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Is there no God?

Part 2 of God Really IS Great! Religions Poisoned Everything! Series

 

Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom; Yes, with all your getting, get understanding. How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! Yes, to get understanding is rather to be chosen than silver. Proverbs 4:7, 16:16


There is a renewed debate today on the existence of God. Arguments for and against have been proposed by philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders. In particular, atheists maintain that claims for the existence of God show insufficient reason to believe. Persuasive arguments are made against religious claims to expose the foolishness of belief. Nevertheless, this can only discredit the organizations making these misguided claims. Those challenging a belief in God more often than not are protesting the religious organizations propagating their version of God rather than opposing a belief in God's existence. Most would not oppose a belief in a wholly good, all loving, omnipotent and omniscient God but they feel the real world evidence suggests otherwise.

An often cited argument against God is the presence of evil in the world. How can anyone believe in a wholly good, all loving, omnipotent and omniscient God who permits evil to exist? Webster defines evil as that which produces unhappiness; anything which either directly or remotely causes suffering of any kind. Much of the human suffering is to a degree a direct cause of the free moral agency; the freedom people have to make good and bad choices which impact themselves, their family, their community and society in general. Other reasons for suffering are not directly linked to human choices but to natural causes.

Religion has been a direct cause of suffering as it has played an arguable role in many of the mass murders and genocides throughout history. Religion provided a sense of a God-ordained mission to cleanse the world of evil. Civil leaders in collusion with religious leaders convinced the common people of possessing authority from God earning them their trust and unwavering loyalty. Civil powers were justified by their religious counterparts to authorize cruel acts against humanity as they purified the world. Religious leaders then forgave those committing these atrocities. Religious justification of inhumane acts appear to have at least temporarily relieved the perpetrator’s conscience of personal accountability in the afterlife. The inquisitions of the dark ages testify to the depravity of the human condition when acts against conscience are excused. If God does exist, why would he stand by when people kill in his name?

Prior to formal governments and religious institutions, people resided in small clans. Clans were usually members of an extended family ensuring their survival by controlling the best geographical regions. Distrust between clans often led to the murder of opposing clan members. This continues today in the form of gangs. W.B. Miller (1992) defines a street gang as “a self-formed association of peers, united by mutual interests, with identifiable leadership and internal organization, who act collectively or as individuals to achieve specific purposes, including the conduct of illegal activity and control of a particular territory, facility, or enterprise. Gangs are responsible for drug smuggling and sales, arms trafficking, theft, human trafficking, assault, extortion, hate crimes, kidnapping, murder, pandering, financial crimes, and the list goes on. How can an omnipotent God stand by apparently powerless to stop these gangs from inflicting pain and suffering on society?

Natural disasters also result in real suffering. Innocent people are injured and die in these disasters or “chance” events. The 1931 China floods claimed the lives of up to 436,000 people. It is estimated over 700,000 people perished in the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. In 1970 a cyclone hit Bhola in Bangladesh where the death toll exceeded 300,000. More recently, the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami each claimed over 300,000 lives and countless injuries. Religious leaders of all faiths attribute these to God’s wrath on an immoral world and are quick to justify themselves when the natural disaster largely affects people of differing faiths. Is God truly responsible for these disasters which devastate whole communities?

Sickness, physical and mental disorders and natural death results in suffering not attributed to the acts of another human being. In particular death is so different from other calamities of life. When someone dies the situation seems so hopeless, so very final, the end of everything. If God does exist, why didn't he create the human race to live forever in health and happiness upon the earth, just like the angels in heaven?

Let us begin by using deductive reasoning to explain God and the existence of evil. Reason is considered a fundamental characteristic of human nature. It is the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking especially in orderly rational ways to make sense of things. Deductive reasoning is a form of reasoning in which a conclusion follows necessarily from the stated premises or first principles. In our case, the first principles will be the presence of evil coinciding with the existence of a wholly good, all loving, omnipotent and omniscient God. We will only use deductive reasoning to explain how they are not mutually exclusive.

