Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ravi Zacharias on the Problem of Evil

“When you say there’s too much evil in this world you assume there’s good. When you assume there’s good, you assume there’s such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But if you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral Law Giver, but that’s Who you’re trying to disprove and not prove. Because if there’s no moral Law Giver, there’s no moral law. If there’s no moral law, there’s no good. If there’s no good, there’s no evil. What is your question?”

—Ravi Zacharias

In response to the objection, “There cannot be a God, because there is too much evil in this world.”
Can Man Live Without God?, p. 182 [HT]


  1. ebenezer isaac January 21, 2013


    My name is Ebenezer Isaac and I am a christian. I do agree that there is good and evil. I believe God is good and He loves us. but sometimes when I come across situations and circumstances where v loose a loved one suddenly due sickness or accident. so my question is that I believe God is in control of everything then why does horrible things such as death in a accident or sickness is allowed? Does God allow those things purposely to happen?

  2. MaryLou January 21, 2013

    I understand exactly what you're saying, Ebenezer. When a child suffers, when a baby dies, when an earthquake results in massive destruction — we all wonder why God allows these things.

    Intellectually and theologically, we can talk about how we live in a fallen world and how sin and sickness and calamity entered when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and the Lord put a curse on all of creation.

    Ultimately then, it is the fault of humankind that this world is no longer good, the way that God made it.

    I have a little nephew with a life-threatening disease. We have no idea how long he will be with us. His father asked why God would allow an innocent child to suffer with this illness. Of course, the Bible tells us that there is no one good except God (Luke 16:19; Rom. 3:10). We are all born with sin natures estranged from God. So there is no one "innocent", not even a baby.

    Therefore, the reality is that none of us deserve the love of God. Yet he has given it anyway. Mercy is defined as God not giving us what we deserve — eternity separated from him because of our sin. Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve — eternal life with him. I am grateful for the mercy and grace of God.

    There is only one way to assess the love of God and that is at the cross where Christ willingly sacrificed himself to atone for our sins. That is where the love of God resides.

    I have found that the Lord always brings something good out of the worst situations. It is just as Joseph said to the brothers who had sold him into slavery — what the devil meant for evil, God has used for good (Gen. 50:20). And God often uses suffering to make us more Christ-like which should be the goal of every believer.

    I write all of this knowing that it is cold comfort to the parents who have just learned that their teenage son has been killed in a car accident. We respond to suffering with our emotions rather than our intellect.

    Unfortunately, some people turn away from God instead of to him in the face of pain and suffering. Therefore, they waste the opportunity to grow close to God and allow him to minister to them. He IS the God of all-comfort (2 Cor. 1:3)and after he has ministered to us, we can minister to others in his name, with his love.

    C. S. Lewis wrote that pain is the megaphone that God uses to get our attention. He used it to get mine and, despite the hardships I have had to face, I am grateful to him for doing it.

  3. James January 21, 2013

    I've never had a problem accepting that disobedience is the reason why we all suffer to varying degrees (i.e., the wages of sin is death, and any punishment less than that is an act of mercy). A question that nags me frequently, though, is this: why is it that Adam and Eve's disobedience should result in us being born with a sinful nature ? For, how can we do otherwise when we are predisposed to commit sinful acts ?

    Given this, we were not given the same chance that Adam and Eve were to genuinely choose obedience or disobedience. I know that the concept of federal headship is a common attempt at an answer, but I never find that very convincing. Perhaps I've just never read a clear, thorough presentation of it.

    Anyway, I would be grateful if you or some other commenters here could provide some good links that might attempt to answer the question in the most thorough manner possible (assuming the answer is not just quoting Romans 9). Thanks !

    • Princekermit May 19, 2014

      James…please permit me to share my heart with you.
      The scriptures declare that GOD called His creation good. Adam was morally perfect.

      At some point, above the earth, a being led a failed overthrow of God. He was cast out of heaven, and his angels fell with him. Sin and Iniquity had been found in heaven but no place was found for it to remain there.

      The scriptures tell us sin entered the world through Adam. This tells us, that Satan did not bring sin into the world, nor did he have athority. IT was that until Adam sinned, he was morally perfect. Adam understood what he was doing when He disobed God's one law. He was not decieved by Lucifer.

      When you damage or distort the morally perfect… the law that makes everything reproduce according to its kind remains in effect. If I change the dna of a seed of corn so that it will make red colored ears of corn. The seeds from that family of corn will always reproduce that trait.

      So it is with out sin nature.

  4. Godfrey Babu January 23, 2013

    Thus incredibly briefed. God bless you

  5. James January 23, 2013

    Thanks for the summary there. I agree with the self-evident observation that even children behave in sinful ways from their earliest years in infancy, though some would balk at such a statement.

    I have no problem affirming that we are, indeed, sinful, but what I really struggle with is why sinners must necessarily beget sinners unless one holds to something like traducianism, which I've seen has plenty of its own problems. It seems that more folks hold to federal headship.

