Friday, March 27, 2009


I was sent a story this week about a professor who tries to demonstrate to his students that the idea of a perfectly good, all-powerful God is a logical impossibility. I'm not sure where the story originated (or even if it depicts an actual event), but it was interesting and it raised some thoughts I wanted to present here.

In the story, the professor argues that since evil exists, then if God created everything, God must necessarily be evil. The story ends with a student's response. The student proposes that cold does not exist: thermal energy (heat) exists and, theoretically, has no upper bound; if cold exists as the opposite of heat, it must have no lower bound; since there is an absolute zero, "cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it." The student argues similarly for a definition of darkness as being the absence of light (not its opposite), and then extends his argument to evil:
"Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light."
The problem I see with the student's argument is that it mistakes the quantifiable phenomenon "heat" (measured against the standard of absolute zero) for the subjective description "hot," and the quantifiable phenomenon "light" (presumably based on the presence of photons in the visible spectrum) for the subjective description "brightness," and then applies the same misconception to the problem of evil.

Evil is not a subjective description. There are no varying degrees of evil, nor is evil simply the absence of God's love — evil is opposition to God himself. Both the professor and the student made the same mistake: they judged good and evil based on their own human perception rather than on the true standard, God himself. The professor thinks, "these things exist and are evil, so if God created everything, therefore God must be evil," an argument which places God's actions, plans and motives under man's judgment instead of the other way around. The student's argument ignores the fact that evil originated in a choice — our choice not to serve and obey God but instead to turn against him and serve ourselves — and that as a result of that choice, we are incapable of true goodness until the enmity is erased completely.



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