Reader Question

An atheist writes:

The reasoning you present here could be used to defend an evil God.
So, if I say “God is evil”, I could point out at all the bad things that happen in the World.
You could then say that in the World there are actually a lot of good things happening, too.
At this point, using your very argument, I could reply that God works in mysterious ways, he deceives us, but his ultimate goal is always our suffering and misery.

Assuming that God exists, can you make a case for Him being good that cannot also be used for Him to being evil?
Mind you, if you just add another unproved assumption, such as “I have Faith that God is good”, you allow anyone to state “I have faith that God is evil” and act according to such horrible belief.

This is quite a practical problem, because “I have faith that God is evil” is not too far from “I have faith that God is good” provided that “good” means “wants me to kill the unbelievers”.

What if God gave us the Bible to test our rationality and skeptical thinking, and will reward only those that do NOT BELIEVE in Him?
Can you exclude this, or prove that it is less probable than Him sending to Heaven only the believers?
He works in mysterious ways, after all.

See also this post.

The comment boils down to two important questions. The first one is, How do I know that God is good? The second one is, How do I know that what he presented in the Bible is true? Because the second question has been asked, I will have difficulties in using Scripture to answer the questions. I must instead turn to natural theology.

Before I do that, I think that it is really important to mention that Scripture confirms all throughout that God is good, and that his promises are trustworthy. The problem that our atheist friend wants me to address, however, rejects the authority of Scripture outright. Therefore, I cannot simply point to Scripture and say, “Look at verses like Psalm 100:5, 34:8; Nahum 1:7; 2 Peter 1:3; or Matthew 19:17!”

The Bible is the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16-17), and God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the promises of Scripture are true. According to Scripture, God is good and his promises are trustworthy.

But what do I say to someone who rejects the authority of Scripture? Obviously, quoting Scripture won’t work. Instead, we look to natural theology to prove that God is good. After we look at that, we can then move into using fulfilled prophecy to prove that Scripture is trustworthy. Finally, we can arrive at a conclusion from Scripture that God is good and his promises are trustworthy.

But is all of that necessary? See, I’m dealing with an atheist. I can only assume a postmodern, naturalistic worldview. Postmodern viewpoint assumes that all truth is relative and that there is no such thing as an absolute truth. Naturalism precludes the possibility of miraculous fulfillment of prophecy. So already, because of my respondent’s worldview, I’m starting the count at 0-2.

Scripture claims absolute truth, which assaults the sensibilities of the postmodern mind. In the mind of the naturalist, fulfillment of prophecy is a coincidence rather than a miracle. Miracles are simply not yet explained by science; so attributing them to God is fallacious in the mind of the postmodern naturalist.

My best weapons are moot to the mind of the postmodern naturalist, and I can do nothing to alter my respondent’s worldview by clever argumentation. Therefore, my entire response to his question will be an exercise in futility. So unless I hear that my commenter is sincerely willing to learn something about theistic views, I will leave this essay for another time. Perhaps it will never get written.

About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on August 3, 2009, in Apologetics, Theology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. This is a silly cop out. If you actually have an argument from the natural world you are free to make it. Insisting you HAVE one but those ridiculous post-modernist naturalists won’t accept it so you won’t offer it is a complete dodge which proves nothing but that you really don’t know very much about secular thinkers. For example—we don’t all agree.

    Some of us are committed Enlightenment style modernists and some of us are post-modernist deconstruction types. And naturalism means a whole bunch of different things that we secularists disagree about. And there’s a good chance a post-modernist wouldn’t want to be called a naturalist.

    And most of the garden variety atheists I run into are atheists precisely out of a rejection of epistemological and ethical relativism and their contempt for accommodationists would probably translate rather well into a contempt for post-modernists.

    There are quite a few secularists committed to truth, so much so that we do not go around claiming we have it in absolute form when we do not. We actually don’t equate beliefs we only hold imperfectly and from a limited human perspective or which we derive from arbitrary authorities taken to speak for God to be The Absolute Truth.

    So, by all means, if you have a metaphysical or cosmological argument that can stand on its own before natural standards of evidence and universal powers of human reason and demonstrate that there is a personal good God, then by all means, enough with the song and dance about post-modernists, let’s have with your proof already.

    • I’m willing to make the argument, but most likely you’ll reject it on the grounds that it requires empirical evidence to prove it. I don’t have empirical evidence. That’s where faith comes in: to have assurance of those things unseen (Heb 11:1).

      What sort of evidence do you expect God to leave? He’s supernatural, and thus beyond the realm of science.

      But we’re getting away from the point. I’ll make the best argument I can for a good God without the use of Scripture, but it will take me a little while to get it up here.

  2. Francesco Orsenigo

    “That’s where faith comes in: to have assurance of those things unseen (Heb 11:1).”

    So basically you’re telling us “I believe because I want to believe”.
    This is fair and legitimate, but it is completely subjective.
    How can you even hope to convince someone else?

    This is why religious controversies are eternal while scientific ones last just as long as new proof is acquired.

    One is just a system to validate your feelings (because with faith you can unconsciously make any feeling into a belief) the other is a system to reach actual knowledge.

    I’m disappointed.

    • So basically you’re telling us “I believe because I want to believe”.

      Not at all. I’m saying that there are things out there we can’t see, feel, or touch. Faith is required to believe in them. I don’t believe because I want to believe. I believe because the philosophical arguments and the orderliness of the universe attest to a Creator. I believe because Christianity is the only religion that is verifiable historically.

      Scientific systems require faith as much as any religious system. No one has ever observed evolution, yet you have faith that it happened. No one has ever observed life originating from non-life, but you have faith that it happened. No one has observed the Big Bang, let alone explained how order resulted from a chaotic event like an explosion. But you have faith that that is exactly what happened.

      At some point, any system, no matter how grounded in reason, requires the adherent to exercise faith. You can’t observe and gather empirical evidence for everything. The minute that anyone brings up “faith,” you assume “blind faith.” That isn’t the case with me. I’ve weighed other systems of belief and found them lacking.

  3. Francesco Orsenigo

    “I never bothered to search for evidence of evolution” does not equate to “There is no evidence for evolution”.

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080421-lizard-evolution.html
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14094-bacteria-make-major-evolutionary-shift-in-the-lab.html
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090305150917.htm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4716252.stm

    You may want to use the micro/macro argument, so please read this before we continue http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microevolution#Misuse http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macroevolution#Criticisms_of_macroevolution

    Also, have you ever bothered to -actually- search historical references for say, Islam or Hinduism?

    Orderliness? I thought the universe was chaotic.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence
    This should also answer how complexity comes from simplicity.
    Seriously, have you ever even bothered to search?

    I can make a philosophical argument for the pink energy that permeates the universe, but guess what?
    It does not make it real.
    Nature does not care about philosophy.

    Regarding faith.
    In which cases do you admit believing something because of Faith?

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