The number one lie that Christians are often confronted with is the argument that evil, pain, and suffering prove that there is no God, said author and apologist Mark Mittelberg.
Providing a rebuttal to the question of why God would allow such things can be challenging, said Mittelberg, who is the author of The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask and other books about defending the Christian faith.
Mittelberg told The Christian Post recently that in fact, it was the issue of evil that initially led the renowned author and scholar C. S. Lewis into atheism. However, upon further reflection, Lewis began to see that if there is no God, then there is no such thing as evil either.
"Evil can only be known and measured against a standard of good. Apart from God and the morality that flows from Him there is no standard – and therefore no evil either," he explained. "But we know in our hearts – it's inescapable – that evil is real."
"For example, when we hear about someone being raped or murdered we don't just think, 'I'd prefer that people wouldn't do such things.' No, we say, 'that was wrong' – especially if the crime was against somebody we knew. But when we say such things we're betraying the fact that we know there is a higher standard – one that goes beyond people's preferences of even society's self-imposed laws," Mittelberg illustrated. "This innate knowledge of morality standards points to the existence of a Moral Lawgiver."
What initially seemed to be an argument against God turns out to be evidence for him, he stated. "When C. S. Lewis realized this, it was an important step toward his trajectory-altering decision to trust and follow Christ."
"So while Christians struggle with a very real problem of evil it is, I think, much preferable to the atheistic denial of evil (and, similarly, to the Eastern pantheistic belief that everything that happens is part of God, leading to the deification of evil.)," Mittelberg insisted.
The question of pain and suffering is probably a harder argument to answer, he said. "Why would God allow those?"
The question is not one Christians can give an answer to that will satisfy everyone or "make us all feel good about," Mittelberg said.
However, he outlined seven "points of light" summarized from his chapter on the issue in The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask.
First point of light: the world is as Jesus predicted
Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble;" it's good to know that we follow a Savior who really gets it – who sees this fallen world for what it is, and who (contrary to many other religious leaders) tells us the truth about it.
Second point of light: evil was not created or caused by God
The Bible is clear: God is not the author of evil. But he did create us as real human beings with the ability to love and follow him … or not. Unfortunately we chose the "not," and brought sin and evil into the picture.
Third point of light: the cause behind most suffering is human
While it doesn't remove the pain, it can be important to remind people who are tempted to shake their fists at God for the suffering in the world that the vast majority of human pain has been inflicted directly or indirectly by other humans.
Fourth point of light: we live in a fallen world
There is also suffering due to what some call "natural evil" – pain that results from events and disasters that are not caused by humans. The Bible shows, however, that these are the result of the curse we live under due to human sin – see Genesis 3 and Romans 8.
Fifth point of light: God will finally judge evil
Some people criticize God (or those who believe in him), saying, "A good God would eradicate evil." My question for those folks is, "Okay, are you ready to be eradicated, since you – like me – are to some degree evil?" Seriously, I'm glad that, although God will judge and wipe out evil, he's chosen not to yet, out of patience for us and for our friends (2 Pet. 3:9).
Sixth point of light: God suffered too
It's easy to forget that the Holy God of the universe chose, out of love, to humble himself, become one of us, and ultimately to suffer in ways none of us every will (or ever could imagine) in order to purchase our redemption (Phil. 2). As a result, he can not only forgive our sins and freely give us salvation, but also sympathize with all we're going through (Heb. 4:14-16).
Seventh point of light: God can bring good out of bad
Though this truth is often bantered about in ways that are insensitive to the person who is suffering, it is still true that while bad things happen to God's people, he promises that he'll bring good – sooner or later – out of everything we experience (Rom. 8:28).
Mittelberg, who along with apologist Lee Strobel founded The Institute at Cherry Hills, an apologetics and evangelism ministry at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo., will be conducting a simulcast on this topic and other tough questions on March 10. For more information on "The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask" event, go online to http://incastevents.com/questions.