Atheism And The Problem Of Evil (Answering Atheism)

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Former Christian Rock band Hawk Nelson band member Jon Steingard announced recently that he no longer believes in God. In his Instagram confession, he gives a bit of information about growing up in the church, the doubts he had, and how he wrestled with them throughout his time in Hawk Nelson. He didn’t entertain his thoughts for a while because everyone else believed in God and that seemed compelling to him. Now, he and Hawk Nelson haven’t performed in some time, and the time is ripe for honesty.

Among the questions he has about Christianity is the one concerning the existence of God and evil: “If God is all-loving and all-powerful, why is there evil in the world? Can he not do anything about it? Does he choose not to? Is the evil in the world a result of his desire to give us free will?”

I will answer these questions as much as possible in the work below.

The existence of God and the existence of evil

Question: If God is all-loving and all-powerful, why is there evil in the world?

The question assumes that God is all-loving and all-powerful. No Christian would disagree with these attributes for God. And yet, the question assumes that evil is at odds with God’s loving and powerful nature.

But is it? No, it’s not. The reason pertains to the fact that the question overlooks how evil arrives in the world. The question actually places blame at the feet of God, who isn’t to blame for the evil of man. According to what Scripture says, sin entered the world through one man, Adam (Romans 5:12). If God, in His love, gave free will/choice, then He isn’t responsible for what humans do with their choices.

Free will/choice demonstrates God’s love and God’s power. First, it demonstrates God’s love because God, in His love, cannot coerce humans to make choices. Free will allows individuals to choose whether to accept Him or reject Him. Free will allows humans to love God in return, though He cannot force anyone to love Him. Next, free will/choice demonstrates God’s power because only a powerful God can give some measure of power to mankind.

And in Scripture, we see the Triune Godhead give dominion over the earth to man: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26, NKJV). The word dominion refers to “sovereignty or control.” So when God made man, He gave mankind control or sovereignty over the earth. Keep in mind that it is a limited power and control; man only gets control over the earth, not over everything in existence.

Man brings evil into the world

As said above, Romans 5:12 tells us it is through one “man” that sin enters the world. God is not responsible for sin; mankind is. Some have blamed Eve for instituting sin, but Adam is the one implicated in sin. God made the Adamic Covenant with Adam. He talked with Adam. He told Adam that if he disobeyed God’s Law, he would die.

And when man brings evil into the world, it doesn’t just affect humanity down through the generations; it affects creation, too. “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you” (Genesis 3:17-18).

Thorns and thistles imply frustration, weeds that choke plants and crops and seed. And God tells Adam “cursed is the ground for your sake.” In other words, “cursed is the ground because of you,” God says to Adam. Adam is responsible for the cursing of the ground, not God. The “first adam,” named Adam, transgressed God’s Law because he wanted to be God, which is the lie that the serpent (Satan) told him: “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).

And there is an imputation of Adam’s sin; for, Adam, as the representative of the human race, made a decision for all when he sinned. And because he sinned, we all sinned: “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

Can God do anything about evil? Does He choose not to?

I’ve established that Adam, and thus, humanity, is responsible for the evil in the world. And yet, the next question from the atheist implies that God is responsible for sin entering the world. When the atheist asks, “Can God do anything about evil?,” it appears as though he or she is blaming God for it and asking, “What’s God gonna do about it?” In reality, God is the offended party. It is His Law that Adam and Eve disobeyed. Humans are the offending party(ies). God is the offended party, and in an offense, it is the perpetrator that restores something or makes it right — not the offended party.

In the Old Testament, for example, Exodus 22 speaks about restitution, about the offender or perpetrator restoring what is taken or lost from the offended party. “If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed, and lets loose his animal, and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard” (Exodus 22:5). The Greek word for “restitution” here is apoteisei, meaning “to pay a penalty.” The one who pays the penalty is the one who has done wrong. God didn’t do wrong, man did. Therefore, man, as the offender, must make restitution, not God.

God has done, is doing, and will do something about evil

And yet, God, the offended party, takes the initiative by “making restitution.” He says as much in Genesis 3, the chapter on the Fall of Man:
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:

“Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”

God decides to do something about the evil, the sin in the world: He sends “the seed of the woman” to “bruise” the serpent’s head. Paul refers to Genesis 3:15 when talking to the church in Rome about those making trouble for it:

20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. (Romans 16:20)

“The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet.” These words match Genesis 3:15 about the seed of the woman and the head of the serpent. God defeats Satan, in the words of Paul. And God does defeat Satan: at Calvary, at the cross. He has “nailed” our sins to the cross (Colossians 2:14) and “having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15). At the Cross, God gets victory over Satan and sin.

So, when atheists ask the question, “Does God choose not to do anything about evil?,” they assume that God has done nothing in the past and will do nothing in the future. But they’re wrong: God sent Jesus over 2,000 years ago to die on the Cross for humanity’s sin, to reconcile (restore) man back to God. God the Father is the offended party, and, rather than require it of the offender (humanity), who couldn’t pay the debt or make restitution, God gave His Son to the world to make restitution. And Jesus is the propitiation, the appeasing atonement, for humanity’s sin (1 John 2:2). He is the One in whom the Father is well-pleased (Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17).

God has done something about evil: He has sent Jesus. And Jesus came to restore humanity back to God. And by faith in Him, we can be saved from our sins and spend eternity with Christ in the new Heaven and new earth. And God is doing something in the end. He will finish His plan in the end when He judges wicked unbelievers, and casts them, along with Satan and the fallen angels, into the lake of fire and brimstone. He will put an end to sin, once and for all. Praise be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15:57)