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Evil

Are there good people?

This past summer I had the privilege of spending a weekend with a group of junior high students. My talks from that weekend are posted here and here. This question came during a time of Q&A after my talk on why God allows evil.

If you are interested in having me speak at your church, camp, or youth group, click on the Endorsements & Speaking page to see my list of topics and contact me at Speaking Requests or email me at contact@coffeehousequestions.com. You can select a topic from the list or suggest your own. I am happy to help in any way I can. God bless!

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If God, Why Evil?

This is probably the most common objection to Christianity and the most difficult to answer. Watch as Ryan walks through different responses with a group of junior high students.

If you are interested in having me speak at your church, camp, or youth group, click on the Endorsements & Speaking page to see my list of topics and contact me at Speaking Requests and email me at contact@coffeehousequestions.com. You can select a topic from the list or suggest your own. I am happy to help in any way I can. God bless!

Why does God allow evil? Interview with Dr. Clay Jones

This question is probably asked more than any other, and it is one of the most common objections against the Christian view of God. If God is all good and all powerful, why doesn’t he stop evil? Questions like these are frequently asked and it is important for Christians to respond well.

God Evil

Dr. Clay Jones, an Associate Professor of Christian Apologetics, joined me to discuss his new book, Why Does God Allow Evil? This book covers a wide range of questions helping you to have answers for some of the toughest questions.

What is evil? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why didn’t God create a world with free creatures who always choose good? How does eternity relate to our suffering here?

Listen and get answers to these questions and more!

What are other questions you have about the problem of evil? Comment below!

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If God created Satan, does evil and sin come from God?

One of my former professors, Dr. Clay Jones, recently released a book titled Why Does God Allow Evil? One of the classes I took from Dr. Jones also went by the same title, and it was arguably the most important class I have taken so far. What I realized is that even though we can’t know the exact reason God allows evil, we can still have good answers when asked.

It is also a good reason I took this class because this question comes up more than any other when I am speaking to students. Here is a recent message I received on Twitter.

Ryan, help! Why does God allow evil? Perhaps a bigger question is why Satan? If God created Satan, does evil & sin come from God?

This question is very similar to another common one that is asked. Some people ask, “If God created everything, and evil/sin is a thing, then didn’t God create evil?” The first step in answering this question is to first define evil.

What is evil?

Evil is usually thought of as something that is morally wrong, causes harm to someone, or a sinful behavior. In Understanding The Culture, evil or sin is defined as any action or inaction that violates the will of God. When we look at evil in this way we see that evil is not a thing. Since it is not a thing, it is not something that comes from God.

Instead, evil is the absence good. We can have good without evil, but we cannot have evil without good. Dr. Frank Turek explains it by saying that if you take all the rust out of a car you have a better car, but if you take all the car out of the rust you have nothing. In the same way, evil is the privation of good. It is the mistake in something, and if gone, if you have something better.

So, why Satan?

God did not create Satan evil. Satan began as an angelic-like creature who chose to rebel against God. This rebellion was only made possible by free will. Why does God allow evil? One reason is that God allows evil in order to keep our free will intact. Free will is the perfect good that God desires for his creatures. It is free will that allows us to freely love or reject God. This is what is required to have a loving relationship with someone since you cannot force someone to love you.

In response to the original question

God allows evil in order to keep our free will intact. Satan was created as a good creature with free will to choose to love or reject God. It was Satan’s rebellion against God that brought evil into the world and led to the fall. Therefore, evil and sin did not come from God.

Is free will really worth the pain and evil it causes? Read my previous article on the value of free will.

Are evil and God incompatible?

Evil exists inside of our universe and appears to be incompatible with an all-loving God. However, the existence of evil is evidence for the existence of God.

The biggest argument against the existence of God is the fact that evil exists in our universe. Many believe that if God is all-loving and all-powerful, evil would not exist. Since evil does exist, God cannot exist. What this fails to recognize is that there may be good reasons for God to allow evil to exist in this world.

First, we are able to have a better understanding of evil when we have an accurate view of eternity. This life is not all that there is. If God exists, we will live for an eternity and the evil of this world will shrink down to non-existence.

Second, we can also understand the existence of evil when we understand free agency. God created each person with the ability to freely choose love. In order for love to be a free choice, one also has the ability to hate. This is the cause of much evil.

Third, we have the problem of limited knowledge. There is no way to understand the purpose God has for allowing every evil act. Now I’m not using this as a cop-out. I’m not saying “we just can’t understand” every time God does something we don’t like. There are many responses to difficult questions that I have dealt with here. What I am saying is that in order to understand everything we would have to have knowledge of everything, and since we are limited beings we simply don’t. When we recognize this, then we can know that even though we don’t understand it, God may have a good reason for allowing the evil in our lives.

