In my most recent post in my “Answering Atheism” series, I’ve tackled the Problem of Evil and the fact that God, in His sovereignty, gives man free will. And yet, evil exists in the world. Atheists say that if God is good, the existence of evil alongside God, who is good, bears some explanation. And in my last post, I explain that humans are responsible for evil — not God. Humans are also responsible for sending themselves to Hell, not God, because they choose not to believe in Jesus.
But I want to detail in this post why it is that I bear that conviction, and how, even in this world in which there is much evil, God remains innocent. Atheists attack God’s goodness often. By asking a question and starting it with “If God is all-powerful and all-loving,” the atheist wants to attack both God’s love and God’s power. If God is all-loving, atheists say, then how does evil exist when evil is the absence of love? If God is all-powerful, they say, then why is it that He doesn’t eliminate the evil in the here and now? Either way, God’s character is under attack.
To the atheist, God is either 1) not all-loving, which goes against the claim that God is love, or 2) God is not all-powerful.
Satan attacks God’s good character with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:4-5)
We see the first attack on God’s character in Scripture from the serpent, Satan himself. In the Fall of man recorded in Genesis 3, Satan tells Adam and Eve that, contrary to what God says, “You will not surely die. 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 3:4-5). First, Satan denies God’s promised punishment for disobedience. At this point, he implicitly says that “God is a liar.”
And yet, we know what Scripture says: “God is not a man, that He should lie (Numbers 23:19), and “It is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). Thus, if anyone is lying between Satan and God, it is clearly Satan. Jesus Himself says the following of Satan:
44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:44, NKJV)
The devil is “a murderer,” “does not stand in the truth,” has “no truth in him,” “he is a liar and the father of it.” These statements indicate who the liar is: Satan, not God. So it’s not surprising to see Satan paint God as a liar; that’s what he does. He wanted Adam and Eve to distrust God so that they wouldn’t believe His warning that if they disobeyed, they would die. And then, Satan promises Adam and Eve “you will be like gods” if they ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:5).
In other words, Satan painted God as someone who was trying to withhold something good from Adam and Eve, when, in reality, He was trying to withhold evil from them. For the moment they ate the fruit, they didn’t become gods, but rather, become fools — for they brought sin into the world, and sin brought death. They signed their own death warrants the moment they ate the fruit.
So, who is responsible for evil?
Who’s responsible for evil in the world? According to Scripture and God Himself, man is responsible for it. We see this in Genesis 3 when God, in His conversation with Adam, Eve, and the serpent, tells each of them they did wrongly. In Genesis 3:14, God tells the serpent, “Because you have done this,” a clear statement of responsibility on the serpent for his lie. In Genesis 3:17, God tells Adam, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife,” a statement that places responsibility at the feet of Adam. The ground is cursed because of Adam. Notice that, despite Eve’s sin, the ground isn’t cursed on account of her eating the fruit, but rather, Adam’s. Adam’s sin is the one that sets creation in bondage to sin.
From the statements God makes to the guilty parties, it’s obvious who’s guilty: man and Satan, not God. God is not responsible, and, since God doesn’t lie, He doesn’t claim responsibility for what He’s not responsible for. So between God and man, only man bears responsibility for His sin. God judges justly in the situation because God is innocent. And only the innocent can judge the guilty.
But it seems as though atheists desire to paint God as the guilty party. Since God gives free will, and humans use it to do evil, God bears some blame in the matter, right?
Atheists couldn’t be more wrong.
Why God is innocent in the face of evil
Atheists believe that free will is best explained by blaming God for it. “God is the one who gave free will to humanity in the Christian view,” they say, so God is responsible for it. But, think about the name of the gift: “free” will. The term “free will” implies that God gives humans a will, power to make decisions, and that it is “free,” not coerced, not forced, not compelled to do something by anyone other than oneself. It is not a bound will, but rather, a free will.
Free will allows man to make the choices he wants to make, not force him to make choices God wants him to make. God wanted Adam and Eve to do the right thing, but they disobeyed Him of their own free will. God doesn’t bear blame for their choices when He gave them the power to make them and gave them fair warning about disobedience.
