The Problem Of Suffering Allan Turner


The Problem Of Suffering 
November 20, 1998

by: Allan Turner
In dealing effectively with the question before us, it is first necessary to point out that, for the most part, suffering is the direct result of evil, whether it be moral or natural evil. Moral evil is the unrighteousness that occurs first in the hearts of free moral agents and then manifests itself in sinful deeds. Greed, hatred, selfishness, deceit, theft, lust, and envy are but a few examples of these immoral deeds. On the other hand, natural evil derives from either natural processes or a perversion thereof. Examples of the former would be flood, lightning, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, etc., all of which result in suffering and death. Examples of the latter would be genetic defects, diseases, insanity, famine, suffering, and death itself. Sometimes moral evil and natural evil may be combined in a single event. For example, murder is an illustration of moral evil on the part of the murderer which results in natural evil (i.e., death) for the victim.
The Problem Of Theodicy 
The fact that there is so much suffering in the world presents us with a problem. The problem is, how is it possible for all the suffering and death that occurs in the world to take place, if the world is actually under the control of an all-good, all-powerful God? More specifically, how is our belief in the God of the Bible justified in view of all this suffering? The philosophers and theologians call this the “problem of theodicy.” The term “theodicy” comes from the combination of two Greek words (viz., theos = God, and dike = justice) that literally mean the “justification of God.” The problem is often stated like this: “You say God is both omnipotent and perfectly good. If so, there ought not to be any evil in the world, since your God would be both able and willing to prevent it. But there is evil in the world; so either there is no God, or he is not omnipotent, or he is not perfectly good” (Brian Hebblethwaite, Evil, Suffering and Religion, p. 60). In the space that follows, we will examine all three of these erroneous conclusions.
“There Is No God” 
According to the Bible, “The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'” (Psalm 14:1). In syllogistic form, the atheist's moral argument looks like this:
  1. If God were all-good, he would destroy evil.
  2. If God were all-powerful, he could destroy evil.
  3. But evil has not been destroyed.
  4. Therefore, God does not exist.
Despite the popularity of this argument among atheists, this so-called “moral disproof” is, in fact, self-defeating. What do we mean by self-defeating? Well, if “destroy” means annihilate, then it should be obvious that God cannot destroy evil without destroying the vary basis for morality; namely, the free moral agent. Stated another way, as long as a free moral agent decides to do that which is evil, then the only way God could destroy evil would be to destroy the free moral agent's ability to make free moral choices. But if man is simply a robot with no free moral choice, then there is no moral problem. Why? Because, if such were the case, then there would be no basis for asking why God does not destroy the morally bad situation called evil.
On the other hand, if when the atheist says “destroy” he really means defeat, without eliminating free moral agency, then this argument still fails. In this argument, the atheist assumes that evil will never be defeated. But one could know this only if one were omniscient. Therefore, one would have to presume to be God in order to disprove God! Actually, once the time factor in premise # 3 of the syllogism is made explicit (viz., “3. But evil is not yet destroyed”), then there remains a possibility that God may yet defeat evil sometime in the future. This, of course, is exactly what the Bible says will happen—there is a day of reckoning that will bring about justice for all (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 12:36; Acts 17:30,31; Romans 2:16; II Corinthians 5:9-11). In that day, Death and Hades, and, by implication, all pain and suffering, will be cast into hell (Revelation 20:11-15).
“God Is Not All-Powerful” 
In addition to the atheists, there are those who use the same argument to “prove” that God is not all-powerful. This belief is called “finite godism,” and is the position articulated by “Rabbi” Harold Kushner in his best-selling book, When Bad Things Happen To Good People. On page 148 of his book, “Rabbi” Kushner wrote:
“Are you capable of forgiving and loving God even when you have found out that He is not perfect, even when He has let you down and disappointed you by permitting bad luck and sickness and cruelty in His world, and permitting some of those things to happen to you? Can you learn to love and forgive Him despite His limitations...as you once learned to forgive and love your parents even though they were not as wise, as strong, or as perfect as you needed them to be?”
Kushner's argument, when put into syllogistic form, looks like this:
  1. If God were all-powerful, he could destroy evil.
  2. If God were all-good, he would destroy evil.
  3. But evil has not been destroyed.
  4. Therefore, God does not exist or He is limited.
  5. But there is evidence that God exists.
  6. Therefore, God must not be all-powerful.
As Kushner put it, “I recognize His limitations. He is limited in what He can do by the laws of nature and by the evolution of human nature and human moral freedom” (p. 134). We must realize, according to Kushner, “that even God has a hard time keeping chaos in check and limiting the damage that evil can do” (p. 43).
Of course, a finite God would not be worthy of worship. Every finite being is a creature, and worship of the creature, rather than the Creator, is idolatry (cf. Isaiah 44:9-20; Romans 1:25). The finite godist's argument is defeated in the same manner as we defeated the atheist's argument. The third premise should read, “3. But evil has not yet been destroyed.” In other words, there is the possibility that evil will eventually be destroyed. If the finite godist were to insist that this will never happen, then he is making the claim that he actually knows more than any finite creature is able to know. Again, the Bible tells us that evil will eventually be destroyed in a devil's hell.
“God Is Not All-Good” 
There are some finite godists who take the position that God is not all-good. This position is actually very rare. It seems that most finite godists would rather have a good God who is weak than a strong God who is not all-good. Usually, those who feel constrained to give up the goodness of God, just give up the idea of God altogether. Nevertheless, some feel this is the best approach to the subject. Syllogistically, the argument looks like this:
  1. If God were all-powerful, he could destroy evil.
  2. If God were all-good, he would destroy evil.
  3. But evil has not been destroyed.
  4. Therefore, God is not all-good.
According to Frederick Sontag, a finite godist who takes this position: “God has purposefully placed us in a situation of less than optimal advantage and subject to more waste and destruction than any purpose can account for. We have not been given good odds for success. This does not prove that there is no God but simply that we are dealing with a God capable of harshness more extreme than some people would use...” (Frederick Sontag, “Anthropodicy and the Return of God,”Encountering Evil: Live Options In Theodicy, p. 141). Another finite godist, John K. Roth, makes an even stronger denial of God's goodness: “Everything hinges on the proposition that God possesses—but fails to use well enough—the power to intervene decisively at any moment to make history's course less wasteful. Thus, in spite and because of his sovereignty, this God is everlastingly guilty and the degrees run from gross negligence to murder...” (John K. Roth, “A Theodicy of Protest,”Encountering Evil: Live Options In Theodicy, p. 11).
It is hard to read what Roth has written without shuddering. Such a view is the complete antithesis of what the Bible says about God. This syllogism is defeated the same way as the previous two. Premise #3 is changed to: “3. But evil is not yetdestroyed.” Again, this opens up the possibility for the eventual defeat of evil. As a matter of fact, if there really is an all-powerful, all-good God, and the Bible says there is, then His very existence automatically guarantees that evil will one day be defeated.
A Fourth Position 
There is a fourth position on the problem of evil that says God Himself is the cause of evil and that He has included it in the overall scheme of things for a specific purpose. Evil is in the world, we are told, because God wants it to be. Those who take this position actually go so far as to say that evil is actually necessary for God to be able to carry out his purposes for mankind. Curiously, those who take this position usually hold to the view that God is both all-good and all-powerful. Actually, there are two versions of this view.
The first version says God had to include evil in the world as a necessary contrast to all the good in His creation, so that the good could be appreciated. How could we appreciate beauty if we never saw anything ugly? How could we appreciate light if there was no darkness? Would we really enjoy pleasure if we had never experienced pain? So goes the argument. This line of argument has several weaknesses. First, it only applies to natural evil (e.g., suffering) and not to moral evil. Nevertheless, any viable solution to the problem must take into account both natural and moral evil. Second, it cannot be proved that one must know evil in order to appreciate what is good. How about Adam and Eve? What was not good about the creation before sin? Did they not enjoy themselves before sin? Nonsense! Furthermore, we can imagine that butter pecan ice cream would still be good even if we had never tasted vinegar. And we do not think that we will need to remember all the evils and sufferings of this present world in order to enjoy the pleasures of heaven. Finally, there is no Bible support for such a view. Such an idea is purely philosophical speculation.
But, there is a second version that must be taken much more seriously. We will call it the “soul-building” view. The idea is that moral perfection cannot be created ex nihilo, it must be developed. But since such growth is impossible apart from the experience of evil, it was therefore necessary for God to include evil in the world by His own decision and purpose. According to this view, God caused evil to be in the world because evil is necessary for man's spiritual growth. This view rejects the idea that Adam and Eve were created morally perfect beings who then fell from that original condition. They could not have been perfect moral creatures originally because, it is argued, moral creatures must mature or develope into perfection. In other words, “a world in which there can be no pain or suffering would also be one in which there can be no moral choices and hence no possibility of moral growth and development” (John Hick, “An Irenaean Theodicy,” Encountering Evil: Live Options In Theodicy, pp. 46,47). Why? Because a morally wrong act is by definition an act that brings harm to another person; but, if pain and suffering is environmentally impossible, then no action could be morally wrong; and no man would ever face the challenge of overcoming the temptation to harm someone else. Consequently, no moral growth would occur. Therefore, it was necessary for man's environment to contain all the elements that it now does in terms of natural or physical evil, including diseases, accidents, and natural disasters. Hick, and those who hold this view, see this world as only one stage of the total soul-building process. There must be further stages of development, they tell us. Eventually, the end of these stages will be achieved when man reaches perfection (i.e., universal salvation). According to Hick, “Without such an eschatological fulfillment, this theodicy would collapse” (ibid., p. 51). Of course, Bible believers must reject Hick's theodicy as incompatible with the truths taught in the Bible. Consequently, it is totally insufficient in explaining the problem of evil.
