This essay will discuss three things related to the problem of evil. First, justwhat is the problem of evil? Second, what preconditions must exist to not only coherently speak of a problem of evil but also the solution to the problem? Third, it will be shown that the Bible meets all of the criteria for explaining the problem of evil and providing a coherent solution. Throughout the essay the worldviews of New Atheism and Christianity will be juxtaposed to show that only Christianity can coherently speak of the problem of evil and provide a solution. It will become clear that Atheism cannot provide an epistemological framework for speaking of a problem of evil much less a solution; this by extent means that the epistemological framework of Atheism cannot coherently speak of human history or culture as valuable. Only the Christian worldview provides a coherent explanation of the problem of evil, the solution thereto, and provides a coherent epistemological framework for understanding the value of human history and culture.
Christian Worldview and Doctrine in Response to New Atheism
What is the Problem of Evil?
The problem of evil falls in the category of “the values and ideas that shape human culture and deﬁne human existence.” There are several kinds of evil in the category, natural external evil like flood and tsunamis, moral or personal evil like oppression, theft, or rape, and natural internal evil like cancer or genetic defects. For this paper all of this will be defined as anything that impinges on human flourishing. A very commonly used example is children dying of cancer. That is the example that will be used going forward from here. A preliminary comment at this point about the difference between how the worldviews of Atheism and Christianity are equipped to handle this issue would be that the Atheist has no ground for calling random chance a problem, while the Christian can call it a problem because they have a standard by which to make the determination.
What Preconditions Must Exist to Call Evil a Problem?
Very simply, for evil to be a problem, there must be some objective standard to call it evil. Using the example from before, specifically child cancer, why is this a problem? The Atheist will claim that the God of the Bible claims to be a good God who has all power. If God has all power and lets children die of cancer, then they will say, he cannot be good. Cancer is not a moral evil so the Christian cannot point to the evil doer. Nor, can they deny that God is all powerful and good. However, once the preconditions are examined, an unavoidable issue arises for the Atheist’s claim. The question is, by what standard is the Atheist calling child cancer bad? In a wholly materialistic worldview, where all existence is shaped by survival of the fittest, chance acting on matter over time, there is no wrong in the death of anyone at any age for any reason. If there is a death, that means their dice was rolled and they got unlucky; they were not fit enough, so they were culled from the herd. The point is that Atheism does not possess the necessary precondition of an objective standard to even speak of a problem of evil.
Bible Meets the Criteria for Explaining the Problem of Evil
The Christian worldview is best described as revelational epistemology. There are two sources of revelation, general and special, they are the necessary preconditions for knowledge. Cornelius Van Til’s explanation of revelational epistemology is summed up here, “every belief system is grounded in an ultimate presupposition, Christianity being grounded in the self-attesting revelation of the triune God.” Here is another way of saying it, God is the necessary precondition for reason. The Christian worldview can say that it is a problem that children die of cancer because it has an objective standard by which to judge the value of the child. That standard is the extrinsic value that the creator gave that child when God made them in his image. God has also revealed the reason death happens, all deaths, and that reason is sin. Moreover, God has confirmed the value of humans by coming to die for them in the person of Jesus: he is the word of God made flesh. This confirmation in Christ, that is perfectly attested to in the Bible, is the necessary precondition for making any claims about the value of humans and the value of history. Calvin explains it like this, “knowledge of ourselves lies first in considering what we were given at creation.”
When the Atheist says that God is not good because children die of cancer, the Atheist has assumed a value for that child that the materialistic worldview cannot substantiate. On the other hand, when the Christian speaks of the value of the child, and the problem of sin that causes the death of that child, they are well within reason because God has in his perfect revelation provided the standard that can coherently explain the situation. One of the most powerful ways the Bible demonstrates its inspiration and authority is that it presents a worldview that is perfectly coherent and can consistently provide an epistemological framework for understanding the value of human history and culture.
. Alister McGrath. 2012. Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 75.
. C. Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 120.
. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 1:27.
. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 2:17.
. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 242.