It is popular amongst the atheist sorts to argue against the existence of God, or His worth as an object of veneration, on the basis that He allows evil, or that His character is, at least by the standards of Christianity, itself evil. This argument is a fairly common one, even cliché, one that has been answered numerous times. Interestingly, atheists seem to think they have discovered it anew, as did Dawkins in The God Delusion:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
These sorts of arguments however simply beg the question of how it is we are aware of evil at all? Why do we, unlike any other creature in existence, consider a standard of proper behavior? As I have discussed elsewhere, the second we bring notions of evil into the equation, we are considering an objective standard that relies on the existence of a ‘good’ or rightness against evil is understood – and no such standard exists in nature. C. S. Lewis put it this way in Mere Christianity:
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man doesn’t call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God didn’t exist he was proving he did- namely with this idea of Justice.”
All humans have an inherent sense that there is something we should be, that there is way we should act. We may not all agree precisely on what that ‘good’ is, or how we should act, but the history of human civilization shows that humans have always sensed its existence. There is no explanation for this in naturalism.
But it goes further than that, in a way that shows naturalism to be even more intellectually bankrupt – the reality that we don’t only comprehend a moral reality, or the existence of the good, but that we realize we fail to act in accordance with it. In a brilliant description, the apostle Paul chronicles this struggle in Romans, Chap. 7:
“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
So then the need for Christ, that is why His existence is a necessity to comprehend reality, and see ourselves as we truly are, derives from the realization that there is a good, and we cannot in and of ourselves do good. This was even a truth the writers of the Constitution incorporated when considering the best way to preserve our liberties, as detailed in Federalist 51:
“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
So the recognition of this aspect of human nature is both an evidence of the necessity of an external and objective entity which we understand as ‘good’, the existence of which the Christian understands to derive, most reasonably, from the existence of God Himself.