The Atheists Challenge; "There is to much evil in this world; therefore, there cannot be a God."

by Ravi Zacharias from his book "Can Man Live Without God"

The following is from the questions and answers taken from the Veritas lectures at Harvard University, upon which parts of the book are based.

Let me narrate an interaction I had with a student at the University of Nottingham in England. As soon as I finished one of my lectures, he shot up from his seat and blurted out rather angrily, "There is to much evil in this world; therefore, there cannot be a God." I asked him to remain standing and answer a few questions for me. I said, "If there is such a thing as evil, aren't you assuming there is such a thing as good?" He paused, reflected, and said, "I guess so." "If there is such a thing as good," I countered, you must affirm a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil."

I reminded him of the debate between the philosopher Frederick Copleston and the atheist Bertrand Russell. At one point in the debate, Copleston said, "Mr. Russell, you do believe in good and bad, don't you?" Russell answered, "Yes I do." "How do you differentiate between them?" challenged Copleston. Russell shrugged his shoulders as he was wont to do in philosophical dead ends for him and said, "The same way I differentiate between yellow and blue." Copleston graciously responded and said, "But Mr. Russell, you differentiate between yellow and blue by seeing, don't you? How do you differentiate between good and bad?" Russell, with all of his genius still within reach, gave the most vapid answer he could have given: "On the basis of feeling-what else?" I must confess, Mr. Copleston was a kindlier gentleman than many others. The appropriate "logical kill" for the moment would have been, Mr. Russell, in some cultures the love their neighbors; in others they eat them, both on the basis of feeling. Do you have any preference?"

So I returned to my questioning student in Nottingham: "When you say there is evil, aren't you admitting there is good? When you accept the existence of goodness, you must affirm a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But when admit to a moral law, you must posit a moral lawgiver. That, however, is who you are trying to disprove and not prove. For if there is no moral lawgiver, there is no moral law. If there is no moral law, there is no good. If there is no good, there is no evil. What then is your question?"

There was a conspicuous pause that was broken when he said rather sheepishly, "What, the, am I asking you?" There's the rub, I might add.

Now, I do not doubt for a moment that philosophers have tried to arrive at a moral law apart from the positing of God, but their efforts are either contradictory in their assumption or conclusions. I might say this is particularly true of David Hume. More on that later. I have gone to great lengths to use this illustration from the Copleston-Russell debate because your question, sir, was an echo of Russell's philosophical attack upon theism. When someone said to him, "What will you do, Mr. Russell, if after you die you find out there is a God? What will you say to Him?" Russell said, "I will tell Him He just did not give me enough evidence." Russell, in stating that, took a position diametrically opposed to scriptural teaching. The Scriptures teach that the problem with human unbelief is not the absence of evidence; rather, it is the suppression of it. "Nothing good can come," said Professor Richard Weaver, "if the will is wrong. If the disposition is wrong, reason increases maleficence." George MacDonald rightly argued that "to explain truth to him who loves it not is to give more plentiful material for misinterpretation."
     Let me summarize:
1. To justify the question, God must remain in the paradigm; without God, the question self-destructs.
2. God has created us in His image. Part of that image is the privilege of self-determination.
3. The greatest of all virtues is love.
4. God, in His love, has created us, and in response, love from us has to be a choice. Where there is no choice, it is coercion, which means it is not love. In the Christian message alone, love precedes life; in every other world-view, life precedes love. Therefore, in the Christian framework, love has a point of reference, God Himself.
5.      God communicates to mankind in a variety of ways:
     a. Reason (philosophical),
     b. Experience (existential),
     c. History (empirical),
     d. Emotions (relational),
     e. The Scriptures (propositional), and
     f. Incarnation (personal).
Take these six areas that are open to serious critical thinking, and you will find that the problem is not the absence of evidence; rather it's the suppression of it. May I add that it was in this very school that Simon Greenleaf, professor of jurisprudence, said of the documents of the New Testament, "You may choose to say I do not believe it all, but you may not say there is not enough evidence."

"Can Man Live Without God" by Ravi Zacharias can be found in Christian book stores.

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-Zacharias, Ravi K., "Can Man Live Without God" Word Publishing (1994), p. 182-184.

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