There is another variant of this version that must be given further consideration. Norman L. Geisler, a respected, conservative theologian who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, begins his view with a dilemma. His assumption is that a totally good God must always do His best; but, because this world has so much evil in it, it is obvious that this world is not the best of all possible worlds. He writes: “The dilemma seems most painful for theism. God must do His best, yet this world He made is not the best. Is there any way out? Only one: this is not the best of all possible worlds, but it is the best of all possible ways to achieve the best of all possible worlds” (Norman L. Geisler, Philosophy Of Religion, p. 326, italics omitted). Geisler agrees with Hick that “it is not possible for God to create directly a world with achieved moral values of the highest nature” (ibid., p. 366). Thus, Geisler writes: “A sinless heaven is better than an evil earth, but there was no way for God to achieve a sinless heaven unless He created beings who would sin and did sin in order that out of their sin He could produce the best world where beings could sin but would not sin. An imperfect moral world is the necessary precondition for achieving the morally perfect world”(ibid., p. 326). “...and without the presence of evil, the greatest lessons of life will never be learned. Jesus was said to have 'learned obedience through what He suffered' and thereby was `made perfect' (Heb. 5:8)....In the final analysis obedience to God is the ultimate lesson to learn. And the very best way to learn it is by disobedience to God. For if God never permitted actual disobedience, how would man ever learn from experience (and experience is the best way men learn) that obedience is better than disobedience?...” (ibid., pp. 363, 364). “The presence of evil is in fact a necessary condition for the maximization of moral perfection for the free creature” (ibid., p. 365).
Professor Geisler explains natural or physical evil the same way—it is the best way to achieve the best possible world. Some virtures are possible only if evil is present in the form of pain, suffering, and misery. Some virtures are acquired by experiencing suffering (e.g., patience, trust, courage, and hope). Others are acquired by interacting with others who are suffering (e.g., sympathy, mercy, and selfless love). In other words, according to Geisler, “some virtues would be totally absent from a world without physical evil” (ibid., p. 389).
Although Geisler gives lip-service to the idea that God did not cause evil but only permits it, nevertheless, he really says much more than this. Geisler actually says that moral evil is a “necessary precondition,” a “morally necessary prerequisite,” a “necessary condition” for achieving the best possible world. A sinless world, according to Geisler, “could not fulfill the requirements” for the best possible world. In reality, Geisler's concepts of permission and necessity are incompatible. If evil is truly necessary for God's purpose, then He must do more than just permit it to occur. He must purposely design a world in which evil will occur. Professor Geisler seems very confused (this is not the first time the professor has appeared to be confused) because he says one thing, namely, “if God is responsible only for the possibility of evil, not its actuality, then the antitheist cannot validly conclude that God is responsible for all actual evil in the world” (ibid., p. 329), which is absolutely correct, as we will discuss shortly, but his view does not depend on the mere possibility of evil among free moral agents; it actually requires evil.
Geisler's position is that man has to sin! In fact, in view of his acknowledgment that Jesus learned obedience, he would, if forced to be consistent, have to admit that in learning obedience by the things that He suffered, Jesus had to sin in order to learn how not to sin. Bible believers, of course, must reject totally such an erroneous and unscriptural position. Furthermore, all that is really needed for one to mature morally is the possibility of moral evil, which would make temptation real and victory over it a character-building experience. Also, to say that the development of the so-called highest virtues is really necessary for God's purpose for man, is really without any scriptural or logical support. It would seem correct to say that ifthe occasion ever arose for a fully-mature moral creature to exercise any of these virtues, then he would do so. And, if no situation ever occurred where it would be necessary to demonstrate sympathy or forgiveness, then this would not leave a gap in one's character. Could God not be God if He had not had the occasion to exercise his grace and forgiveness on a lost and dying world? Nonsense! If there had never been any sin in God's creation and, therefore, no need for forgiveness, God would still have been just as much God as He is right now. We think the same is true in the case of man. If he had never sinned, the absence of such virtues that could develope only in connection with sin (or natural evil) would not detract one iota from his character.
Finally, this position confuses the questions of the origin of evil and the use of evil after it is already in existence. It is true that once evil is already in existence it can be used as a means of character-building, regardless of how it came into existence. But this view focuses on the origin of evil and actually makes character-building the very rationale for evil's existence, and thereby places the full responsibility for its origin on God. This view, then, is wrong, wrong, wrong!
We have read the arguments of the atheists as they protest the concept of a loving and all-powerful God in view of all the awful suffering in this present world. Their logic is unconvincing. We do not think they have a case at all. We have read the arguments of the finite godists and found them wanting. We have examined the arguments of those who would make God responsible for the origin of evil and have found them not just insufficient, but unscriptural as well. Examining the wisdom of man and finding it totally lacking, we now turn our attention to the wisdom that comes from above.
The God who has revealed Himself both in nature and in the Bible is not a finite god. He is, instead, uncreated, immutable, eternal, indivisible, and absolutely perfect. He is not some impersonal force, like the pantheists teach, but a personal being. He is, in fact, tripersonal: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In this one eternal substance or state of being God there is neither confusion of persons nor division in essence. God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. He is eternal, existing before time and beyond time. He is absolutely transcendent (i.e., existing apart from) with reference to the universe and yet operates in every part of it as its sustaining cause. Although the world had a beginning, there never was a time when “I AM WHO I AM” did not exist. He is a necessary being who depends on nothing; on Him everything else depends for its existence. The world exists because God created it ex nihilo (out of nothing). It is not, as the materialists say, eternal. It had a beginning.
In the same manner, man, like the world, also had a beginning. He is different from his Creator in that he is finite in nature; but, he is like his Creator in that he was made in His image (i.e., a spiritual being). The infinite God's creation was special and man is unique. Observing what He had made, God pronounced it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Unfortunately, it did not stay that way!
There are some things that even an all-powerful God cannot do! He cannot be not truth. He cannot be not righteous. He cannot be not just. He cannot be not good, etc. If God is God, then He cannot be not God. Any self-limitation does not affect God's omnipotence. In the same vein, God cannot give man the freedom to choose, without coercion, good or evil, and then guarantee the result. God cannot make us free moral agents and not free moral agents at the same time. As long as this is something God chose to do of His own free will, then it in no way reflects on His omnipotence. Now, because God made man a free moral agent, the possibility of moral evil existed. But, admitting to the possibility of evil is a long way from the idea that evil was necessaryMan, the Bible teaches us, did not have to sin. If we cannot admit to this truth, then any further study of this subject is sure to be fruitless.
Man, Not God, Is Responsible For Evil 
The extent of God's responsibility for evil is that He chose to create a world in which moral evil was a possibility, but not a necessity. The rest, of course, is history. His creatures did decide to do evil. Therefore, the origin of evil and the subsequent consequences are to be found in the rebellion of free moral agents against God. By choosing their own self-serving ends, moral creatures are responsible for all the evil that exists in the world, both moral and natural. It was not God, but man, who brought about the corruption of God's “very good” creation.
Evil, it seems, is, by nature, a lack of or deprivation of the good. Like a parasite, evil exists only in good things as a corruption of them. It is like rot to a tree or rust to iron—it corrupts good things while having no nature of its own. For example: the corruption of an educated mind is ignorance; the corruption of a prudent mind is imprudence; the corruption of a just mind is injustice; the corruption of a brave mind, cowardice; the corruption of a calm, peaceful mind is lust, fear, sorrow, and pride. Like darkness, which is the absence of light, evil is the absence of what is good.
Man, who was, along with the rest of creation, very good, corrupted himself. He has no one to “blame” but himself. Man dies spiritually (i.e., is separated from God) because he sinned; man sinned when he violated the law of God (I John 3:4); he violated the law of God by exercising a choice God had given him; “choice” implies a God-given free moral agency; and last of all, free moral agency makes man personally responsible for his own sinfulness. This sinfulness has produced serious consequences. Sin has had an effect on the whole man, both body and soul. Although spiritual death is experienced when one becomes alienated from God by sinful conduct, physical death is experienced by every person because ever since Adam's sin, man has not had access to the tree of life. Without access to the tree of life, Adam eventually died and so does all his posterity (Romans 5:12). Therefore, the source of the corruption that is in the world (cf. Romans 8:18-23) is man, not God!
And Not Just Moral Evil, But
Physical Evil As Well 

