Doesn’t the amount of evil make God’s existence unlikely? Last week I discussed two problems with this objection. This week I’ll offer a third response: it is reasonable to believe God does limit evil, for our good. Though we cannot know this through empirical investigation (by looking around, as discussed last week), upon further reflection we have two good reasons to believe that God does limit evil.
We have seen God has morally sufficient reasons to allow evil. Yet why so much? Couldn’t he accomplish his purposes by allowing much less evil than we experience? Isn’t the amount of evil reason enough to not believe in God? This is a very reasonable response often offered at this point in the discussion. At least three things may be said in response.
We have seen that God has a very good reason to allow pain and suffering in the world—its possibility was the only way he could create us with true freedom and all that goes with it. But what about hurricanes, earthquakes, and diseases? Can God not limit these and still preserve human freedom? He can, but it seem there may be other morally sufficient reasons for him to permit these evils. I’ll offer an argument to this conclusion in the next few posts.
We often say God can do anything—this is what it means for him to be “omnipotent.” But last week I argued there is something God cannot do. He cannot create people who are free and then determine what they will choose. Some object this limits God and makes him less than all-powerful. If they are right, the response to the Problem of Evil from human freedom is derailed. Is this a good objection?
If God has good reasons to permit Evil, the argument against God due to the reality of pain and suffering evaporates. There seem to be two good reasons for God, being all-good, to nevertheless allow Evil to exist. This week I’ll offer the first reason, along with an explanation of why this makes sense.
There seems to be a compelling argument that, given the reality of Evil, God does not exist. But wait—there is more to the story! If we dig a bit deeper we find a problem with one of the premises (and therefore the entailed premise and conclusion). This week I’ll begin to explore “the rest of the story.” But to do so I must first review how to evaluate arguments.
Some believe God exists, but he can’t do anything about pain and suffering. He is just not powerful enough. Others believe God exists, but he doesn’t want to do anything about pain and suffering. He is just not good enough. Both attempts to explain the existence of God given the reality of Evil are common. I also think they are both wrong.
“Life is pain…. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.” So says the Dread Pirate Roberts (in The Princess Bride—a must-see movie!) Roberts is right. Life is full of pain. From getting splinters while woodworking to losing loved ones (as I wrote about in my last series here), we all suffer more than we care to admit.
I was surprised this topped the charts last year. It is on a very important topic, but is quite technical. I decided to write it because it needed to be written, but I didn’t think it would get many views. 560 people thought otherwise, making this the most popular post of last year. (It being promoted by someone else in December didn’t hurt either!)
More people commented on this post than any other. So I was surprised that this was the second most popular article of last year…I expected it to come in at #1. With 462 views, the second most popular article of 2018 was Four Reasons Why the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (1 of 8).
We depend on probability for most of our knowledge. Will this plane make it to its destination? Most probably (or we don’t get on it). Will I have enough for retirement? Most probably (or we make some changes). Will this be the right job for me? Most probably (or we don’t take the job). Making decisions based on probabilities is so common we usually don’t even think twice about this approach to discovering truth.
We have seen first-rate historical documents record Jesus of Nazareth claiming to be the eternal, personal, all-powerful and all-knowing God of all creation. Yet anyone can make such outlandish claims. We usually lock a person up who is talking like this. Is there any reason to believe Jesus’ claim to be God is actually true? At least three lines of evidence suggest the answer is ‘Yes.’ If the evidence is solid and confirms Jesus’ claim to be God, the second premise in the argument for inerrancy is verified.
The gospels, now proven to be first-rate historical documents, record what Jesus of Nazareth said and did during his brief time on earth. The second premise in the argument for inerrancy is that Jesus claimed and proved to be nothing less than God in flesh. What is the data to support the truth of this second premise?
We’ve evaluated the gospel accounts according to two of the three tests to determine their historical accuracy, and they are two for two. But there is one test remaining. Do other historical sources written in the same period confirm or contradict what the gospels record? In other words, is the external evidence (evidence outside the gospels themselves) consistent with what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John record? Or do other writers of the time contradict them? This is the final test developed by historians to determine the historical accuracy of a document. It is known as the External Evidence Test. So how well do the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus do when evaluated by this third criterion?
The strongest argument in favor of inerrancy begins with establishing the historical accuracy of the four gospel accounts. Last week I looked at the first criterion by which to determine this: how many copies do we have, and how close is the first copy to the original? The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John pass this test with flying colors. But this only tells us we have what these authors originally penned. How do we know they recorded what actually happened? Enter the other two tests of historicity.
I believe there is one rigorous argument for biblical inerrancy, with five premises leading to this conclusion (as discussed last week). The first premise is that the four gospels are first-rate historical recordings of the life of Jesus. This week I’ll discuss why we should treat the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as extremely accurate historical documents.