I had a dialogue with an atheist at UBCO last Wednesday when I was talking with a friend about Christianity. I figured I would share our correspondence as a record of what was said and just for the sake of looking back one day to re-read, when I am older and not-so-arrogant. I took out his name so as to not compromise his privacy. I've also posted this for the interest of anyone who comes across it and wants some bedtime reading ;) If anyone has useful criticism of my argument, I'm open to hearing it. Feel free to comment below and we can talk about it. Things that are not appreciated include personal attacks of either me or him, or any sort of emotional garbage that often gets in the way of logical thought.
So, further to our conversation from , can you shed any light on why your loving God created malaria, smallpox, diptheria, cholera, influenza, yellow fever, the Black Death, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes?"
"Hi [other guy],
It is strange that you titled this correspondence "God the Monster". For God cannot be a monster, no matter which way you look at it. If I am not mistaken, you see the problem as follows:
If God is all-powerful and good, he would be compelled to eliminate all evil and have the ability to do so. However, evil exists. Therefore God is either not all-powerful or not good.
Your conclusion, as it seems, is that the God of the Bible cannot be good. If, for the sake of argument, you are assuming that God exists, this is problematic. The God of the Bible defines what is good and what is evil. We cannot use his standard of morality to call him evil. For if God is indeed evil then he is inconsistent with what he says about himself ("And Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone' " -Mark 10:18; see also 1 John 1:5). Likewise, his standard of morality would not be a standard at all since its source is inconsistent.
Therefore, a supposedly evil God would not be evil at all because there would be no basis for good and evil.
How do you determine what is evil? Is there an objective standard, or is it a subjective consensus of an individual or society?
If you do agree that there is an objective standard for morality, how do you know? How do you reconcile that with your lack of belief in a transcendent being? Given the matter-only claims of atheism, immaterial and binding laws that provide the framework for moral decisions and assessment simply cannot exist.
If you hold to atheism, you must conclude that morality is the subjective consensus of a society on what is right and wrong. Given then that there is no objective morality, anything a person does is neither right nor wrong. A person, say myself (though I have no desire to do so), can go around raping and murdering with no moral consequences. Yes, there may be social consequences, but an atheist viewpoint must admit that the pain I cause to the women I rape or the families of people I kill is not wrong at all. My actions, which cause great harm to other humans, are no less wrong than taking out the garbage. Also, one cannot determine whether the actions of another society are wrong or right, according to an atheist perspective. The Holocaust was simply the cultural outworking of the consensus of a society and cannot be objectively identified as immoral by anyone outside of that culture at that time.
Another issue arises with the assumption that consensus of a society can determine right from wrong. What is considered consensus? A unanimous agreement? Certainly not, since within any country in the world unanimous agreement on even trivial things is impossible. So then it must be a percentage of the population, but where should the line be drawn? 90%? 75% or 50%? Which is right? Indeed, this cannot be known from an atheist perspective, because right is not objective. Therefore the moral constructs of society are utterly meaningless, having a basis in nothing. There is no objective morality in atheism, and even the moral constructs of a society are meaningless.
Therefore, if there is no God, considering God a monster is foolish. There is no standard outside of God that allows one to make that claim.
Given that the only avenue where one can question the morality of the God of the Bible is under the assumption that a transcendent God exists, I would like to answer you from that perspective.
First, God created everything that exists (Genesis 1:1; John 1:3). God not only created everything but sustains it and holds it together (Acts 17:26-28; Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3). God established the standard of morality that we are required to follow. At first, this was simply not to eat of the forbidden fruit. Humans did not have the knowledge of good and evil at first, but God made known one evil to them- a disobedience of God- in the fruit.
Later, the law laid down for all mankind was that they must worship and seek God. A specific law was given to the Israelites, but God also required obedience from all people. The Scripture says that all people have the knowledge of God, but have exchanged that knowledge for futile thinking and disobey in the process. "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25). The truth of God is known to all humans. "For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made" (Romans 1:20). If you desire a further explanation of how creation, and not evolution, is the only way to make sense of the world, please speak to [also changed for the sake of privacy]. He is much more knowledgeable than I in many things, and specifically in science and the history and theory of evolution.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and in so doing, incurred his judgment. All humans disobey God in the same way, trying to become our own masters, seeking to "be like God" (Genesis 3:5).
God, being a just God, demands justice for the disobedience of humanity. Indeed, he has every right to do so. We are the created, and he is the Creator. Psalm 24:1 says, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the world and those who dwell therein". God created us, and therefore we belong to him. Scripture explains the judgment for disobeying God: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord," (Romans 6:23) and, "cursed is the ground because of you; in pain shall you eat of it all the days of your life" (Genesis 3:17). The natural evil in this world was brought about because of the first sin, and the moral evil is continued because of the sins of humanity.
Because of the first sin, every human born of woman no longer has the free will to choose to do good. A person can choose to do one thing or another, but is unable to choose to do something with good intention. Though an action may be generally good, the only true good is the alignment of a person to God in relationship and alignment to his law. See Romans 3:10-12; Psalm 14:1-3; Psalm 53:1-3.
Now, your objection is that the rest of humanity should not have to suffer because of original sin, being born depraved. However, it is hard for an atheist to make that objection, given that he does not have a basis for objective morality. Also, Scripture covers this problem: " You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?" (Romans 9:19-21). I repeat that God has the right do destine us how he wills, because he is our Creator and our Sustainer. We belong to him in the sense that we are his property. It may be wrong for one human to own another, but God is an entirely different being, transcendent, perfect, and all-powerful. He defines what is right and wrong. It is impossible to logically conclude that such a God would have no right over his creation.
In summary, God allows humans to suffer because they disobey him. He made us to disobey, and many to be destroyed, so that he would be glorified in their eventual destruction. God will be glorified in that because it is the destruction of all evil. It may seem like a sick thing to do, to raise so many up for slaughter, but we are only human: we cannot judge God.
I look forward to hearing back from you. I apologize for at times being overly wordy: I wish to communicate my point in a clear way that cannot be misconstrued. I not only anticipate a rebuttal against the second part of my answer, but I expect an answer for the first.