But, someone says, “Okay, free will can explain the presence of moral evil, but how do you explain the presence of physical evils such as birth defects, disease, and death?” The answer is: All physical evils are ultimately the consequence of sin, but, and this is very important, they do not all derive from sin the same way.
First of all, the introduction of moral evil into the original pristine environment of God's creation by Adam and Eve implanted an element of corruption into the universe that will remain until the second coming of Jesus. Therefore, much of the evil that is in the world today can be traced directly back to the events that took place in Genesis 3:1-6. And although man is to blame, the curse actually came from God (Genesis 3:14ff). This, of course, does not make God “responsible” for natural evil, for it is a consequence of man's sin. What it tells us, though, is something about the seriousness of sin. The God who loves His creation had to curse it. Why? Because, the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). When man does this, God is able to “bless” him, when he does not do this, God is judicially obligated to “curse” him (cf. Deuteronomy 11:26-28; James 4:12). Sin is serious business! Sin is terrible! Sin is devastating! If God is going to remain just, then sin, the violation of His law, must not go unpunished!
Sometimes people say, “Why do I have to die because Adam sinned?” Of course, if Adam and Eve had not sinned, and we are now speaking only theoretically, then we surely would have (cf. Romans 3:23), and, as a result, would have caused all the consequences we are now discussing. This brings us to our second point about physical evil. Sometimes we bring about our own suffering by our own sins. We may contract lung cancer through smoking or a venereal disease through promiscuity. Then there is all the pain and suffering and eventual death that one may bring upon himself through drug or alcohol abuse. One may be injured or killed because of his disregard for the traffic laws. Consequently, much suffering is caused by our own free will choices. In fact, this is exactly what James 1:15 teaches: “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
A third way that physical evil derives from moral evil is through the sinful acts of others. A drunken driver may injure or kill others in an auto accident. A jealous husband may shoot his wife. A greedy robber may injure or kill his victim. A mother may inflict her innocent child with physical abuse. A tyrant may decide to commit genocide. The examples seem endless, but in each one of these cases, the suffering endured by one person is the result of the sinfulness of someone else.
A fourth way physical evil may derive from moral evil is through the activity of satan and his minions. Just how much satan and his evil horde is able to do today is a matter of dispute; but to think he does not still go about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour would be a serious mistake. Satan is still active in the world today. If we are not careful, he can hurt us with his entrapments. Although he has been limited, there are still many “fiery darts” in his quiver (cf. Ephesians 6:16).
Finally, it should be noted that God Himself may use natural evils as a means of chastening or punishing His people. That God has done this in the past and continues to do this in the present is clearly taught in the Bible (Job 33:13ff; 37:11-13; Hebrews 12:3-11). However, God does not cause natural evils as part of His original purpose for man; rather, He does so as a reaction to or in response to sin. If there were no sin, then there would be no reason for correction, chastisement, or punishment. Therefore, even God-inflicted natural evils stem ultimately from the presence of moral evil in the world.
Man's Capacity For Pain Is Not Evil 
This is a good time to point out that man's capacity for pain and, in some cases, even pain itself are not evils per se. In fact, the body's pain mechanism works as a warning system that keeps us from injuring ourselves. For example, the brief pain experienced from touching something hot prevents us from burning ourselves much more seriously. Therefore, our capacity for pain seems to be absolutely necessary for living in this finite world. Philip Yancey wisely comments that although it is “the gift nobody wants,” man's capacity for pain may be “the paragon of creative genius” (Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts?, pp. 21,22). However, there is a great deal of difference between man's capacity for pain and temporary warning pains, on the one hand, and the terrible prolonged agony experienced by the victims of certain diseases, on the other hand. While the former may be natural and good, the latter is definitely the result of sin's distortion of nature. In other words, it is not God's work! Instead, it is part of the “bondage of corruption” that permeates a fallen world (cf. Romans 8:20-22). And there must be no mistake about it: this world is fallen, that is, nature today is not the way God made it in the beginning.  This passage teaches that the creation will be redeemed or set free from its present corruption. Evidently this will take place through the final purification out of which will come new heavens and a new earth (II Peter 3:10-13). If these passages do not teach this, then what do they teach? Folks, there is truly a great and notable day coming!
So far, we have concerned ourselves with, “Why is there suffering?” Now we turn our attention from the theoretical aspects of this question to the practical side, which asks, “How can I live with suffering?”
What's The Point Of It All? 
“Where was God when my son died?,” someone asked the preacher. “The same place He was when His own Son died!,” came the answer. If God loved His own Son, then we must be willing to trust Him to reconcile suffering and love, for as sure as Jesus hung on that cruel cross outside the walled city of Jerusalem some two thousand years ago, the Father let His own Son suffer. What does it mean? What's the point? Why did God let His own Son suffer and die? We must not back away from the cross. However wise we are; however educated we become; however philosophical we decide to be, in the end, it is the cross of Christ that gives us conviction that the suffering an all-good, all-powerful God did not originate, but does permit, can be of value.
When God executes wrath, vengeance, and punishment, it is only in a judicial sense that He does so. When God, as Lawgiver, executes judgment, justice demands that one either be vindicated or punished, that is, one receives either a “blessing” or a “curse” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28; James 4:12). In this sense, punishment is retribution (i.e., “the wages of sin,” Romans 6:23) to vindicate Law and satisfy Justice, and is, therefore, an action based upon the principle of Righteousness. Without reward and punishment, there is no justice. Without justice, there is no judgment. Without judgment, there is no law. Without law, there is no lawgiver. Finally, if there is no lawgiver, then there is no God like the one described in the Bible.
Too often, punishment is thought of as being remedial. In other words, many think the primary purpose of punishment is to make one better. As we have pointed out in this study, this is simply not so. Although it is true that correction or reform can be, and in some cases is, a residual effect of punishment, it has as its major objective the vindication of Law and the satisfaction of Justice. If this is not true, then our atonement through Jesus' vicarious death is not possible. If the punishment Jesus experienced on the cross was actually designed to make those who rightly deserved it better—and not to vindicate Law and satisfy Justice—then there is no way He could have experienced that for us. On the other hand, if punishment is necessary to uphold Law and satisfy Justice, then it was possible for Christ to be “the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10). Praise be to God, the Father, and His glorious Son, this is exactly what happened at the cross of Christ! The substitutional death of Jesus on the cross made it possible for God to give those of us who actually deserved the punishment a clean slate. Because Jesus paid the full price for our redemption through His suffering, justice was done (i.e., God remained just) and God was able to justify those who exercise faith in His Son (Romans 3:25,26).
God's love, mercy, and grace abounded unto us through the cross of Christ. The sacrifice of God's Son was the only means whereby God, who loved us, could save us from the punishment we all richly deserved. But, not only does God suffer with us, He actually suffered for us: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24,25).
How fair was it for the Creator of the universe to have to interject Himself into His creation and become “obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross”? There was nothing fair about it at all! As strange as it may sound, God's love and grace are not fair! If we want fair, then we have to deal with God's Justice; but then the best we can hope for is to be consumed by it. God's love and mercy are not fair. Why? Because Jesus, the only one to ever keep the law perfectly, paid the penalty for violating it! Praise God! Remember, God was not just permitting evil to occur to Jesus and He was not just exacting judicial punishment from the one suffering on the cross; He was actually hanging there Himself, because the one hanging there that day was none other than God in the flesh, drinking down, to the last dregs, the full bowl of the “wages of sin.”
Was it fair? No! Was it easy? No! Listen to His cry as He experienced the full impact of God's judicial wrath, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Despite the awfulness of His pain, despite His humiliation, despite the loneliness He was experiencing as He was being rejected by His nation, despite His being a sin-offering, despite the alienation He must have been experiencing, He was still saying, “My God.” He had not lost His trust in His Father. He had been stripped of all His human rights, His privacy, His status in the eyes of the law, but they could not strip Him of His absolute trust in His Father. In other words, like Job, Jesus was saying, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). As we listen to His words from the cruel cross, we hear Him say, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46). Here is absolute trust. Here is victory over suffering. Here is victory in the face of death. Although His Father had just delivered Him over to cruel men to suffer and die (cf. Acts 2:23), He says, in essence, “You I trust!” Faith (i.e., trust), hope, and love will do it every time (I Corinthians 13:13)! If we believe that the one who loves us is allowing us to pass through the fire of suffering for some good purpose, then we will be victors over whatever happens to us. Remember, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called accoring to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Jesus, because He loved us, was willing to submit to the will of His Father through suffering so that mankind could have the hope of redemption. Wasn't this a good enough cause? Obviously, God seemed to think so.
Yes, take a real good look at Jesus, because He is “the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God...[and] consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:2,3).
Yes, look at Jesus, for in the midst of what, for all intents and purposes, appeared to be defeat, we see the greatest victory mankind has ever known. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, [and] received up in glory” (I Timothy 3:16).
How much does God love us? Latch on to the truth that He loves us a Calvary's-worth. Be convinced that Calvary speaks the truth of God's magnificent love and then ask yourself what is it that could separate you from that love. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For Your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”(Romans 8:31-39).
As Jim McGuiggan so effectively pointed out in his excellent little book, The God Of The Towel, will hunger and thirst convince us that God doesn't love us? How could it? Hunger and thirst were God's experience in Christ to show us that He does love us. Can persecution (i.e., being led to the slaughter) while others jeer, convince us that God does not love us? How could it? The slaughter of the Lamb of God became God's own experience in the flesh to show us that He does love us. In other words, what the apostle Paul said in Romans 8:31-39 is: If I had a wife and men were raping and humiliating her while compelling me to helplessly stand by and watch, I would not be convinced that God does not love me. If I had children who lay brutally deprived of food, lifting up weak and skinny arms in voiceless appeal for me to do something, I would not be convinced that God did not love me. And if the world brutalized me in every conceivable way and God stood by to watch it, I could not be convinced that He does not love me. I would cry, complain, agonize, and probably protest, but I would remain persuaded beyond any doubt that God loves me. This is why I am able to live with suffering.
The skeptic may ask, “Is it not unreasonable to think that a good God would so order His universe so as to make his subjects happy?” And maybe the thought is not really unreasonable, even for a Christian. How can free-will worship possibly be worth the excessive amount of evil that exists in the world? We just do not really know. But, if the loving, kind, merciful, and all-wise God of the universe thinks there are more important ends to be gained from this fallen world than our unbroken enjoyment of life on this earth, then we will have to either trust Him or rebel.
But, if one event in all the history of mankind is true and unmistakably plain in its message, it is the CROSS OF CHRIST: the true image, imprinted indelibly in our hearts, of the all-good, all-powerful Creator of the universe, in the form of a defeated man, dying contemptibly in the shadows of one dark afternoon some twenty centuries ago, because...He loved us.
Thank You God for everything You've done for us. Help us always to glorify You in our pain and suffering. Again, from the bottom of our hearts, thank You!...Thank You!!...Thank You!!!

