God And Evil: Problem Solved (Excerpts)
by Gordon Clark
Excerpts from God And Evil: Problem Solved by Gordon Clark
The problem may be stated as follows: If God is all-good, and if God is all-powerful, why are sin and suffering in the world?
Theologians have attempted to answer this argument for centuries. They have offered tow major counter-arguments: First, they have denied the existence of sin and suffering, which, of course, contradicts the Bible. Second, they have asserted that man has free will, which also contradicts the Bible. The free0will argument has been the most popular proposed solution to the problem of evil, but it actually seeks to solve the problem by agreeing to one of the problem’s alternatives: The free-will argument concedes that God is not almighty, for the free will of man can and does frustrate God’s will. The free-will argument like the unbeliever, the defender of free will is left with a god who may be god, but who is not omnipotent, and therefore he is not and cannot be the God of the Bible.
How can the existence of God be reconciled with the existence of evil?
If God is good and wants to eliminate sin, but cannot he is not omnipotent; but if God is omnipotent and can eliminate sin, but does not, he is not good. God cannot be both omnipotent and good.
Although the Christian concept of God as omnipotent aggravates the difficulty, man’s trouble with evil – his intellectual trouble with evil – did not begin with Christianity. Pain, disease, calamities, injustice, and woe have impressed people of every religion. Some religions, of which Zoroastrianism is one, concluded that the universe must be the work of two independent, conflicting deities. Neither the good god nor the evil god is omnipotent, and neither has as yet destroyed the other.
Plato in his Republic attempted to account for evil by the assumption that God is not the cause of everything, but only of a few things – few because our evils far outnumber our goods.
He conceived God in such a way that his relation to evil, or to the moral endeavors of men, hardly mattered. The Unmoved Mover is in a sense the cause of all motion, but instead of being an active cause, he causes motion by being the object of the world’s desire. He exercises no voluntary control over history. Though he is constantly thinking, he does not seem to think about the world, or, at most, he knows only a part of the past and nothing whatever of the future.
Naturally, the great Christian philosopher Augus6ine grappled with the difficulty. Under Neoplatonic influence, he taught that all existing things are good; evil, therefore, does not exist – it is metaphysically unreal. Being nonexistent, it can have no cause, and God therefore is not the cause of evil. When a man sins, it is a case of his choosing a lower good instead of a higher good. This choice too has no efficient cause, although Augustine assigns to it a deficient cause. In this way God was supposed to be absolved.
Professor Baylis of Duke University gives what many people will believe to be a very plausible argument. If determinism is true, he says, then a person’s decisions reflect his character. The man’s character causes and explains his actions.
God is neither responsible nor sinful, even though he is the only ultimate cause of everything. He is not sinful because in the first place whatever god does is just and right. It is just and right simply in virtue of the fact that he does it. Justice or righteousness is not a standard external to God to which God is obligated to submit. Righteousness is what God does. Since God caused Judas to betray Christ, this causal act is righteous and not sinful. By definition God cannot sin. At this point it must be particularly pointed out that God’s causing a man to sin is not sin. There is no law, superior to God, which forbids him to decree sinful acts. Sin presupposes a law, for sin is lawlessness. Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God. But God is “Ex-lex.”
True it is that if a man, a created being, should cause or try to cause another man to sin, this attempt would be sinful. The reason is plain. The relation of one man to another is entirely different from the relation of God to any man. God is the creator; man is a creature. And the relation of a man to the law is equally different from the relation f God to the law. What holds in the one situation does not hold in the other. God has absolute and unlimited rights over all created things. Of the same lump he can make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor. The clay has no claims on the potter. Among men, on the contrary, rights are limited.
The idea that God is above law can be explained in another particular. The laws that God imposes on men do not apply to the divine nature. They are applicable only to human conditions. For example, God cannot steal, not only because whatever he does is right, but also because he owns everything: There is no one to steal from. Thus the law that defines sin envisages human conditions and has no relevance to a sovereign creator.
As God cannot sin, so in the next place, God is not responsible for sin, even though he decrees it. Perhaps it would be well, before we conclude, to give a little more Scriptural evidence that God indeed decrees and causes sin. 2 Chronicles 18:20-22 read: “Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the Lord said, ‘You shall persuade him and also prevail; go out and do so.’ Now, therefore, look! The Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these prophets of yours, and the Lord has declared disaster against you.” This passage definitely says that the Lord caused the prophets to lie. Other similar passages ought easily to come to one’s remembrance. But that God is not responsible for the sin he causes is a conclusion closely connected with the preceding argument.
Another aspect of the human conditions presupposed by the laws God imposes on man is that they carry with them a penalty that cannot be inflicted on God. Man is responsible because God calls him to account; man is responsible because the supreme power can punish him for disobedience. God, on the contrary, cannot be responsible for he plain reason that there is no power superior to him; no grater being can hold him accountable; no one can punish him; there is no one to whom God is responsible; there are no laws which he could disobey. The sinner, therefore, and not God, is responsible; the sinner alone is the author of sin. Man has no free will, for salvation is purely of grace; and God is sovereign.
Excerpts from God And Evil: Problem Solved by Gordon Clark