Naturalists will use this argument against Christians to show that God does not exist. What they fail to understand is that without a mind, free will, or an objective moral standard, there is no evil. Evil cannot exist if we are only physical beings. We would only be reacting to our chemicals and one would be unable to judge another for actions committed. So, rather than evil being used as an argument against the existence of God, we see that evil only exists because God exists.

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The following blog series comes from a paper I wrote for J. Warner Wallace on his book, God’s Crime Scene. He has given me permission to post my summary of each chapter for this series. This is a short summary of the eighth chapter, not an exhaustive look at all of the possibilities. If you would like more information, you can purchase God’s Crime Scene here, visit his website, or email me and I will provide further resources.

Do objective moral laws point to God?

Objective morality exists and the most reasonable explanation is an objective moral law giver.

One piece of evidence for God’s existence that is found inside our universe is the existence of moral laws. There is a standard that everyone is expected to live by and by which we are held responsible. We see this when we are able to judge another person for their moral actions and say that they were wrong. There are certain moral actions that are wrong for all people, in all times, and in all places. So, who gets to decide this standard? Can objective morality be explained while staying inside our universe? The problem is that staying inside the universe does not provide a foundation by which to ground objective morality. The only way this moral standard can be explained is by showing that an objective moral law giver exists outside of our universe. What are we left with if there is no moral law giver outside of our universe?

Nihilism

Nihilists have rejected the idea of objective morality and say that moral statements cannot be either true or false. This means that there is no good or evil action. Love is no different from rape. This view cannot be lived out.

Subjectivism (I say Relativism)

Others believe that there are moral laws, but that it depends on the individual to decide morality. This view is called subjectivism; the subject gets to decide what is morally right and wrong. In this view, one is unable to say that the moral action of another person was wrong since they believed it to be good. They best you could do is say that you don’t like what they did, but it is just your opinion vs theirs. No one is objectively right.

Society Says Relativism

Since many see the problem of subjectivism, they attempt to explain morality by saying that groups or cultures get to decide right and wrong. This would mean that you are unable to say that another culture or group is morally evil. In this view, it was wrong for other countries to judge the Nazis for morally wrong actions. They lived in a different society and were doing what was right according to them, therefore, they did nothing worthy of punishment. It also becomes difficult to know how large the group needs to be in order to change morality.

Human Flourishing

Since these proposed solutions seem to be difficult to define, some philosophers have based moral truths on human flourishing. But just like subjectivism, which person gets to decide what flourishing is? Why is flourishing the best standard for judging morality? Some people flourish while taking advantage of others. Are they wrong? Also, why is it that humans get to flourish? Why not another species? Should we be tried for speciesism for thinking we are better than other species?

Every attempt at explaining objective moral values while staying inside of our universe fails. This is why many choose to completely reject the idea of objective morality rather than trying to ground it in foundations that don’t stand. In order to have laws that transcend all people, we need a being that transcends all people. The best explanation for the existence of moral laws is that there is an objective moral law giver that exists outside of our universe.

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The following blog series comes from a paper I wrote for J. Warner Wallace on his book, God’s Crime Scene. He has given me permission to post my summary of each chapter for this series. This is a short summary of the seventh chapter, not an exhaustive look at all of the possibilities. If you would like more information, you can purchase God’s Crime Scene here, visit his website, or email me and I will provide further resources.

Is free will an illusion?

We lose our ability to choose freely if our universe is only physical.

Many naturalists today will argue that we do not have minds and therefore do not have the ability to choose. Our ability to choose is lost when we are being controlled by the chemical reactions in our brains. This view is called determinism; free will does not exist and we could not have done anything different than what we did.

However, this does not seem to agree with what we understand about the universe. We live in a culture that is based in free will. People are expected to choose to follow the law and be good employees. If they don’t follow the law then we hold them responsible and hope they change in the future. But if determinism is true, we are controlled by the chemical reactions in our brains and there is no choice.

This deterministic view can be easily explained, but it cannot be lived. Even determinists would argue that someone is immoral for choosing to rape instead of love. People choose to do evil acts daily and that is why we have a system in place to arrest those people and help them receive treatment. This treatment is used to help a person realize their negative behavior and change their actions in the future. If determinism is true then jails are no longer correctional facilities, and they become holding cells for the “broken” or “malfunctioning” people. The person did evil because their wiring was off and not because they chose to do evil.