"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY" Chapter Three by Mark Copeland

                     "THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY"

                             Chapter Three


1) To examine the qualifications necessary for bishops and deacons

2) To appreciate the noble view that Paul has of the church


In this chapter we find the qualifications necessary for those who 
would serve as bishops in the local congregation (1-7).  A similar list
is included for those who would be deacons (8-13).

Paul then explains the purpose in writing this epistle.  Though hoping
to come soon, he writes so that Timothy will be well-instructed on how
to conduct himself in the house of God, which is the church, the pillar
and ground of the truth (14-15).  Mention of "the truth" prompts a 
summation of "the mystery of godliness" which pertains to the coming of
Christ into the world (16).



      1. It is a position, or office (1a)
      2. It is a good work for a man to desire (1b)

      1. Positive qualifications
         a. Blameless (2a)
         b. The husband of one wife (2b)
         c. Temperate (2c)
         d. Sober-minded (2d)
         e. Of good behavior (2e)
         f. Hospitable (2f)
         g. Able to teach (2g)
         h. Gentle (3d)    
         i. One who rules his own house well (4a)
            1) Having his children in submission with all reverence
            2) For if he can't rule his own house, how will he take 
               care of the church? (5)
         j. A good testimony among those outside (7a)
            1) Lest he fall into reproach (7b)
            2) And into the snare of the devil (7c)
      2. Negative qualifications
         a. Not given to wine (3a)
         b. Not violent (3b)
         c. Not greedy for money (3c)
         d. Not quarrelsome (3e)
         e. Not covetous (3f)
         f. Not a novice (6a)
            1) Lest he be puffed up with pride (6b)
            2) And fall into the same condemnation as the devil (6c)

      1. Positive qualifications
         a. Reverent (8a)
         b. Holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience (9)
         c. Proven (10a)
         d. Found blameless (10b)
         e. The husband of one wife (12a)
         f. Ruling his children and house well (12b)
      2. Negative qualifications
         a. Not double-tongued (8b)
         b. Not given to much wine (8c)
         c. Not greedy for money (8d)
      3. Their wives
         a. Reverent (11a)
         b. Not slanderers (11b)
         c. Temperate (11c)
         d. Faithful in all things (11d)

      1. Those who serve well obtain a good standing (13a)
      2. Also great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus


      1. He hopes to come shortly, but writes in case he is delayed 
      2. That Timothy might know how to conduct himself in the house of
         God (15b)
         a. Which is the church of the living God (15c)
         b. Which is the pillar and ground of the truth (15d)

      1. Without controversy, it is great (16a)
      2. In summation, it key elements are these:  God was...
         a. Manifested in the flesh (16b)
         b. Justified in the Spirit (16c)
         c. Seen by angels (16d)
         d. Preached among the Gentiles (16e)
         e. Believed on in the world (16f)
         f. Received up in glory (16g)


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - The qualifications for bishops (1-7)
   - The qualifications for deacons (8-13)
   - Paul's purpose in writing (14-16)

2) How does Paul describe the position of a bishop? (1)
   - As a good work

3) What are the positive qualifications required for a bishop? (2-7)
   - Blameless, husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good
     behavior, hospitable, able to teach, gentle, ruling his own house
     well, a good testimony among those outside

4) What are the negative qualifications required for a bishop? (2-7)
   - Not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, not 
     quarrelsome, not covetous, not a novice

5) What are the positive qualifications required for a deacon? (8-12)
   - Reverent, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience,
     proven, found blameless, the husband of one wife, ruling his 
     children and house well

6) What are the negative qualifications required for a deacon? (8-12)
   - Not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money

7) What are the qualifications for the wives of deacons? (11)
   - Reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things

8) What is said of those deacons who have served well? (13)
   - They obtain a good standing and great boldness in the faith which
     is in Christ Jesus

9) Why did Paul write this epistle? (14-15)
   - So that in case his coming was delayed, Timothy would know how to
     conduct himself

10) What does Paul call the house of God? (15)
   - The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth

11) What are the basic facts of the mystery of godliness? (16)
   - God was manifested in the flesh   - Preached among the Gentiles
   - Justified in the Spirit           - Believed on in the world
   - Seen by angels                    - Received up in glory

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY" Chapter Two by Mark Copeland

                     "THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY"

                              Chapter Two


1) To appreciate the importance and place of prayer, especially in the
   lives of men

2) To notice God's desire for the salvation of all men, therefore 
   offering Christ as a ransom for all, not just a select few

3) To understand the proper adornment of women, and their place in the
   public teaching of the church


Having reminded Timothy of his charge to remain in Ephesus and "wage
the good warfare", Paul now begins instructing Timothy in matters that
involve the church.  He starts with a call to prayer, defining for whom
and why we should pray.  His desire is that men pray in every place,
lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting (1-8).

Just as men are to pray everywhere, so women are to adorn themselves
properly.  This involves modest apparel worn with propriety and 
moderation, but it also includes good works, as is proper for women 
professing godliness.  Also proper is women learning in silence 
(translated peaceable in verse 2) with all submission.  Therefore a 
woman is not permitted to teach or have authority over a man.  Basing 
this restriction on the relationship of Adam, Eve, and the fall, Paul 
reminds them they can be saved in their natural role of childbearing if
they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control (9-15).