    I realize that it is said that without federal headship, Christ could not take on our sin himself, but it seems that if federal headship didn't exist at all, then all wouldn't be condemned in Adam in the first place; all would then have libertarian free will instead. I suppose from there, though, that compatibilists will argue against incoherency of such a concept. Thus, an impasse would be reached between folks who find each opposing view of the will flawed in some way.

    Additionally, I don't quite understand how federal headship under Christ resolves the result of federal headship under Adam because in the end, there are those who were given a sinful nature by Adam. Thus, assuming total depravity, they have no genuine choice to escape judgment for the actions that result from a nature they inherited. This is what I meant earlier when I said that I don't understand how each newly-born person deserves a sinful nature.

    As an aside, please don't take this as a statement that I'm denying the sufficiency of Christ's atonement. I'm just trying to get a better understanding of how, if possible, we can make more sense of the federal headship view. If it's not possible to go any further, that's fine by me. I still must, at some point where reasoning becomes circular, take it on faith that God has been and is just.

  6. MaryLou January 24, 2013

    You ask a good question, James. I don't pretend to be an expert on it, but here's my understanding of the doctrine of original sin. It begins with Bible verses such as the following:

    "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned" (Rom. 5:13).

    "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men"(Rom. 5:18).

    "Surely I was sinful at birth" (Ps. 51:5).

    “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies" (Ps. 58:3).

    “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath” (Eph. 2:1-3).

    My understanding is that we are born with sin natures because sinners beget sinners. When Adam sinned, the entire race sinned through him.

    Nobody has to teach babies to disobey. As soon as they can crawl, they reach for things they shouldn't have. A parent says no to them and as soon as that parent's back is turned, those babies reach for what they shouldn't have. They'll pull back their hands when Mom or Dad is watching, understanding very well the word 'no', but disobey when nobody is looking.

    I've given a very brief synopsis for a very deep and involved subject, but I hope that gets the conversation started at least.

  7. casey January 25, 2013

    It could be that someone uses the Problem of Evil as an argument against Theism and that they don't believe in evil at the same time. IT could be positioned like: If there is a God then all of this we observe would be called evil, etc, etc.

    But most village atheists probably would both affirm no God and the existence of evil and be incoherent like Ravi says.

  8. Anonymous January 29, 2013

    James, a Hosea 6:7 states there was a covenant between God and Adam. A covenant defines the relationship between God and man in this way (there is also covenants in the Bible between people [e.g. David and Israel]). As God is holy and perfect, how can imperfect beget perfect? The curse of the covenant is death entered the world. The Law reveals God's standard (Jesus summed it up). No human besides Jesus has perfectly obeyed it, due to our sin nature. If you think about in a similar human microcosm (this is not perfect, but it has helped me). Those born to rebels (e.g. FARC) only know rebellion, typically.

    Only those in power can give grace to a rebel. They are just in not doing so if they don't want to. But a rebel may or not explicitly go after whoever they are fighting, but they remain a rebel nonetheless. Remember, there is a paradox that is in Scripture (which means two things that are true, but they seem contradictory): human responsibility and God's just sovereignty.

    A good source I think is Wayne Grudem's Bible Doctrine. Also note that Adam was the representative of the human race in the covenant. It would be the same if the President violated a treaty the US partook of, all the US (including me) would be violators of that treaty.

    Hopefully this helps, James.

  9. James January 29, 2013

    Thanks for your explanation. I'm not trying to argue that imperfect should beget perfect, though. What doesn't make sense to me is that those born of Adam and Eve somehow deserve the sinful nature of their parents, for those children were not present to make the decision that would result in their own corruption. At least if these descendants were given the same choice while unhindered by an inherited sinful nature and disobeyed, the decision then appears to be genuinely theirs.

    The problem is especially tough to deal with knowing that this sinful nature is what will cause many to suffer eternal anguish. Now, if the result ended up in something like annihilation of the reprobate, then that at least appears more just, for I think it makes perfect sense that God has no obligation to keep anyone alive or grant them eternal life, for He is the creator of such and without Him, none would be alive in the first place.

    Regarding the analogy you presented about the US president violating a treaty, I think even in that specific case, it is unjust for every US citizen to be guilty of the president's lack of integrity. What if I didn't vote for that president ? Even if I did vote for him, what if I objected to his decision to violate the treaty ? Lastly, the result of violating the treaty will not be something infinitely dreadful like eternal torment. I realize that in reality, we do suffer the consequences of our leadership's decisions, whether for good or bad, but I still don't find it just.

    That's why I don't find the federal headship concept totally convincing, yet I agree with what you said about responsibility and sovereignty being a paradox. The things I mentioned above are the cognitive dissonance it causes me, though, and it is quite a difficult thing to endure. I do have Grudem's Systematic Theology and will have a look there to see what he says.

