This is the first in a series responding directly to an article at Real Truth Online titled, 31 Questions Christians Can’t Answer. I will take and answer each question in order. Many are difficult some are not.
Question #1: Why hasn’t God intervened on the tyrants throughout history to prevent far worse atrocities than in the Old Testament days in which he did intervene?
On an intellectual level there are really three components to this question that need to be addressed, the moral question (what is moral and how is it determined), God’s will (Perfect vs. Permissive vs. Overriding), and what I’ll call the Unfathomability Proposition. These are classic apologetic questions.
- In order to categorize something as evil you assume there is good
- If you assume there is good you assume there is a moral law by which to differentiate between good and evil
- if there is a moral law there must be a moral law giver
Since the non-believer asking the original question is trying to disprove God (the moral law giver) he must first address the question of why anything is wrong with anything.
I suspect, in the end, we would largely agree on specific atrocities. My argument is simply that the atheist has little objective reason to undergird the choice to call a thing evil.
Once we’ve established that tyrants are bad, atrocities are wrong, and why, we approach God’s role and responsibility in it all. Depending on your particular translation or paraphrase Isaiah 45:7 likely says anything from God sends “bad times” to He “creates evil”. This seems like a problem. How can a good God create evil or at a minimum send bad times?
There are three forms in which God’s will manifests itself, his perfect will, also called his directive will, is what should happen. Adam and Eve should have turned the serpent away and never eaten of the fruit that God told them not to eat. If what Adam and Eve should have done is an example of God’s perfect will then what they actually did is an example of God’s permissive will. Another more common term is free will. Our free choices are still considered God’s will for two important reasons. One, because He can override it anytime he wants in a variety of ways as we’ll see, and two, because His ends will still be accomplished in spite of violations of His perfect will. Permissive will encompasses a wide range of possibilities. It is what could happen. It’s important to note, however, that allowing something and causing something are not identical concepts.
Finally, there is God’s overriding will, it is what must happen. God told Jonah to go to Ninevah, Jonah told God no, so God had a whale swallow him until he agreed to go. God created a circumstance that overrode Jonah’s will. The interplay of God’s perfect will, our free choices, and His overriding providential creative sovereign authority sets up what I refer to as the Unfathomability Proposition. Isn’t it possible that an all knowing, all seeing, perfect being could have morally justifiable reasons, incomprehensible to those of us of finite mind and morality, to “allow” or even to cause events that to us might seems atrocious?
Answering the question in the affirmative doesn’t make you a believer, but admitting it does de-fang the question quite a bit. No?
What do you think? Let me know. I love to debate so feel free to tell me where I’m wrong or ask questions if something is unclear, or correct my grammar, or just insult me using the f-word a lot as you new atheists tend to do….. Let’s make it a conversation.