We can see this when it comes to a store owner who delegates power to a manager and supervisors. If the store owner delegates power, and then returns to the store to find that the manager or supervisors have done wrong, is it the store owner’s fault? No, it is not. Of course, people will say “well the store owner is the one behind all that’s happening,” but the store owner doesn’t bear direct blame. And the store owner could fire the manager and supervisors if the wrong is heinous enough. And he or she would be in their right to fire these workers because they are not the ones who committed the wrong. They’re innocent, despite the fact that the store belongs to them.
The same can be said for parents who give their adult sons and daughters the keys to the car. If the son or daughter comes back and has totally wrecked the car, are the parents to blame for the son or daughter’s actions? Of course not. If the parents taught their son or daughter about the dangers of driving drunk, and the son or daughter gets in an accident for driving under the influence (DUI), are the parents to blame for the son or daughter’s behavior? No, of course not.
Now, if I play along with atheism, I could say, “Well, the parents are to blame because they gave the son or daughter the keys to the car in the first place. Had they not done that, the son or daughter wouldn’t have been able to drive drunk. It’s the parents’ fault. They bear responsibility.” This is terribly wrong, however. If we start blaming other adults for the actions of some adults, then the jails and prisons will be filled beyond capacity, full of innocent people who can’t control what others do with their free will.
Blaming God for Human Choices Doesn’t Fit Responsibility On Earth
The reality is that the way atheists attack God and blame God for sin and evil doesn’t fit with how we ascribe blame and responsibility in our world. When an adult takes the life of another person, in the absence of a mental insanity analysis, we hold that adult responsible for the life they murdered. We don’t let them get off because “their husband cheated on them with the victim.”
A jealous wife’s anger that she uses to kill her husband’s mistress doesn’t allow the wife to walk away without doing jail time. Her anger is normal in such cases but not an acceptable “illness” that makes her insane at the moment of the murder. And we don’t lock her husband up because, “had he not cheated on her, she wouldn’t have been driven to murder his mistress.” The husband is not responsible for his wife’s murdering his mistress; he’s responsible for cheating on his wife, but adultery isn’t justification for murder.
Take terrorism events. After 9/11, it was discovered that national security wasn’t as airtight as it should have been to protect Americans. But, do we blame America for the deaths of the victims at the World Trade Center (WTC) on 9/11? No; we blame the terrorists who staged driving the airplanes into the Twin Towers. Nothing, not even the lack of security, excuses the terrorists themselves from what they did. Just because someone leaves something vulnerable doesn’t give anyone the right to exploit the vulnerability, no matter how tempting it may be.
If Atheists believe God is responsible for their choices, then they should start using God as the reason behind them
It’s been said that something fits reality when it works. So, if atheists truly believe God is responsible for evil in the world, they should start using God for an excuse when they don’t do the right thing. For example, when atheists miss work days and get fired, if they really believe God is responsible for evil, they should tell the company, “Don’t blame me for missing those days; it’s because God gave me free will. For, if He hadn’t given free will, I wouldn’t have been able to miss work days.”
When they don’t pay their taxes, they should blame God and say, “If God hadn’t given me free will, I wouldn’t have failed to pay my taxes.” When they get caught speeding and get a speeding ticket, they should tell the police officer, “Don’t expect me to pay this ticket because God is the one who gave me free will. If He hadn’t given me free will, I wouldn’t have violated traffic laws.”
If atheists truly believe God is guilty, they should use God as the excuse when they do wrong. And, they should also use God as the excuse when they do what is right, though they only credit themselves with the commendable, not God. But we know that atheists don’t use God as their excuse.
Many atheists are morally upright people. When they speed and get caught, they apologize and pay the speeding ticket. They don’t go to court and argue with the judge about “God made me do it.” No, they pay the ticket and move on. And when they neglect to take care of their children and find themselves stuck with child support for 18 years, they don’t argue with the court system about God being responsible for their parental neglect. No, they pay their child support and move on.
Atheists are so morally upright that they take responsibility for their wrongdoing. And that’s a sign that they don’t really believe God is responsible for evil. For, if they’re responsible for their evil, and others are responsible for their evil, then the evil in the world is really a result of human failure, not because God isn’t all-loving or all-powerful.
James says it best in Scripture when he says that “God does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:13-14). Atheists, like Satan, attack the divine character, but the Word of God says that our God is good.
Now, which report do you believe?