The Atheistic Explanation for Evil: Houston, We Have A Problem -- By: Tony Hines

Journal: Conservative Theological Journal
Volume: CTJ 07:22 (Dec 2003)
Article: The Atheistic Explanation for Evil: Houston, We Have A Problem
Author: Tony Hines


The Atheistic Explanation for Evil:
Houston, We Have A Problem

Tony Hines

Graduate studies
Tyndale Theological Seminary

April 13, 1970, 10:08 EST. Kennedy Space Control Center in Texas. Words that would forever stick in the lexicon of American history eerily crackled through the radio silence:

“Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

It was day three of Apollo 13’s mission to the moon, and a catastrophic explosion had crippled the space capsule. Within a few seconds, America’s space program had gone from comfort to crisis.

In much the same way, the comfortable atheist faces an Apollo 13 moment, a very real crisis of explanation. It is the moment one of the age-old arguments used against God - the existence of evil - blows up in the atheist’s face. What the atheist fails to realize is the existence of evil is not an argument against God, but an argument that cripples atheism itself.

How is this possible? Let’s examine the problem of evil from a general perspective, address some of the main forms of the argument, then apply the ramifications of evil to the atheistic worldview.

Defining the Problem

The existence of evil presents obstacles for any worldview. After all, worldviews attempt to show a logical, orderly explanation for the world; evil, by definition, creates disorder. The main challenge, as put to the Christian, takes a very basic form: How can a good God allow evil to exist? As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states:

Open any contemporary introductory textbook on philosophy and it becomes clear that the problem of evil…is thought of as an argument for atheism. Since, the atheist contends, God and evil are incompatible, and evil clearly exists, there is no God…

Framed in this way, the “atheistic problem of evil” invites certain sorts of responses. In particular, it invites the theist to explain how a Being that is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good can allow evil to exist.1

Certainly, it’s important to address this question. But before turning to an explanation of why God allows evil to exist, some specific constructions of the argument from evil will be helpful.

Dissecting the Problem

The argument from evil typically comes in one of three strains. Each of these, stated as questions for the theist, are:

1) If God created everything, didn’t He create evil? This is the question of evil’s cause.

2) If God ...

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