      1. Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks
         are to be made for all (1)
         a. For kings and all who are in authority (2a)
         b. That we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness
            and reverence (2b)
      2. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior (3)
         a. Who desires all men to be saved and know the truth (4)
         b. For there is one Mediator between God and men (5a)
            1) The Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all
            2) To be testified in due time, for which Paul was 
               appointed a preacher and an apostle (6b-7a)
               a) Paul speaks the truth in Christ and is not lying (7b)
               b) A teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth (7c)

      1. For men to pray everywhere (8a)
      2. Lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting (8b)


      1. With modest apparel (9a)
         a. With propriety and moderation (9b)
         b. Not with braided hair, gold, pearls, or costly clothing
      2. With good works, which is proper for women professing 
         godliness (10)

      1. To learn in silence with all submission (11)
      2. Not permitted to teach or have authority over a man, but to be
         in silence (12)
         a. For Adam was formed first, then Eve (13)
         b. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived
            fell into transgression (14)
      3. A woman will be saved in childbearing if they continue in...
         a. Faith
         b. Love
         c. Holiness
         -- With self-control (15)


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - The practice of prayer (1-8)
   - Instructions for women (9-15)

2) What four things does Paul exhort be made for all men? (1)
   - Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks

3) Who else are we to pray for?  Why? (2)
   - Kings and all who are in authority
   - That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and

4) What does God desire for all men? (4)
   - That they be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth

5) Who is the one mediator between God and men? (5)
   - The Man Christ Jesus

6) For whom did Jesus give Himself as a ransom? (6)
   - For all

7) What did Paul desire that men do? (8)
   - Pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting

8) How are women to adorn themselves? (9-10)
   - In modest apparel, with propriety and moderation
   - Not with braided hair, gold, pearls, or costly clothing
   - With good works, as is proper for women professing godliness

9) How were the women to learn? (11)
   - In silence (peaceable, cf. 2:3), with all submission

10) What did Paul not permit a woman to do? (12)
   - To teach or have authority over a man

11) What two reasons does Paul give for these limitations on women?
   - Adam was formed first, then Eve
   - Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived fell into

12) What are the women encouraged to continue in? (15)
   - Faith, love, holiness, with self-control

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Black Muslims and the Nation of Islam by Brad Bromling, D.Min.


Black Muslims and the Nation of Islam

by Brad Bromling, D.Min.

Ever since entering the spotlight of public attention (about 1984), Louis Farrakhan has been a controversial figure. He thrills the hearts of some, scares the daylights out of others, and offends many more. When he called the African-American community to participate in a "Million Man March" on Washington, D.C., 400,000 responded—twice the number who walked with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963. Unlike Dr. King, everything Farrakhan said was dedicated to Allah.
Few people have reminded Americans of Islam’s presence on this continent more pointedly than Farrakhan. But what many people do not know is that Farrakhan does not represent Islam. He is the leader of the Nation of Islam, a distinctly American invention that has its roots in the opening years of the twentieth century (see Bijlefeld, 1993; Gudel and Duckworth, 1993; Ahlstrom, 1972; Morey, 1992).
In 1930, a Detroit clothing merchant named Wallace D. Fard (a.k.a. Wali Farad Muhammad) began preaching an Islamic-flavored message among blacks. Fard had been a follower of the “Noble Prophet Ali Drew,” founder of the Moorish Science Temple of America. Drew’s message was a mixture of Christian principles, Islamic ideals, and black nationalism that offered hope to an oppressed community of people. After Drew’s assassination in 1929, Fard, claiming connections with Mecca, began calling black Americans to renounce Christianity (a “white man’s religion”), and to embrace Islamic ideals. He founded the Temple of Islam in Detroit, and by 1934 had a following of 8,000. After Fard mysteriously disappeared in 1934, his most famous disciple, Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole), carried the movement forward.
Elijah Muhammad claimed that Allah had appeared in the person of Fard, and that he himself was a prophet of Allah. He saw white people as devils and preached against integration. In his view, the black man would win ultimate victory over the white man in the battle of Armageddon. He offered the impoverished and persecuted black community a sense of dignity. Blacks were not simply the white man’s equal, but someday would rule the Earth.
In 1947, Elijah Muhammad’s message was heard and believed by the imprisoned Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little) who, upon his release in 1952, joined the Black Muslims. He was an outspoken minister of the group until 1963, when he became disillusioned with Muhammad. After a trip to Mecca a year later, Malcolm X converted to orthodox Islam and no longer endorsed racial antagonism. Eleven months later he was assassinated.
When Muhammad died in 1975, he was succeeded by his son, Wallace Deen, who sought unification between the Black Muslims and orthodox Islam. This trend was unacceptable to Louis Farrakhan, who preferred the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. So, in 1977 Farrakhan broke from the Black Muslims, returned to his mentor’s teaching, and started the faction that bears the name “Nation of Islam” (a name also used by Elijah Muhammad).
Without Farrakhan, Wallace Deen Muhammad led Black Muslims to full unification with orthodox Islam. This group is not to be confused with the Nation of Islam, which still is considered heretical by Islam worldwide.
Some of the more troubling views of Elijah Muhammad that are evident in current Nation of Islam rhetoric are well summarized by Sidney Ahlstrohm:
[Their] eschatology teaches that God has come; there is no life after this life; heaven and hell are only two contrasting earthly conditions; the hereafter (which will begin to appear about A.D. 2000) is but the end of the present "spook" civilization of the Caucasian usurpers, including the Christian religion. It will be followed by the redemption of the Black Nation and their glorious rule over all the earth (1972, p. 1068).
Ostensibly, the message of the Nation of Islam (as presented by Farrakhan at the Million Man March) is one of social atonement and reconciliation; it is a call for the black community to strive for moral and ethical superiority. Farrakhan called the audience to give up drugs, prostitution, and violence, and to commit to improving themselves “spiritually, morally, mentally, socially, politically, and economically” (1995). These are laudable concerns that should transcend race. If lower crime rates, higher economic productivity, and an over-all improvement in the quality of life for African-Americans result from the efforts of Farrakhan, then all people will have reason to rejoice.
The problem with the Nation of Islam, however, is at least two-fold: (1) it is not the religion of Jesus Christ; and (2) it is preoccupied with “white supremacy.” In his Million Man March speech, Farrakhan argued that the United States is rotten at its very foundation because it has been characterized from the beginning by white supremacy. For example, He said:
The Seal and the Constitution [of the United States—BB] reflect the thinking of the founding fathers, that this was to be a nation by White people and for White people. Native Americans, Blacks, and all other non-White people were to be the burden bearers for the real citizens of this nation (1995).
Clearly, anyone with a cursory understanding of American history can respect (even if only to a limited degree) the sense of anger and frustration that minorities feel about their position in this society. Prejudice is a dangerous and painful thing. Its effects have not disappeared, and the wounds it has inflicted still are very fresh in many places (and in many lives). But the answer is not found in the Qur’an or the doctrines of Elijah Muhammad. Cornel West succinctly stated:
...one’s eyes should be on the prize, not on the perpetuator of one’s oppression. In short, Elijah Muhammad’s project remained captive to the supremacy game—a game mastered by the white racists he opposed and imitated with his black supremacy doctrine (1993, p. 100).
The only hope for a world torn by racial hatred is Jesus Christ—not a black Jesus or a white Jesus, but the Jesus of Scripture—Who like all of us is the Son of Adam, but unlike us, is also the Son of God. By His self-sacrifice for all humanity, He offers to break down the walls of enmity that sin erects between us (Acts 10:34; Ephesians 2:14; Galatians 3:28).


Ahlstrom, Sidney E. (1972), A Religious History of the American People (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).
Bijlefeld, Willem A. (1993), “Black Muslims” The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia [CD-ROM].
Farrakhan, Louis, (1995), Transcript from Minister Louis Farrakhan’s remarks at the Million Man March [Online], URL http://www3.cnn.com/US/9510/megamarch/10-16/transcript/index.html.
Gudel, Joseph P. and Larry Duckworth (1993), “Hate Begotten of Hate,” The Christian Research Institute [Online], URL http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/cri/cri-jrnl/crj0010c.txt.
Morey, Robert A. (1992) The Islamic Invasion (Eugene, OR: Harvest House).
West, Cornel (1993), Race Matters (Boston, MA: Beacon).

