The title of the sixth chapter is “Gratuitous Evil and a God of Love” by Angus Menuge, PhD, professor of Philosophy at Concordia University, Wisconsin. He addresses one of the main criticism of Christianity: How can a loving, just, good God allow so much evil and suffering in the world?
I have heard numerous explanations from Christians on this issue which can basically be boiled down to this, “Since God is the essence of good, it is impossible for him to do anything evil. Therefore if evil exists, its existence is the fault of human beings.” Dr. Menuge lists a few other Christian explanations for the existence of evil, one of the most interesting by Christian apologist, Richard Swinburne:
“Natural evil provides opportunities for especially valuable kinds of emotional response and free choice, emphasizing the greater goods of compassion, courage, and empathy.”
Even Dr. Menuge takes issue with this perspective: “…[this theory assumes that] an action is morally justified if it has good overall consequences. On this view, God is viewed as a moral economist doing cost-benefit analysis on a cosmic spreadsheet: as long as the good column outweighs the bad column, God’s management of the world is morally solvent.”
I’m happy to see that even conservative Christians can see the immorality of such a worldview. Tell the little girl being raped, tortured, and killed by her mother’s boyfriend that her suffering and death will, in the end, work to the “glory of God” in the lives of those affected by her death.
So how does Dr. Menuge and his conservative Lutheran colleagues view this issue? Here is the (confessional) Lutheran perspective on evil: “Unlike philosophical theism, which attempts to understand the divine by abstract reason, the epistemology of the cross insists that God is most clearly revealed in the person and work of the God-man, Jesus Christ, and especially in his suffering on our behalf.” p. 161
“…Christ is God’s answer to the problem of evil. Therefore, any apologetic for the problem of evil should not waste time in philosophical theisms which paint blurry pictures of who God is, who we are, and how we can be saved. It should be a defense focused on the historical case for Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.” p. 163
“As Ed Martin notes, ‘There is an unquantifiable kinship of spirit that happens between those who have suffered in like manner.’ This includes the most horrendous and gratuitous suffering …, because it is only the one who has suffered evil who understands it. As Ravi Zacharias concurs:
‘It is the woman who has been raped who understands what rape is, not the rapist…It is only the One who died for our sins who can explain to us what evil is.’
God does not answer the problem of evil by providing intellectually satisfying formulas….God answers by actions of love. His goal is not moral improvement, but to show us our true condition, our inability to save ourselves from that condition, and hence our absolute dependence on Christ for salvation.
And what caused our true condition and our inability to save ourselves? Answer: Our ancestors’ horrific act of high treason against Yahweh: eating his fruit! And the consequence of that wicked fruit-eating sin is an eternity of unspeakable torment in the dark (possibly burning) pit of Hell.” p. 163
Whoa! Did Dr. Menuge write that last paragraph? No. No, he did not. But I included it in the quote for its shock value; to show just how ridiculous and immoral this explanation for the existence of evil and the existence of suffering really is.
Bottom line: In this line of thinking, all human beings, including Jesus, have suffered due to…fruit. But since Jesus has also suffered for ancestral-fruit-eating, we humans can have peace in our hearts when we suffer. Jesus understands. Jesus is there with us. So while the woman (in Mr. Zacharias’ example above) is being raped, tortured and killed, she can draw comfort from her “kinship” with Jesus and his suffering on the cross.
Outrageous. If Jesus really is an omnipotent god and possesses any decency, he would stop her rape and murder!
Christians need to recognize and admit, that the truth is that in their worldview, morality and the distinction between good and evil is based solely upon one principle: He that carries the biggest stick makes the rules. Christians have predetermined that Yahweh is good, and therefore ANYTHING that Yahweh does must be good, even when he is slaughtering Egyptian, Amalekite, and Midianite babies by the tens of thousands.
It is a sick belief system, folks. Sick.
But if Yahweh does exist and is omnipotent and all-knowing as the Bible says he is, it doesn’t matter what I nor any other human being thinks about him or his system of justice and morality. We just have to accept it.
But here is the good news, the REAL Good News, folks: the authors of this book, “Making the Case for Christianity”, (and the authors of every other Christian book on apologetics I have read) have NOT provided any good evidence for the existence of Yahweh nor any good evidence for the fantastical tale of the resurrection/reanimation of Jesus. They have assumed that evidence for a generic Creator is evidence for Yahweh, without providing any evidence to support this claim, and, they have based their belief that the Gospels and the Book of Acts are reliable historical sources, written by eyewitnesses, based on out-of-date scholarship. Let me repeat: The authors of “Making the Case for Christianity” have built their case on assumptions and out-of-date scholarship!
Look at this quote, used by Dr. Bombaro in his chapter and Mr. Parton in his, as evidence that the “overwhelming majority” of New Testament scholars believe and can assure us, that the “primary sources” are reliable because eyewitnesses wrote the four Gospels and the Book of Acts—specifically— Matthew the tax collector, John Mark the companion of Peter, Luke the physician and companion of Paul, and John the son of Zebedee:
“The documentary attestation for these [biblical events] is so strong that a denial of their reliability carries with it the total skepticism toward the history and literature of the classical world.” John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity: A Vigorous, Convincing Presentation of the Evidence for a Historical Jesus (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1964)
Wow. If that truly is the position of the majority of NT scholars, it is silly for skeptics to claim that the Gospels are unreliable historical sources. But wait—is this statement the current position of the majority of NT scholars on the reliability of the Gospels and the Book of Acts?
Look at the above quote again. What is the date of this statement?
The authors of this book are using a quote from FIFTY-TWO years ago, claiming that it represents the position of modern scholarship!
Dear Readers: Thank goodness for the Internet! Do a quick search on the Internet and you will see that the majority of NT scholars, today, do NOT believe that the Gospels nor the Book of Acts are reliable historical sources, nor, that they were written by the traditional authors whom the Church has claimed wrote them; a claim for which the evidence indicates only appeared in the second half of the second century, most probably based on nothing more than tradition.
The real Good News, friends, is that there is no omnipotent Boogeyman in the sky who is going to roast you forever in his fire pit because your ancient ancestors ate his fruit! It is a silly, ancient folktale. And think about this: why would a perfect God who has existed forever suddenly decide that he needs little replicas of himself with a “free will”, anyway? Why does a perfect being want/need to be voluntarily loved by other beings? Sounds very human, to me! Sounds like a tale concocted by humans, not by a perfect god.