An argument that I have personally heard atheists make all the time is the ‘all powerful contradiction’, which they think somehow disproves the existence of God.
Their argument goes something along these lines:
- If God is all powerful then he can prevent all suffering
- If God is good then he must prevent all suffering
- Suffering exists
- Therefore, God does not exist
This argument is logically valid in its structure, however because two of the premises are demonstrably false, the conclusion 'God does not exist' does not follow. If the atheist wants to use this argument, they must firstly prove why the first and second premises are true.
"If God is all powerful then he can prevent all suffering"
This premise recognises that God is all powerful. That is, He is omnipotent. However, the atheists fail to remember that omnipotence has historically always been defined as 'being able to do everything that is logically consistent'. So that means, God cannot create square triangles or God cannot exist and not exist at the same time. The logical progression in this premise is that God 'can prevent all suffering', however that it is not true because it would be logically impossible for God to do that. I'll explain.
From a Biblical worldview we see the explanation of why there is evil and suffering in the world. The Bible says: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1:1), and this world was free from evil and suffering. It was a world that was perfect. Then into this perfect world God placed man and woman. This man and woman were told that they could do anything they want, except for one thing, and that was eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Now, since God created this world, He is in charge, and He makes the rules. It comes with being a Sovereign. And, one would think that if Adam and Eve truly loved their Creator, then they would do as He asked. Yet, they didn’t, they rebelled against God, and ate of the tree. So because of this one act of rebellion, sin, death, evil and suffering all entered into the world.
God was not the author of this suffering, but rather man’s own rebellion, and man’s own free choice caused suffering enter into the world (Rom. 5:12). For it is impossible for God to make a free creature do something forcefully. Otherwise, the creature would not be truly free.
"If God is good then he must prevent all suffering"
Yes, God is good. However, that does not mean He must prevent all suffering. Suffering is not always a bad thing. Such when a child does something wrong and the parent discipline's the child, that temporal suffering is actually beneficial for the child. It is because the parent loves the child that they discipline them.
But someone might object by saying, what about those instances of apparently gratuitous evil, that is, pointless evils from which no greater good seems to result? However, what position are we in to say that God has no morally sufficient reason for permitting suffering? In order for this premise to be plausibly true, someone needs to know that God has no such reason.
In fact, the Bible says that persecution has the benefit of producing perseverance, character and hope (Rom. 5:3). The book of Hebrews even lays out that "the Lord disciplines the one he loves" (Heb. 12:6).
Evil Proves God's existence
Ironically, the existence of evil in the world is actually a proof of God's existence! The argument is outlined as follows:
- If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
- Objective moral values do exist.
- Therefore, God exists.
When I say 'objective moral values', I mean that things that are moral or immoral independent of whether someone believes that they are or not. So I can say the Holocaust was objectively evil, even though Hitler thought what he was doing was right. Or even if Nazi Germany won World War 2 and brain-washed the rest of the world into believing what they did was right, it would still be objectively wrong.
The first premise is acknowledged by many atheist philosophers as being plausibly true, even the prominent philosopher of science Michael Ruse explains,
"Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory."
However, objective morals do exist, and even this argument from evil that atheists bring up acknowledges that objective morals do exist. They are relying on the premise that there are actually evil things in the world in order to disprove God's existence. But their argument failed and evil is evidence for God because the argument I presented is logically valid and the premises are plausibly true, so thus the conclusion is necessary and inescapable, that God exists.