The Finger of God by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


The Finger of God

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Skeptics have railed against the Bible on account of its allusions to God’s body parts. For example, the Bible speaks of the arm of God (Job 40:9), the hand of God (Job 19:21), the face of God (Job 13:24), the eyes of God (Deuteronomy 11:12), the ears of God (Psalm 130:2), the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3), the voice of God (Job 40:9), and even the “finger of God” (Exodus 31:18). Attentive Bible students are aware that all such references are simply accommodative language—anthropomorphisms (man forms)—in which the Scriptures provide humans with a reference point for relating to God’s activity. The Bible clearly teaches that God is spirit—not physical (John 4:24). He does not possess physical mass. Jesus Himself stated, “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50). It is difficult for humans to conceptualize an infinite, eternal Being Who is not composed of physical matter, since humans are subject to space and time, and experience existence in a setting that is preeminently material. Nevertheless, while we may have difficulty fully understanding the nature of a nonphysical Being, the concept itself is neither self-contradictory nor incoherent.
For example, when Moses and Aaron unleashed the plagues by the power of God upon Pharaoh and the Egyptian population, Pharaoh’s magicians concluded: “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19). They simply meant that the plague was God’s doing—that the affliction was the result of God’s power. In like manner, the Bible states that the original Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses on two tablets of stone were “written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18; cf. Deuteronomy 9:10). In other words, God authored them and supernaturally placed them in writing on the stone tablets. Another sample of this type of figurative speech is seen in the declaration of the psalmist regarding God’s creative activity: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:3-4, emp. added). Obviously, God does not have fleshly fingers, nor would He find it necessary to use them if He had them. Being the ultimate Mind, He can bring into existence ex nihilo (out of nothing) whatever He chooses by simply willing it into existence.
This same figure of speech is seen in the New Testament as well. Jesus stated: “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20, emp. added). He simply meant that His actions were by divine agency. Observe the alternate wording of a parallel passage where, in place of the “finger of God,” the text has the “Spirit of God”: “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28). It is evident that “finger” simply refers to deity (whether the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit) manifesting His presence and power in a time-space continuum.
Those scholars who have devoted their lives to studying dead languages, discovering their linguistic intricacies, figurative features, and idiomatic expressions, have long recognized this particular figure. For example, E.W. Bullinger, who published a monumental volume in the nineteenth century titled Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (1898), labeled this linguistic attribute “anthropopatheia” or “condescension,” which he identified as “the ascription of human passions, actions, or attributes to God” (p. 871). He devoted several pages to illustrating this figure of speech (pp. 871-897). In his specific remarks regarding the “finger” of God, he wrote: “A Finger is attributed to God, to denote the putting forth of His formative power, and the direct and immediate act of God” (p. 881). John Haley, who in 1874 produced the respected and scholarly reference work Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, defended the “immateriality” of God on the grounds that all such anthropomorphic passages “are simply bold figures and startling hyperboles in which the Orientals are wont to indulge” (p. 63). He identified the expression “finger of God” as referring to God’s “direct agency.”
The Bible has been the target of a myriad of attacks by skeptics for over 2,000 years. It will undoubtedly continue to be so. No other book in all of human history has been the object of such sustained, frenzied, and antagonistic scrutiny. For the honest, unbiased investigator, the Bible’s supernatural attributes continue to validate its authenticity.


Bullinger, E.W. (1898), Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1968 reprint).
Haley, John W. (1977 reprint), Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

The Moral Argument for the Existence of God by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


The Moral Argument for the Existence of God

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

In November 2006, several of the world’s leading atheistic evolutionary scientists gathered in La Jolla, California for the first “Beyond Belief” symposium (see Lyons and Butt, 2007), which the scientific journal New Scientist called “an ‘atheist love fest’” (Reilly, 2007, 196[2629]:7). The conference was held to discuss science, religion, and God, and specifically whether science should “do away with religion” (Brooks, 2006, 192[2578]:9). New Scientist writer Michael Brooks summarized the overall attitude of the attendees in the following words: “science can take on religion and win” (p. 11). The participants were ready to roll up their sleeves and “get on with it” (p. 11). They were ready to put science “In Place of God,” as Brooks titled his article.
Fast-forward one year to 2007—to the “Beyond Belief II” symposium—where some of the participants apparently approached the idea of a Supernatural Being much more cautiously. EvenNew Scientist, who covered the conference for a second year in a row, chose a drastically different article title the second time around—from “In Place of God” to the more sober, “God’s Place in a Rational World” (see Reilly, 196[2629]:7, emp. added). Author Michael Reilly gave some insight into the meeting by recording what one attendee, Edward Slingerland of the University of British Columbia (and founder of the Centre for the Study of Human Evolution, Cognition and Culture), openly acknowledged.
“Religion is not going away,” he announced. Even those of us who fancy ourselves rationalists and scientists, he said, rely on moral values—a set of distinctly unscientific beliefs.
Where, for instance, does our conviction that human rights are universal come from? “Humans’ rights to me are as mysterious as the holy trinity.... You can’t do a CT scan to show where humans’ rights are, you can’t cut someone open and show us their human rights.... It’s not an empirical thing, it’s just something we strongly believe. It’s a purely metaphysical entity” (p. 7, emp. added).
Although some at the conference had the naïve belief that “[g]iven time and persistence, science will conquer all of nature’s mysteries” (Reilly, p. 7, emp. added), it is encouraging to know that at least one person alluded to one of the greatest proofs for God’s existence—the moral argument.


Why do most rational people believe in objective morality? That is, why do people generally think that some actions are “right” and some actions are “wrong,” regardless of people’s subjective opinions? Why do most people believe that it is “evil” or “wicked” (1) for someone to walk into a random house, shoot everyone in it, and steal everything in sight? (2) for a man to beat and rape a kind, innocent woman? (3) for an adult to torture an innocent child simply for the fun of it? or (4) for parents to have children for the sole purpose of abusing them sexually every day of their lives? Because, as evolutionist Edward Slingerland noted, humans have metaphysical rights—rights that are “a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses” (“Metaphysical,” 2011)—and  “rely on moral values.” The fact is, most people, even many atheists, have admitted that real, objective good and evil exist.

Antony Flew

During the last half of the 20th century, Dr. Antony Flew, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading in Reading, England, was considered one of the world’s most well known atheistic philosophers. From 1955-2000, he lectured and wrote extensively on matters pertaining to atheism. Some of his works include, but in no way are limited to, God and Philosophy (1966),Evolutionary Ethics (1967), Darwinian Evolution (1984), The Presumption of Atheism (1976), andAtheistic Humanism (1993). In September 1976, Dr. Flew debated Dr. Thomas B. Warren, Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Christian Apologetics at Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tennessee. Prior to this four-night debate on the existence of God, Warren, in agreement with the rules of the debate, asked Flew several questions in writing, including the following: “True/False. In murdering six million Jewish men, women, and children the Nazis were guilty of real (objective) moral wrong.” Flew answered “True.” He acknowledged the existence of “real (objective) moral wrong” (Warren and Flew, 1977, p. 248). [NOTE: In 2004, Flew started taking steps toward theism as he acknowledged the impossibility of a purely naturalistic explanation for life. See Miller, 2004 for more information.]

Wallace Matson

In 1978, Dr. Warren met Dr. Wallace Matson, Professor of Philosophy at the University of California in Berkeley, California, in a public debate on the existence of God in Tampa, Florida. Once again, per the agreed-upon guidelines, the disputants were allowed to ask up to 10 questions prior to their debate. Once more, Warren asked: “True/False. In murdering six million Jewish men, women, and children the Nazis were guilty of real (objective) moral wrong.” Like Flew, Matson answered “True:” “real (objective) moral wrong” exists (Warren and Matson, 1978, p. 353). Matson even acknowledged in the affirmative (i.e., “true”) that “[i]f you had been a soldier during World War II and if the Nazis (1) had captured you and (2) had given you the choice of either joining them in their efforts to exterminate the Jews or being murdered, you would have had the objective moral obligation to die rather than to join them in the murder of Jewish men, women, and children” (p. 353, underline in orig.). Do not miss the point: Matson not only said that the Nazis were guilty of objective moral wrong, he even indicated that a person would have the “objective moral obligation to die” rather than join up with the murderous Nazi regime.

