C.S Lewis: if one did not know what a straight line was, then one would not recognize a crooked line when they see it. So it is with our universe and the reality of an underlying moral/ethical structure. Because we live in a moral universe, with a moral law written into our consciences, then it stands there is a Moral law-giver. Moreover, this Moral Law-giver has provided the remedy for our brokenness through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

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