This issue can come in a variety of questions and statements.
“Why do bad things happen to good people?”
“Why does God allow suffering?”
“I just cannot believe in a God that allows bad things to happen to good people.”
“If God is perfect and all-loving, why is there so much evil and pain?”
For the many times this issue is brought up, it is most often used as an argument against God, or a reason for not believing in God. For, how can God allow evil? And how can God allow pain?
First, take this statement:
“If God can do anything, and is perfect and all loving – how can he allow evil and pain in the world?”
To that question one should be asked:
“On what basis are you calling something good, and something else evil?”
– When you assert that there is such a thing as evil, you must assume there is such a thing as good.
– When you say there is such a thing as good, you must assume there is a moral law by which to distinguish between good and evil.
– There must be some standard by which to determine what is good and what is evil.
– When you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral lawgiver—the source of the moral law.
– But this moral lawgiver is precisely who atheists are trying to disprove.
Do you see how that works?
Without God, there is not really a basis by which to call something “good” or “evil.”
The obvious objection to this line of reasoning is usually: “Why do you have to have a moral lawgiver to have a moral law?”
Elsewhere, Zacharias continues:
“You may ask, Why does assuming a moral law necessitate a moral lawgiver? Because every time the question of evil is raised, it is either by a person or about a person—and that implicitly assumes that the question is a worthy one. But it is a worthy question only if people have intrinsic worth, and the only reason people have intrinsic worth is that they are the creations of One who is of ultimate worth. That person is God. So the question self- destructs for the naturalist or the pantheist. The question of the morality of evil or pain is valid only for a theist.”
Without a moral lawgiver, there can, therefore, be no absolute right and wrong. Morals are subjective. What is “wrong” for you might be “right” for me – and vice versa?
Ravi Zacharias again describes this world of relative morals by humorously recounting a popular debate by Frederick Copleston and Bertrand Russell:
“In an earlier debate with Jesuit priest Frederick Copleston, Russell had tried another route to get around objective morality and ended up looking bad. When Copleston asked him how he differentiated between good and bad, Russell answered, “I don’t have any justification any more than I have when I distinguish between blue and yellow…. I can see they are different.” “Well, that is an excellent justification, I agree,” said Copleston. “You distinguish blue and yellow by seeing them, so you distinguish good and bad by what faculty?” “By my feelings,” was Russell’s reply. Father Copleston was kind. The next question was staring Russell in the face but wasn’t asked because he already looked so weak in that part of the discussion. The question that should have been asked was, “Mr. Russell, in some cultures they love their neighbors; in other cultures they eat them. Do you have a personal preference, and if so, what is it?””
Morality without God is a personal preference.
Evil exists because love is a choice. Choices that are against the nature of God are evil things in and of themselves.
The second issue, of the existence of pain, can be clarified by looking at a baby.
For all the parents out there:
Would you ever intentionally hurt your child?
The quick response is a hurried: “No!”
However, with momentary reflection, we realize that we cause our children pain every time we take them to the doctor to get a shot.
Our small children trust us, love us, and depend completely on us.
What must they think, or feel, as we hold them down while someone else hurts them?
It is, in fact, only until years and years have gone buy that they understand what medicine is, what it is used for, and how it is administered.
We know that: “Yes this hurts, my sweet child – but the momentary pain is worth the end result.”
If we as parents have our reasons for allowing our children to endure pain and hardship that they cannot understand, how much wiser is our father in heaven for the pain that he allows us to endure?