The first challenge the professor gives to the existence of God is the existence of evil. The Professors challenge comes in three parts; first is a personal story, the second is a question about the existence of the Satan, and the last is a general statement about the state of the world. Let’s look at each one of these one at a time.
Professor: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to GOD to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But GOD didn’t. How is this GOD good then? Hmm?
This is possibly the professors most interesting, and most important point. He doesn’t begin by arguing matters of theology, philosophy, biology or physics. He starts with a moment of personal pain and loss.
The student misses this point entirely.
Now I am not sure what the professors back story is. I am not sure if he is supposed to be a person from a devout family or if in a time of desperation the professor’s brother turned to prayer to only be met with silence. Either way the professor’s criticism began with a bang of red hot anger but only to concealed a deeper heart felt whimper.
This happens more often then we tend to acknowledge. We argue logic when we ought to listen to pain. This moment might be the greatest tragedy of this narrative. We still have not learned the lesson of Job, we to often come like Job’s ‘friends’ ready with blame, explanations and empty words when we ought to come with listening ears.
Professor: Is satan good ?…(no) Where does satan come from ? …(from God) Who created evil?
I think this is a funny point for the professor to bring up. I suspect it is meant to short circuit any easy out answers like blaming evil on Satan. The truth is this kind of a cop-out is too common. The professor makes a valued point unless we believe in dualism we can’t just simply shift the enter presence of evil on to Satan as if he were a dark god. The student seems to in some sense know this and he avoids this mistake. We need to do the same
Professor: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don’t they?
Here is where the professor finally ends his first assault. The challenge is simply, either deny the existence of evil or deny the existence of God. I find the list of the evils the professor lists interesting. The professor mentions; ‘sickness, immorality, hatred and ugliness’ as proof for the existence of evil. The interesting thing about the list is other than sickness (a reference to the professor’s brother I assume) it is filled with human caused evil.
I don’t find the argument that. ‘God should have made better people’ a compelling argument against the existence of God. A better one is, ‘If God made people they would be like X, if God did not make people they would be like Y, and people are in fact like Y’. But that is a debate for another day.
The professors first set of attacks fall well short of being a devastating attack against faith. And I think most Christian students could shrug these claims off without much effort. But the attack is only part of the story the really point is the student’s response.
Student : Professor, is there such a thing as heat?…And is there such a thing as cold?… Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it… Darkness is the absence of [light]…Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good GOD and a bad GOD. (This is just a sampling of the student’s response you can read it all here.)
I do not think this is a very good response to the professor’s argument for three reasons.
First it doesn’t address the professors claims. The professor didn’t say that there are two gods out there, one dark and one light. He said a good God should not allow evil, and that there is evil. The student’s reply missed the point entirely.Like the failure to respond to the death of the professor’s brother this reply shows we have difficulty listening too and properly understanding our critics.
Second this is a poor attempt to use science as a defense for God’s existence. I read a number of atheist responses to this and they all said the same thing. If this was a real debate between a student and professor the professor would have quickly told the student that the terms heat and cold, and light and dark, are about how we perceive energy. They are short hand for our senses. This is not an argument about scientific concepts but of semantics. One can argue that there is neither hot nor cold just energy.
Third God’s absence is not the only explanation for evil. Actually this even ignores the professor’s first point, that his/her brother was praying earnestly for God to heal him but God did not. The professor’s brother was seeking to be in God’s presence but he was denied.
After reading this story over and over these past few days I think that this is a poor application of something C.S. Lewis taught. C.S. Lewis taught that bad cannot be a thing by itself. Bad was only a corruption of good. Meaning I want something good (a meal) but through my action I make it bad (gluttony). This tends to fit with what we know about the most villainous people. They never think they are villainous they think what they are going is good and right.
In short the student didn’t listen, and then displayed a poor understanding of both science and theology. Not the shining example of Christian apologetics that most take this for.
To end I want to leave you with an actual quote from Einstein, “Make everything as simple as possible but no simpler.” This story falls to live up to this proverb and it grossly oversimplifies the presence of evil. If this is the best we equip people with, we have to ask ourselves what will happen to their faith when the simple is taken from them? Will they move on to a more robust faith or will they give up on faith altogether?
The current faith dropout rate makes me think they will choose the latter.