Tough Questions Answered

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What Explains the Existence of Objective Evil?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Objective evil exists.  When we observe the world around us, we realize that there are many things about the world that should not be, things that are wrong.  When we see a child abused, we immediately know that it is evil; we know it is wrong, that it should not be.  When we see thousands die in an earthquake, we know this should not be.  We know it is wrong.  There is no doubt that there is evil in the world, that there are things that should not be.

So, any worldview which claims to explain all of reality had better have a good explanation of how this could be true.

How does atheistic naturalism explain the existence of evil? Naturalists must look to evolutionary biology to explain why humans believe there is evil in the world.  They reason that evolution has caused human beings to have negative feelings or emotions about certain aspects of the world because those negative emotions have somehow helped the human species to survive in the past. We feel badly about children being tortured because our genes are programmed by millions of years of natural selection to make us feel that way.

Notice that naturalism can say nothing about whether torturing children is really and ultimately wrong, or that thousands of people dying in an earthquake is really wrong.  Why? Because for something to be ultimately wrong, there must exist a standard of what is ultimately right, a standard that tells us what the world should be like.  In other words, evil presupposes that the world has purpose.

On naturalism, the world just is the way it is.  The world has come to exist in its present state by the operation of physical forces and sheer chance.  There is no ultimate purpose to the world, and thus there is no way that the world should be.

Evil reduces to each person’s feelings about what they don’t like, which is determined by evolutionary biology and our environment.  Naturalists believe that statements like, “It is wrong to torture children” really mean nothing more than “I have negative feelings when children are tortured.”

Christian theists, on the other hand, recognize that there is an ultimate purpose to the world, that there is a way the world should be.  Purpose for the world is given by the mind of God.  God tells us through his words in the Bible and through the natural world he created, what his purposes are.

Christians know that torturing children is really and ultimately wrong because we know that God did not create children for the purpose of them being tortured.  Children were created so that they could be loved and come to know God.

We also know that in God’s original creation, human beings were not supposed to die in earthquakes.  That was not his purpose for human beings.  So when people die in earthquakes, we can confidently say that those deaths are wrong, that they are evil, that they should not be.

Christian theism makes sense of the fact that objective evil really exists in the world.  Atheistic naturalism does not.


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Comments

  • Agapetos

    So, Mr. Pratt, you’re saying that earthquakes are evil? Or that all deaths are evil? Dying is the way the world is now, and until that changes, or we go to meet our maker. It will stay that way. Praise the Lord Jesus for his sacrifice on the cross that we might know the Father, and are sins be forgiven and all that pertains to the Christian lifestyle. God created the heavens and the earth and said it was good. That’s all I have to say about that for now. Please excuse my boldness with you and your words.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    The death of human beings in an earthquake is definitely evil. Again, we know that God’s original purpose for human beings was to live forever in paradise (see Genesis 1-3). Because of sin, there is death, not because God’s original purpose was for people to die. Jesus defeated sin at the cross for all who believe in Him. If death were not evil, then what purpose did Jesus’s death and resurrection serve?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Objective moral values (moral truths that would be true whether humans existed or not) exist … just because you said so? I see no such evidence. Just a bold and sweeping claim won’t do, I’m afraid. Eliminate that assumption (for lack of evidence) and the naturalistic explanation looks pretty good.

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