    Thank you, though, for your respectful offering of an explanation. I've had the misfortune of some berating me for raising the question of justice on this topic.

  10. Anonymous July 22, 2013

    Here is the flaw in Ravi's argument in my view,

    1) When you say there's too much evil in this world you assume there's good.
    2 When you assume there's good, you assume there's such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil.
    3) But if you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral Law Giver.

    Flaw in this argument is point (3) which is circular. The atheists don't posit a moral law giver to derive moral law. That is the whole point of contention. But Ravi assumes that as true which begs the question.

  11. JonJon December 14, 2013

    Then from where does the atheist derive moral law?

  12. Jeremiah Samraj December 22, 2013

    For point 3 Ravi gives a fantastic response in another presentation. These arguments have been proven beyond doubts.

  13. wolf March 19, 2014

    How would you answer those atheists who say the "golden rule" (do unto others) is the standard that makes sense from the perspective of the good of the human gene pool, but needs no God to define it?

    I have seen it expressed like this: "As an individual I wish to be treated well. To maximize the chances of this, the most sensible things is to treat others well and hope for reciprocation. Young humans require nurturing for many years after they are born. For this to be provided there needs to be security and stability – this can only be achieved if we work together to create societies that provide this environment. Not only is this rational and reasonable, the evolution of the human brain has fortunately made this something that the majority of people embrace without too much thinking about."

  14. shtrgrd April 25, 2014

    It is helpful to know what you are talking about when discussing morality.

    When Theists are using the term we generally are referring to what is right and wrong in a metaphysical sense. To say there is something wrong with the world assumes there is a higher purpose for this world. To assume something has a purpose is to assume it is designed for that purpose. I don't say something is wrong with my computer because it doesn't brew coffee because it wasn't designed for that purpose. If however it doesn't produce these words on the screen as I type them then I can more rationally say something is wrong with my computer.

    However when many speak of morality they are not defining it metaphysically but more practically, as the example Wolf gave above. Sometimes it is referred to in terms of human well being or some other empirically measurable (hypothetically at least) assertion. They would say that murder does not lead to human well being without getting involved in metaphysical discussions of right/wrong. I've read one that says right and wrong aren't really helpful categories.

  15. Princekermit May 19, 2014

    Wolf, if I may attempt an answer here.
    What I find most effective in this situation is to take from the theroticals of moral evil.

    Such as those who are atheists who look to a golden rule foundes on self interest.
    And show them imagery (powerpoint slides or a three ring flip book of high res photos) I choose images from nazi mass graves, the killing fields of Cambodia under Pol Pot and other genocides)

    I then ask the person who views this? Is this we evil or good? Their conscience informs them it is evil, but they cannot verbalize this with the self interest world view because Hitler killed members of all races and all groups and that voilates the logic of self interest or even the group or collective self interest.

    More and more, I am finding people who when faced with this… suppress this truth in their unrighteousness. I see on their face, sadness and then their face hardens… and their mouth opens


    There are those who will always voice objection, no matter how much truth is placed before them. They want their sin more then they want God.

  16. Janet Sferrella October 9, 2015

    The things we often define as horrible tragedies could be interpreted as blessings too. I am not trying to defer from anyone's suffering over the loss of a loved one, or the horror of abuses we see in today's world. These are most definitely grievous and we should comfort one another where we can. But without these awful things, we would walk in a comfortable life we feel deserved of and never see our very need for the Savior. So what are our greatest tragedies in our finite understanding, may well be God's greatest blessings from His infinite wisdom.

  17. Piesho Nais May 23, 2016

    I understand your confusion. You read in the bible things like Psalm 34:19, but then you realize that you cannot be delivered from the death of you loved one. You read Psalm 91:7, but the you realize that you are one in those thousands and not the one that stands. You read 2 Thessalonians 3:3, then you realize that you are just another victim of evil.

    Finally, you read Jeremiah 29:11 and realize that god's plans for you are not the plans you had for yourself.

    When people are promised one thing and at the end they get something different, they experience what's called "cognitive dissonance"; a way to try to explain why they keep believing what they believe despite evidence to the contrary.

    Believing god's promises and not receiving them is living in a world where the existence of god makes no difference. Is like living in a world where god doesn't exist.

  18. helpmyunbelief November 8, 2017

    For James:

    We cannot say that God is our creator but we are born sinful. If we believe in a God who is Love, we cannot also say that He asks something impossible from us, something that under no circumstance we could give. In others words, if God is a God of Love and justice, then the reason why He calls us sinners, definitely has to do with our choices, with what we did when there was the possibility of not doing. Maybe we are not able to explain this or to understand this, but we must be confident that God is good and just. If Sin would not be something contrary to our nature, to our being…than, it would not be in anymore. As for Adam, I think the meaning in Romans 5 is that all of us choose to sin, like he did; I see it like…for Jesus to be able to die for all of us, just once…all of us should be included somehow in one sin. I hope you will understand at least some of what i say 🙂