As Easy as 2 + 2

Although objective morality may be outside the realm of the scientific method, every rational person can know that some things are innately good, while other things are innately evil. Antony Flew and Wallace Matson, two of the leading atheistic philosophers of the 20th century, forthrightly acknowledged the existence of objective morality. Though at times atheist Michael Ruse has seemed opposed to the idea of moral objectivity (see Ruse, 1989, p. 268), evenhe admitted in his book Darwinism Defended that “[t]he man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children, is just asmistaken as the man who says that 2 + 2 = 5” (1982, p. 275, emp. added). Indeed, one of the many reasons that “religion (i.e., God—EL) is not going away,” to use Edward Slingerland’s words, is because moral values are a metaphysical reality (cf. Romans 2:14-15). Philosophers Francis Beckwith and Gregory Koukl said it well: “Those who deny obvious moral rules—who say that murder and rape are morally benign, that cruelty is not a vice, and that cowardice is a virtue—do not merely have a different moral point of view; theyhave something wrong with them” (1998, p. 59, emp. added). 


The moral argument for the existence of God has been stated in a variety of ways through the centuries. One way in which the basic argument has been worded is as follows (see Craig, n.d.; Craig and Tooley, 1994; Cowan, 2005, p. 166):
Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values exist.
Conclusion: God exists.
Thomas B. Warren worded the argument in a positive, more detailed manner in his debates with atheist Antony Flew (p. 173) and Wallace Matson (p. 285).
  1. If the moral code and/or actions of any individual or society can properly be subjects of criticism (as to real moral wrong), then there must be some objective standard (some “higher law which transcends the provincial and transient”) which is other than the particular moral code and which has an obligatory character which can be recognized.
  2. The moral code and/or actions of any individual or society can properly be subjects of criticism (as to real moral wrong).
  3. Therefore, there must be some objective standard (some “higher law which transcends the provincial and transient”) which is other than the particular moral code and which has an obligatory character which can be recognized.
The “society” that Warren used as a case study in his debates was Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime. In the 1930s and 40s, Nazi Germany committed state-sponsored genocide of so-called “inferior races.” Of the approximately nine million Jews who lived in Europe at the beginning of the 1930s, some six million of them were exterminated. The Nazis murdered approximately one million Jewish children, two million Jewish women, and three million Jewish men. The Nazis herded them into railway cars like cattle, shipping them to concentration camps. Sometimes the floors of the railway cars were layered with quicklime, which would burn the feet of the prisoners, including the children. The Jews were starved, gassed, and experimented on like animals. Hitler slaughtered another three million Poles, Soviets, gypsies, and people with disabilities (see “Holocaust,” 2011 for more information).
So were the Nazis guilty of “real (objective) moral wrong”? According to atheist Antony Flew, they were (Warren and Flew, p. 248). Atheist Wallace Matson agreed (Warren and Matson, p. 353). Whether theist or atheist, most rational people admit that some things really are atrocious. People do not merely feel like rape and child abuse may be wrong; they are wrong—innately wrong. Just as two plus two can really be known to be four, every rational human can know that some things are objectively good, while other things are objectively evil. However, reason demands that objective good and evil can only exist if there is some real, objective point of reference. If something (e.g., rape) “can properly be the subject of criticism (as to real moral wrong) then there must be some objective standard (some ‘higher law which transcends the provincial and transient’) which is other than the particular moral code and which has an obligatory character which can be recognized” (Warren and Matson, p. 284, emp. added).


Recognition by atheists of anything being morally wrong begs the question: How can an atheistlogically call something atrocious, deplorable, evil, or wicked? According to atheism, man is nothing but matter in motion. Humankind allegedly evolved from rocks and slime over billions of years. But who ever speaks of “wrong rocks,” “moral minerals,” “corrupt chemicals,” or “sinful slime?” People do not talk about morally depraved donkeys, evil elephants, or immoral monkeys. Pigs are not punished for being immoral when they eat their young. Komodo dragons are not corrupt because 10% of their diet consists of younger Komodo dragons. Killer whales are not guilty of murder. Black widows are not exterminated simply because the female often kills the male after copulation. Male animals are not tried for rape if they appear to forcibly copulate with females (cf. Thornhill, 2001). Dogs are not depraved for stealing the bone of another dog.
The fact that humans even contemplate morality testifies to the huge chasm between man and animals. Atheistic evolutionists have admitted that morals arise only in humans. According to Antony Flew, man is a moral being, yet “value did not exist before the first human being” (Warren and Flew, p. 248). Flew believed that morals came into existence only after man evolved, not beforehand when allegedly only animals existed on Earth. Though George Gaylord Simpson, one of the most recognized atheistic evolutionists of the 20th century, believed that “man is the result of a purposeless and materialistic process that did not have him in mind,” he confessed that “[g]ood and evil, right and wrong, concepts irrelevant in nature except from the human viewpoint, become real and pressing features of the whole cosmos as viewed morally because morals arise only in man” (1951, p. 179, emp. added). Atheists admit that people (i.e., even “atheists”) have “their own innate sense of morality” (“Do Atheists…?, n.d.). No rational person makes such admissions about animals. As evolutionist Edward Slingerland stated, “Humans,” not animals, “rely on moral values” (as quoted in Reilly, 2007, 196[2629]:7).
Atheistic evolution cannot logically explain morals. Real, objective moral right or wrong cannot exist if humans are the offspring of animals. Young people (who are not allowed to act like animals at school) are frequently “reminded” in public school textbooks that they are the offspring of animals. According to one Earth science textbook, “Humans probably evolved from bacteria that lived more than 4 billion years ago” (Earth Science, 1989, p. 356).
When I graduated from high school in 1994, millions of public high school students in America were introduced to a new biology textbook by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. What sort of amazing things did they learn? For one, they were informed, “You are an animal and share a common heritage with earthworms” (Johnson, 1994, p. 453, emp. added). Allegedly, man not onlydescended from fish and four-footed beasts, we are beasts. Charles Darwin declared in chapter two of his book The Descent of Man: “My object in this chapter is solely to show that there is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties” (1871, 1:34). More recently, evolutionary environmentalist David Suzuki was interviewed by Jo Marchant of New Scientist magazine. Suzuki proclaimed: “[W]e must acknowledge that we are animals.... We like to think of ourselves as elevated above other creatures. But the human body evolved” from animals (as quoted in Marchant, 2008, 200[2678]:44, emp. added). One has to look no further than Marchant’s title to know his view of humanity. Allegedly, “We Should Act Like the Animals We Are” (p. 44, emp. added). The fact is, as Thomas B. Warren concluded in his debate with Antony Flew, “[T]he basic implication of the atheistic system does not allow objective moral right or objective moral wrong” (1977, p. 49).


