Take a good look at this chart, for it is a serious attempt to prove God doesn’t exist. If he did, the thinking goes, he would have patched up evil long ago.
Note how the chart assumes God is like a Santa Claus who must shower presents regardless of naughty or nice. Note how the bottom-left two boxes present the point, “Can God make a world in which there is free will and yet ensure that no one will use their free will to the detriment of others?” Note how whoever wrote this chart thinks he is smart for positing a question akin to: “Can God make a mountain he cannot move?” Oh yeah, that’s real brilliant. Gotcha.
Throw back at these yo-yos the dilemma of how the lead runner in any race can never be overtaken, since to do so the pursuing runner would have to close half the distance first, and then half that remaining distance, and then half that remaining distance, and then half that remaining distance, and then half that remaining distance. It becomes clear that the second runner can never overtake the first. Then lead these this person to a foot race where exactly that thing happens and watch his brain fry. His ‘critical thinking’ has deceived him.
There are a few other turds masquerading as diamonds in the chart Each of them is a result of the chartist’s rigid presumption of what God must be like. How many can you find?
Completely absent from the chart is any conception that evil might be temporarily permitted to achieve a certain higher and lasting aim. It is a chart presented from the standpoint of a child who knows what he wants and does not care to know anything else.
Let your finger go down the flow chart until it reaches the box: “Then why is there evil?” Note the three choices supplied along with the chartist’s rash assumption that he has covered all bases. They are:
1) If God is all knowing, he would know what we would do when tested, so there is no need to test us.
Note how this takes all the dignity out of being human. Some people cherish the opportunity to prove their loyalty to a cause greater than they. They will not be satisfied with a test tube result that predicts their loyalty—and with that unpleasantness out of the way, let the good times roll!
2) An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God could and would destroy Satan.
Note the assumption that if he could and would do it, he can and must do it NOW. Again, it is the reasoning of a child who expects presents under the tree on Christmas Day, and not one minute later.
3) Could God have created a universe without these?
This choice leads to the dilemma already mentioned, akin to: ‘Can God make a mountain that he cannot move?’ Maybe these guys can feast on this as ‘wisdom,’ but it doesn’t quite cut it for me.
Does not all of this validate such verses as 1 Corinthians 1:19-20?
“For it is written: “I will make the wisdom of the wise men perish, and the intelligence of the intellectuals I will reject.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this system of things? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not get to know God through its wisdom, God was pleased through the foolishness of what is preached to save those believing.... Because a foolish thing of God is wiser than men, and a weak thing of God is stronger than men.”
The chart that would disprove God assumes he must also be omnipresent (everywhere at once), omnisciencient (knows everything at all times), and “all-good.” Usually the third member of this trinity is ‘omnipotent’ (all-powerful) but in this case the chartist has substituted all-good so he can blame God for whatever isn’t going right.
Simply quote one of those verses in which God says he is going to go down and check out something—such as the complaint made about Sodom.
“Then Jehovah said: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is very heavy. I will go down to see whether they are acting according to the outcry that has reached me. And if not, I can get to know it.” (Genesis 18:20-21)
He wasn’t there. He didn’t know. I love the personification. Not so omnipresent after all, is he? Nor omniscient. The Bible does not present him that way. To be fair, you cannot really blame the chartist for these assumptions. Church teaching consistently paints him this way, even though the Bible does not. If it weren’t for the junk food of church teaching, maybe atheists wouldn’t have strayed into atheism in search of nourishment.
As to the third point, “all-good,” note how the chart assumes God’s role is to bless the doings of a society founded on rebellion against him. Note how it assumes God’s role is to prevent the inevitable bad consequences of such rebellion from occurring.
Thus, every assumption the chart make about God is wrong. No wonder its conclusions are so cock-eyed. Now, to be sure, those cock-eyed conclusions might remain even if it had begun with accurate assumptions—the pull away from God is strong and more rooted in emotion than in reason. “All his thoughts are: ‘There is no God,’” says Psalm 10:4, about “the wicked man [who] makes no investigation.” (italics mine)
The emotional pull is the urge to kick over the traces—to break free from anyone or anything that would tell you what to do. In their insistence upon pursuing the petty freedoms that this world has to offer, chafing at whatever would seem to restrict them, they end up overlooking the substantial freedoms spirituality offers.
What can you do with people like that? In the case of those who once believed in God and abandoned it for atheism, you could liken them to the fellow who loses millions in the stock market. Undeterred, he celebrates the $10K that he still has left, reasoning about the rest: “They were just paper gains, anyway.”
M. D. Craven—‘Master Driver’ Craven, he used to tell his employer, Greyhound Bus—he had the Banger-to-Boston run for many years, and they would say, “Who gave you that title?” to which he would respond with, “Nobody did—I self-assumed it” (his real first name was Merrill, not Master), whose driving skills fell off precipitously in his older years, and who used to say when his car was on the fritz, “Tom, can I borrow your car?” and whom I just KNEW was going to wrap it around a tree, yet he had been so good to me that even had he said: “Tom, can I borrow your car? I want to wrap it around a tree,” I would have felt obliged to hand him the keys—used to love this verse:
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Merrill loved it for the appeal from God to reconcile, with the benefit of relieving heavy matters that might weigh upon one’s conscience. “Come now, and let us reason together,” I can still hear him say, quoting the words from the King James Version of the Bible.
But it is not actually a good rendering of the verse. If you ‘reason’ with God, it will mean that you will take notes. You will not be telling him how to run heaven. It will sort of be like reasoning with Ford about your new Mustang. You will take notes at their owner’s manual that you should run it ‘shiny side up and greasy side down.’ You won’t expect them to be enthralled at how you intend to do it just the reverse.
The New World Translation, which didn’t come upon the scene until the 1960’s, well after M. D. Craven’s hay day, and so he still spoke from the KJV, corrects this faux pas, as do most modern translations. It renders Isaiah 1:18 as: “Let us set matters straight between us.” That’s better. It is the same warm appeal, the same alleviating benefits, but absent any sense that we will be instructing God. He will hear us out, to be sure, but it is not as though he will be benefiting from the pointers we may offer him.
It is like the Zoom prayer the other day to close out a small group meeting; the one offering it was just a little too obvious working in his own narrative. He wove in, as evidence of our stressful Covid-19 times, the comment about lines that stretched from (he named the far-apart streets) as people lined up for free masks. I said to my wife: “It’s as though he imagines Jehovah saying, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that. Backed up that far? Wow. Things are really getting tight down there.’”
Alas, the explanation of why God permits suffering involves Adam and Eve. This will make it a non-starter for many people today. Do not let it be so with you. Treat is as a metaphor if you like—that will work for the sake of an examination. Treat it as though it were the cover of a jigsaw puzzle that you assemble for the pure satisfaction of assembling it. Only afterwards do you consider whether the scene is actually something you have come across before.