Arguments against God

If there's a God, show me a sign

We have been considering why believers may give up their faith and how we may train disciples to think better about their beliefs and so be better able to stand up against attacks. We have looked at some reasons to believe (and we will look at some more).

Now it is time to consider the arguments sceptics may use to attack christian belief – arguments against God, the Bible, Jesus and faith.

Evil and suffering

This is surely the strongest argument against the existence of God. The world is full of unspeakable suffering. A good God, the argument goes, could not possibly allow so much evil and suffering. How can we answer this?

Many christians try to justify God. The evil is not God’s fault, they say, but our sin causes it. Or God has a purpose in evil. These may be true, but I think trying to justify God is a mistake. It leaves us looking like we don’t care about the terrible things that happen in the world. I think we can do better than that.

I think we should start by recognising that we don’t have a full answer on this. Evil and suffering are very troubling, and one day they will be no more.

So I suggest we should explain some factors which weaken the sense that the world is evil (after all, there is also much happiness), and point out that we only know that evil is really evil because of our God-given ethical sense. Thus evil and suffering are a problem for a believer, but cannot be a reason to disbelieve, because we have to believe in God (I suggest) to know that evil is really evil. (For more on these points, see How can God allow evil?.)

Then we should simply admit we don’t have the answer. But we continue to believe because there is so much positive evidence for God that it outweighs the very real problem of evil. This response is sympathetic to those who suffer, honest, and turns attention to the positive reasons to believe.

God is too hidden

there is a god

I have found many disbelievers who say they would believe if only God made himself more obvious, but as it is, there is too little evidence. If God really wanted us to know him, he would communicate to us in a way we couldn’t mistake.

We can first point out that God can’t be too hidden – billions of people believe in him, many say he communicates with them, and christians believe that we see God in Jesus.

However while that answer may help us, it probably won’t help the person who presents the argument.

I think we can further point out that this argument depends on us knowing exactly what God is trying to achieve. Many christians believe that God created us in his image (that is, having rational brains, ethics and the ability to make choices), but making himself too obvious would overwhelm us and take away our freedom.

In the end, we have to deal with the world, and God, as they are, not as we’d like them to be. There is plenty of evidence for God (again, it is good to get back to this) so we suggest considering that evidence rather than asking for more. We can also suggest that the other person asks God to reveal himself to them – and then make sure we pray for them regularly too.

More arguments

Next post, we’ll look at some more arguments against God.

Read the whole series

This post is part of a series on Training disciples to stand. Check out all the topics here.

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  1. “This is surely the strongest argument against the existence of God. The world is full of unspeakable suffering. A good God, the argument goes, could not possibly allow so much evil and suffering. How can we answer this?”
    I’m not saying this cannot be the basis of a sensible argument, but in this form I do not find it convincing and my experience is that making these dry bones rise into a persuasive argument is something of a trial. I’m unconvinced that either good or evil in the universe can argue that the existence or non-existence of God is likely.
    The argument doesn’t have much force in my eyes because natural evil which is the evil people generally use in this argument can’t be seen separately from the natural laws of the universe. Though I believe God can intervene in the universe, the lawfulness of the universe would become less apparant if he would intervene too much. The universe would become hectic and chaotic. But as the medievals thought, a rational and loving God would create a universe that is consistent and comprehensible. So I think it’s fair to say there’s a limit to how much God could intervene (and interventions could also pose a moral problem).
    That does nothing about the suffering of real people in the world, but I consider this a moral problem for humans to deliver aid. And if the disaster takes an enormous turn for the worse because of corruption (as unfortunately does happen), a failure of human ethics is our most pressing problem. Talking of this arcane debate and trying to score points over people’s hardships then becomes cold-hearted – regardless of side.
    As for moral evil, the non-theist philosopher Mary Midgley said it best:
    “This book is about the problem of evil, but not quite in the traditional sense, since I see it as our problem, not God’s. It is often treated as the problem of why God allows evil. The enquiry then takes the form of a law-court, in which Man, appearing both as judge and accuser, arraigns God and convicts him of mismanaging his responsibilities. We then get a strange drama, in which two robed and wigged figures apparantly sit opposite each other exchanging accusations. But this idea seems to me unhelpful. If God is not there, the drama cannot arise. If he is there, he is surely something bigger and more mysterious than a corrupt or stupid official. Either way we still need to worry about a different and more pressing matter, namely the immediate sources of evil – not physical evil, but moral evil or sin – in human affairs.”
    Wickedness, pages one and two

  2. I do applaud you for atleast consider the big questions of doubt, and atleast giving them some thought.
    However as a christian who is beginning to doubt his faith, the answer of we don’t know, Gods ways are higher than ours, no longer simply suffice for EVERY QUESTION. And that is why I started a blog.
    On the question of evil and suffering, I have post on that topic, that really highlights the flaw of God being good and allowing evil.

  3. G’day Biblereader thanks for commenting.
    I am sorry to hear you are doubting your faith, but that isn’t always a bad thing, if it leads you to new truths. I often question aspects of my belief, and test what I think, and I have found so far that this generally results in new understandings. I hope you hang around and comment some more – maybe we can encourage and challenge each other.
    “the answer of we don’t know, Gods ways are higher than ours, no longer simply suffice for EVERY QUESTION”
    I agree. I think we should only say this when we genuinely don’t have a complete answer – which I think is the case here. But, as I said in the post, we have plenty of answers and plenty of reasons to believe (IMO), so I think it is reasonable to accept that there are some things we don’t know.
    I’ve been to your blog, enjoyed reading it, and have made a few comments. I will look again at the post you quote.
    Best wishes

  4. Hi IgnorantiaNescia
    I sort of agree with you – the argument against God based on evil and suffering cannot prove God doesn’t exist, but it surely can make people at least wonder and doubt. I cannot help but feel sympathy with those who wonder why God couldn’t have at least made things a little better. If we knew nothing else, evil and suffering would make me doubt if God exists. But we do have a lot more information, and this is why I continue to believe, not because we have some answers to the sceptical argument.

  5. Yes, it seems we don’t differ that much on this. It looks it basically comes down that we disagree on this:
    “If we knew nothing else, evil and suffering would make me doubt if God exists.”
    For me, evil and suffering would not reach the force of a negative argument. They would remain an issue, of course.

  6. the drough people loosing cattle crops, homes,, the Book of Lies, (bible) god helps those who help themselve’s. Where is god now, High Heat weeks nearing 100 degree’s little or no rain,, god helps them who helps themselve’s, one of Many Lies

  7. If God is omnipotent then why would he be so petty to follow our fleeting lives. To ‘him’ we are mosquitoes. 

  8. Hi Michelle, thanks for visiting and commenting. It is an interesting question you ask.
    But I wonder why you think it is petty for God to care about us? Surely that sort of care often occurs in humans, so why not in God?
    Christians believe God is loving enough to want to care for us? But perhaps you have a reason to think otherwise?

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