However, we do expect a person to change while in prison, but this change is impossible if we do not have the freedom to choose a different option. Since it is difficult to get around the fact that life is based on free will, some naturalists have changed the definition of free will in order to give a naturalistic account for the way we think. Others argue that free will simply appeared in our universe without any reason. But just like most of the naturalistic explanations, there is no evidence to support this idea. In a last ditch effort to give a natural explanation for free will, some have described free will as an illusion. Sam Harris and Daniel Dennet are two atheists who hold to this view. But how do they know it is an illusion? Are they freely choosing to hold to that view, or are their chemicals reacting in a way that they are forced to say that? I once had an atheist trying to convince me that my belief in free will was wrong and that I should change my opinion and agree that I don’t have free will. The fascinating thing that he didn’t realize is that I would have to have free will in order to change my mind to agree with him that free will doesn’t exist. It is completely self defeating.

It is impossible to explain free will from only the natural world, and so we need to go outside of our universe to an immaterial being to explain the existence of free will. Free will cannot be the product of chemical reactions in our brain. If free will exists, and there is good reason to think that it does, then there is something outside this natural world that gave it to us.

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The following blog series comes from a paper I wrote for J. Warner Wallace on his book, God’s Crime Scene. He has given me permission to post my summary of each chapter for this series. This is a short summary of the sixth chapter, not an exhaustive look at all of the possibilities. If you would like more information, you can purchase God’s Crime Scene here, visit his website, or email me and I will provide further resources.

Can God use evil for good? (Podcast)

This week’s podcast is an interview with Rose Pauly, the author of Desperate Hope. Rose shares her story of how God was able to use a devastating circumstance for good.

One beautiful fall day, two lives collide. One busy balancing family, work, and school. The other on a trajectory of desperation, destruction, and evil.

They will never be the same again. Beginning with an assault at knifepoint and a surprising response from the victim, this story unfolds a future neither could have anticipated. Sixteen years later, they have come together to tell their stories. His of addictions, arrests, and prisons, followed by redemption, recovery, and reconciliation. Hers is the story of overcoming fear, embracing forgiveness, and forsaking victimhood and shame to experience God’s overwhelming love.

THIS BOOK DOES MORE THAN TELL A STORY.

It brings hope to anyone in the grip of addiction, pornography, or despair, and help for victims, the fearful, and the traumatized—anyone desperate for hope. Two lives brought together first in violence and then in forgiveness tell this unusual yet true story of God’s love and his overarching hand working in dramatic ways.

Desperate Hope
Purchase your copy of Desperate Hope here.

Apologetics Resource: Responding to the Problem of Evil

The problem of evil is one of the most difficult objections a Christian can receive. It is easy for a skeptic throw out challenges as to why God would allow pain and suffering if He is all-powerful and all-loving. The hard part is for the Christian to be prepared to respond correctly and convincingly to these challenges when put on the spot. For this reason I have compiled the last ten post on responding to the problem of evil in one location. I hope these posts prepare you so you are ready to defend your Christian convictions the next time you are put on the spot. Enjoy!

1. Answer the Christian: Why do people suffer for a sin Adam committed long ago?

Short answer: We suffer from Adam’s sin because we were intimately connected with Adam in the beginning.

2. Answer the skeptic: Why does God let a child die?

Short answer: Children die because they are born into a fallen world where there is disease and where people sin and make mistakes.

3. Answer the skeptic: How might it be fair that God ordered the killing of Canaanite children?

Short answer: It is fair that God ordered the killing of Canaanite children because it kept them from further harm.

4. Answer the skeptic: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Short answer: There are no good people.

5. Answer the skeptic: Why is eternal punishment fair?

Short Answer: Eternal punishment is fitting for the eternally unrepentant.

6. Answer the skeptic: If conscious belief is required for salvation, how is that fair to those who have never heard the gospel?

Short answer: God will make sure that those who would repent will have the opportunity.

7. Answer the skeptic: Free will isn’t so valuable for God to permit so much suffering.

Short answer: Life as we know it is all about free will and good is only possible if evil is possible as well.

8. Answer the Christian: What good is the suffering I endure?

Short Answer: God uses suffering to teach us, refine us, and help us be more like Jesus.

9. Answer the Christian: How will Heaven mitigate our suffering on earth?

Short Answer: Heaven will dwarf our suffering into insignificance.

10. Answer the Christian: Why does God allow evil?

Short answer: God allows evil in order to keep our free will intact.

You may also find “10 Reasons Why God May Allow Suffering” useful as well.

I hope you enjoy this resource and find that it helps you as you defend your faith. Don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter (@ryanpauly3) for daily articles from many different blogs, subscribe to the new Coffeehouse Question podcast that will be posted every Saturday on iTunes, and send in your questions to questions@coffeehousequestions.com. Thank you for your support and God bless!

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