Atheists cannot logically condemn the Nazis for objective moral evil, while simultaneously saying that we arose from rocks and rodents. They cannot reasonably rebuke a child molester for being immoral, while at the same time believing that we evolved from slime. Reason demands that objective good and evil can only exist if there is some real, objective reference point. As Warren stated: “[T]here must be some objective standard (some “higher law which transcends the provincial and transient”) which is other than the particular moral code and which has an obligatory character which can be recognized” (Warren and Matson, p. 284).
Atheists find themselves in a conundrum: (1) They must admit to objective morality (which ultimately means that a moral lawgiver, i.e., God, Who is above and beyond the provincial and the transient, exists); or, (2) They must contend that everything is relative—that no action on Earth could ever be objectively good or evil. Rather, everything is subjective and situational.
Relatively few atheists seem to have had the courage (or audacity) to say forthrightly that atheism implies that objective good and evil do not exist. However, a few have. Some of the leading atheists and agnostics in the world, in fact, understand that if there is no God, then there can be no ultimate, binding standard of morality for humanity. Charles Darwin understood perfectly the moral implications of atheism, which is one reason he gave for being “content to remain an Agnostic” (1958, p. 94). In his autobiography, he wrote: “A man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal God or of a future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones” (1958, p. 94, emp. added). If a person has the urge to suffocate innocent children, like a snake may suffocate its victims (including people), then, if there is no God, there is no objective moral law against suffocating children. If a person impulsively drowns a kind elderly person, similar to a crocodile drowning its prey, then, if atheism is true, this action could neither be regarded as objectively good or evil.
According to Richard Dawkins, one of the early 21st century’s most famous atheists, “[L]ife has no higher purpose than to perpetuate the survival of DNA” (1995, 273[5]:80):
So long as DNA is passed on, it does not matter who or what gets hurt in the process. Genes don’t care about suffering, because they don’t care about anything…. DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music…. This universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference (p. 85, emp. added).
Although Dawkins could never prove that life’s sole purpose is to perpetuate DNA, he is right about one thing: if there is no God, then there is no good and no evil, only “pitiless indifference.” “It does not matter” to atheistic evolution “who or what gets hurt.”
Like Darwin and Dawkins, atheistic evolutionary biologist William Provine implicitly acknowledged the truthfulness of the first premise of the moral argument as stated by philosophers Craig and Cowan (“If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist”). In 1988, Provine penned an article for The Scientist titled, “Scientists, Face It! Science and Religion are Incompatible” (2[16]:10). Although true science and Christianity live in perfect harmony with each other, Provine, in so far as he was referring to evolutionary science and its implications, was exactly right: evolutionary science and religion are incompatible. According to Provine,
No purposive principles exist in nature. Organic evolution has occurred by various combinations of random genetic drift, natural selection, Mendelian heredity, and many other purposeless mechanisms. Humans are complex organic machines that die completely with no survival of soul or psyche. Humans and other animals make choices frequently, but these are determined by the interaction of heredity and environment and are not the result of free will. No inherent moral or ethical laws exist, nor are there absolute guiding principles for human society. The universe cares nothing for us and we have no ultimate meaning in life (1988, p. 10, emp. added).
Provine went on in the article to accuse evolutionists who fail to take their theory to its logical conclusion of suffering from the “trying to have one’s cake and eat it, too” syndrome. He supposed that they may be acting out of fear or wishful thinking or may just be intellectually dishonest. Why? Because they do not boldly admit what he does: atheistic evolution is true. Therefore, “No inherent moral or ethical laws exist.”
Atheistic philosopher Jean Paul Sartre summarized atheism well in a lecture he gave in 1946 titled “Existentialism is a Humanism.” Sartre stated, “Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist…. [H]e cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself ” (1989, emp. added). “If God does not exist,” Sartre recognized that we have no “values or commands that could legitimise our behaviour. Thus we have neither behind us, nor before us in a luminous realm of values, any means of justification or excuse” (1989).
Though few they may be, atheists such as Provine, Sartre, and others refuse to walk down the road of contradiction. That is, rather than deny the premise: “If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist,” they acknowledge it: “[e]verything is indeed permitted if God does not exist” (Sartre, 1989). Yet, if atheists refuse to admit that real moral objectivity exists, then they are forced to admit that, for example, when the Jews were starved, gassed, and experimented on “like the animals” they reportedly were (cf. Marchant, 2008), the Nazis did nothing inherently wrong. They were, to borrow from Provine, merely complex organic, meaningless mechanisms that chose to follow the orders of the Fuhrer. Or, to apply Dawkins reasoning, how could Hitler be guilty of wrong doing if he was simply trying to perpetuate the survival of the “best” DNA possible? “[I]t does not matter who or what gets hurt in the process,” right? “So long as DNA is passed on” (Dawkins, 273[5]:85). Should we not just react with  “pitiless indifference” since atheism implies that objective good and evil do not exist (p. 85)?
What about most of humanity’s condemnation of rape as an objective moral evil? Is it really an inherently evil act? Although evolutionist Randy Thornhill, co-author of the book A Natural History of Rape, “would like to see rape eradicated from human life” (Thornhill and Palmer, 2000, p. xi), he touted in a 2001 speech he delivered in Vancouver that rape is actually “evolutionary, biological and natural…. Our male ancestors became ancestors in part because they conditionally used rape” (2001). According to Thornhill and Palmer, “Evolutionary theory applies to rape, as it does to other areas of human affairs, on both logical and evidentiary grounds. There is no legitimate scientific reason not to apply evolutionary or ultimate hypotheses to rape…. Human rape arises from men’s evolved machinery for obtaining a high number of mates in an environment where females choose mates” (2000, pp. 55,190). If God does not exist, and if man evolved from lower life forms, in part because they “conditionally used rape,” then even rape cannot be called an objective moral evil. In fact, that is exactly what atheist Dan Barker admitted.
In his 2005 debate with Peter Payne on Does Ethics Require God?, Barker stated: “All actions are situational. There is not an action that is right or wrong. I can think of an exception in any case” (emp. added). Four years later, Kyle Butt asked Barker in their debate on the existence of God, “When would rape be acceptable?” (2009, p. 33). Although Barker tried to make his response as palatable as possible, he ultimately admitted that rape would be permissible if, for example, it meant saving humanity from certain destruction (pp. 33-34). [NOTE: One wonders how Barker can logically say that no actions are right or wrong, but then claim that situation ethics is right? Such a claim is a self-defeating statement. “Nothing is right. But situation ethics is right!?” Furthermore, on what basis does Barker think it is “right” to save humanity? His entire answer ultimately contradicts his already contradictory contentions.] Barker went on to admit (and even disturbingly joke) that it would be acceptable to rape two, two thousand, or even two million women, if, say, it resulted in saving six billion people from hypothetical alien invaders (p. 34). [NOTE: Alien invaders are not really all that imaginary in the world of atheism. After all, since life supposedly evolved on Earth, according to atheistic evolutionists it had to have also evolved in one form or another on some other distant planets in the Universe.] Do not miss the point. Dan Barker admitted that rape would be acceptable given certain circumstances. One obvious question is: who gets to decide the circumstances that warrant the rape of innocent women? Who is Barker to say that a man would be wrong to rape a woman for revenge, say, because she crashed into his new car? Or, who is Barker to say that it would be wrong to rape a woman for stealing $1,000 from him, etc. The fact is, once Barker (or any atheist) alleges that (1) God does not exist, and (2) therefore, “[n]o inherent moral or ethical laws exist” (Provine, 1988, 2[16]:10; a logical deduction if God does not exist), then no one can logically be criticized for anything. As Sartre put it: “Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist” (1989). Rape, child abuse, multiple murder, pedophilia, bestiality, etc. cannot be condemned as objective evil, if God does not exist.
What happens when atheistic evolutionists take their godless philosophy to its logical conclusion, at least theoretically? They unveil the true, hideous nature of atheism. Consider, for example, the comments evolutionary ecologist Eric Pianka made in 2006 in Beaumont, Texas where he was recognized as the Distinguished Texas Scientist of the Year. According to Forrest M. Mimms, III, Chairman of the Environmental Science Section of the Texas Academy of Science, Pianka condemned “the idea that humankind occupies a privileged position in the Universe” and “hammered his point home by exclaiming, ‘We’re no better than bacteria!’” (Mims, 2006). Pianka followed up this comment by expressing his concerns “about how human overpopulation is ruining the Earth” (Mims). According to Mims, 
Professor Pianka said the Earth as we know it will not survive without drastic measures. Then, and without presenting any data to justify this number, he asserted that the only feasible solution to saving the Earth is to reduce the population to 10 percent of the present number.... His favorite candidate for eliminating 90 percent of the world’s population is airborne Ebola (Ebola Reston), because it is both highly lethal and it kills in days, instead of years (2006; for more information, see Butt, 2008, 28[7]:51-52).
Although most people (a good 90% anyway) find Pianka’s suggestion appalling, if atheism is true, and humanity really “evolved from bacteria” (Earth Science, 1989, p. 356), there would be nothing inherently wrong for a man to attempt to murder billions of people, especially if he is doing it for a “good” reason (i.e., to save the only planet in the Universe on which we know for sure life exists). [NOTE: Again, such a  reason that is deemed “good” can only exist if God does.]


The moral argument for God’s existence exposes atheism as the self-contradictory, atrocious philosophy that it is. Atheists must either reject the truthfulness of the moral argument’s first premise (“If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist”) and illogically accept the indefensible idea that objective morality somehow arose from rocks and reptiles, or (2) they must reject the argument’s second premise (“Objective moral values exist”), and accept the insane, utterly repulsive idea that genocide, rape, murder, theft, child abuse, etc. can never oncebe condemned as objectively “wrong.” According to atheism, individuals who commit such actions are merely doing what their DNA led them to do. They are simply following through with their raw impulses and instincts, which allegedly evolved from our animal ancestors. What’s more, if atheism is true, individuals could never logically be punished for such immoral actions, since “no inherent moral or ethical laws exist” (Provine, 1988, p. 10).
For those who refuse to have God in their knowledge (Romans 1:28), life will forever be filled with the self-contradictory, unreasonable, inhumane lies of atheistic evolution. Indeed, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1a). When atheists actually follow through with their godless philosophy and let it complete its journey of indifference, they peel back the phony charming façade of atheism and reveal it for what the psalmist said that it actually is: corrupt and abominable, where no one does good (Psalm 14:1b). On the other hand, when theists follow the evidence to the Creator (cf. Psalm 19:1-4), they discover a benevolent God Who is good (Psalm 100:5; Mark 10:18) and Who demands that His obedient followers “do good to all” (Galatians 6:10).


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