The first principle concerning God’s attributes of wholly good, all loving, omnipotent and omniscient constrains God to choose the best course of action for his creation. To understand the matter differently would diminish his attribute of omniscience (all knowing), all loving (caring) and “wholly good” (impartial, equitable). Others affirm these attributes but explain the existence of evil as God's inability to completely control evil in all respects. This thought requires the diminishing of God's attribute of omnipotence (all powerful). If we are to preserve all of God’s attributes in the absolute sense, we must conclude it is not an inability of God to stop evil, but a deliberate action on God’s part to permit evil. So why does God consider experience with evil the best course for the human race?

There are two possible answers to this question; the permission of evil leads to a greater good or prevents a greater evil for the human family. A case-by-case attempt to reason the most heinous acts of evil as resulting in greater good or lesser evil is difficult and often impossible. Various explanations may be offered; fundamentally, this is purely conjecture and speculation. An obvious objection to our two answers is that experience with evil can result in irretractable pain and suffering which leads us to question the integrity of God’s plan. We are left to rely on God’s attributes leading us to blindly trust in his plan which accomplishes little to satisfy our desire for understanding. The difficulty of offering a fully satisfying answer arises from our limited knowledge of God's deliberate action for permitting evil unless God were to reveal his intentions to us. Though far from satisfactory to the inquiring mind, both arguments can reason the existence of evil being compatible with the existence of a wholly good God.

Consider the following example. Would a loving parent permit evil, anything that causes pain or suffering, to their own child while considering it to be the best course of action for a greater good, or the prevention of a greater evil? What child has not touched a hot stove in their lifetime, even though they were warned over and over not to do so? Yet, most children continue to disobey their parent. Why doesn’t the child simply obey the parent in the first place to avoid the pain altogether? Why do parents purposely place a child’s hand on a hot stove? The child may not understand their parent's action; however, the childs lack of understanding cannot justify their feelings. In this example, we can see the greater good, and the prevention of the greater evil, even though the child at the moment cannot explain it.

There are additional lessons we can gain from this simple example. First, real experience serves as a superior schoolteacher to simple instruction and observation. Second, the parent ensured the suffering was temporary and the effects of the pain were not permanent, just enough for the child to fully understand the consequence of their decision. If the experience was too short, say the child quickly touched the hot stove, the child may not learn the desired lesson. If the experience was too long, the child could sustain permanent injury. Since imperfect parents are careful with the lessons they provide for their own children, why would anyone consider an all wise, loving, and good God would be any less careful with his creation? Therefore we can reasonably conclude the present experience with evil is carefully supervised and will not permanently injure neither will it continue indefinitely. These conclusions raise many other questions which will need to be examined later.

Deductive reasoning substantiates the idea of a wholly good God with the existence of evil in the world. Reason can also establish the permission of evil as being a deliberate act of God to achieve a greater good and to prevent a greater evil to his creation. Reason cannot conclusively answer what greater good or lesser evil is achieved without additional information concerning the current and future condition of the human family. God provided this information in the Bible which is a detailed and admittedly somewhat fragmented explanation. The Bible has been used by many to advance various concepts of heaven and hell, love and justice, reward and punishment to explain God’s purposes. Most of these explanations abandon reason altogether in favor of man-made creeds, pagan philosophies, and superstitious traditions.

Reason must always be employed when searching for truth on any subject matter especially those concerning God’s plans and purposes. The Bible, or any other book claiming a higher authority, should not be used as justification for abandoning reason. On the contrary, God appeals to us to reason our condition and his proposed remedy. "Come now, let us reason together”, says the LORD... Isaiah 1:18 A faith in God and in his plan must be reasonable, fair and loving for all, otherwise he would not have invited us to reason it.


Do your best to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker who isn't ashamed to teach the word of truth correctly. 2 Timothy 2:15

 

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