This week I started teaching a series at First Baptist Church Decatur, AL on the existence of suffering. I posed the question: if God exists, why is there suffering? Many people struggle with this concept of a good and loving God in a world with evil and suffering. How can both of those things be? The world forms the argument as:
There is evil, therefore, there is no God.
The first way we addressed this question is by recognizing that we can, in fact, identify what suffering is. There is something in us that knows when things just aren’t how they ought to be. We can see evil and we can tell when people suffer. But to do that, it requires the existence of good. If there weren't a good and an evil then things all things would be equally neutral. So the only way we can recognize evil is because we know what is good; the only way we declare that something ought not be is because we have an idea of what ought to be; the only way we feel suffering is because we know what it feels like to not suffer. Because we can identify those things, good must exist as well.
However, it is not just the existence of good that allows us to identify bad, it’s the fact that we can judge between the two. We must have some way of assessing something as being either bad or good, evil or righteous. But how do we do that? Is it just based on our feelings? Well, it can’t be just our feelings because people feel all kinds of different things that we still know are bad. Some people feel it is ok to eat other people or kill someone for disagreeing with them. Just because they feel one way about it does not mean an evil act is suddenly good.
In fact, this really strikes a blow at moral relativism. In our culture today it seems people want right and wrong to be based on people’s preferences. But that is not how we ultimately judge right and wrong. Our society would stand up and say that slavery is wrong no matter what a government may think about it. Child abuse, sex trafficking, and genocide are evil no matter what people “prefer.” We are declaring those things to be objectively wrong, which tells us there is an absolute morality that determines what is ultimately Right and Wrong whether we submit to it or not.
We not only judge certain issues as good and bad, but we judge other societies as being better or worse than another. Better or worse based on what? What are we comparing them to? In order to assess a society's moral code, we have to use some kind of standard. We use the terms “progressives” and “reformers” to refer to those people trying to change society for the better. But what are they progressing to and reforming from? Those terms only make sense if we are reforming to something else or progressing towards some end – some Right societal standard better than the Wrong ones. It means there is a standard somewhere that we are all striving to meet, a Real Morality that all other moralities are compared against.
It means that a Moral Law exists that we all recognize should be driving our behavior.
Where did that Moral Law come from? Who has set this standard of behavior? Evolution could not have determine it, because morality is not an evolutionary advantage. Evolution would say that whatever progressed the species is good, even if that included killing off the weaker males or raping the females. Nature alone cannot establish what is morally good. We even judge the behavior in nature differently than among humans.
Mankind could not have invented this moral standard either. If it were up to man, then we could never say one man’s version of morality is better or worse than another. How could we say Hitler’s version of morality was wrong if that was simply what he had invented as morally good? If man invented morality, then we would have as many moral codes as we have men, and they would all have to be equally valid. No, the judgment we make on societies’ morals must be appealed to a standard set above man’s mind.
Therefore, there is something above mankind that gave us this Moral Law: a Moral Law Giver.
Now, let’s go back to the initial argument put forward. The argument was “there is evil, therefore there is no God.” But let’s reason it from the other direction.
But what kind of God would that be? Stay tuned...