The Other Side of the Problem of Evil

Auschwitz problem of evil

The problem that the atheist has in the problem of evil is that in atheism there shouldn’t be a problem.


The problem of evil is a problem for everyone. It is a problem from the stage at a philosophical debate to the table at a corner coffeehouse. People struggle with the problem of evil because people struggle with evil.

Christians struggle with thinking and feeling our way through the problem of evil as much as anyone, and often more so. We are forced by reality to ask ourselves how we can believe in an all-good, all-powerful God that allows all this pain and suffering. Nevertheless, we understand a few things.

  • Logically, there is no reason to believe that the existence of evil and the existence of God are contradictory.
  • Emotionally, as terrible as pain and suffering are, Christianity offers the resources to find a peace that passes all understanding.
  • Existentially, there is hope in the fact that Jesus Christ took on himself the consequences of evil and demonstrated his power to ultimately deliver us from it.

In Christianity, we have both definition for and deliverance from evil.

But, what about the nonbeliever? The problem of evil is typically offered as evidence that God does not exist. It is usually the atheist who leaves the problem at the feet of the Christian and demands an answer. However, “Criticism without alternative is empty.”[1]

So, what answer does atheism offer for the problem of evil?

Here’s the thing…

It doesn’t, because it can’t. Continue reading “The Other Side of the Problem of Evil”

No Blind Faith Here

A Popular Misconception

For many people, the term “blind faith” is redundant. The assumption about religious faith is that a sort of blindness is inherent, and often intentional.

Nonreligious people cite famous quotes to confirm this concept of faith. Mark Twain once quipped, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” Ayn Rand wrote, “Faith is the commitment of one’s consciousness to beliefs for which one has no sensory evidence or rational proof.” In his book, A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian identified his two favorite definitions of faith as “belief without evidence” and “pretending to know things you don’t.”

Of course, Richard Dawkins echoes the sentiment: “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”

By definition—at least by popular definition—faith is blind.

Consequently, faith and reason are often seen as incompatible, mutually exclusive terms. They are treated as opposite approaches to finding the truth about the big questions of life. On a popular level, many unbelievers assume that if a person is rational, they have no need for faith. On a personal level, many believers assume that if a person has faith, there is no need for reason.

But why do we assume that there is this great divide between faith and reason?

Here’s the thing…

I don’t know.

The Bible describes a marriage between faith and reason, not a divorce. Besides, everyone accepts some set of foundational ideas by faith, no matter how much reasoning comes first.

A Biblical Definition

The Bible is incredibly clear in its definition of faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

Notice the parallel use of the terms substance and evidence in connection to that which is hoped for and that which is not seen. According to the Bible, faith is a substantiated assurance of what we hope is true. It is a justified confidence in what we cannot see.

The modern misconception of faith drops these two key qualifiers. Faith is misrepresented as merely something that we hope for but cannot see in the absence of substantial evidence. But, this is not the Biblical concept. The Bible defines faith as hope substantiated by evidence for that which we cannot see.

Not every element of Christian belief is seen as clearly as a science experiment or understood as plainly as a mathematical proof. Nevertheless, that does not mean Biblical faith is blind. In fact, it is concept with which we are very familiar.

Every day in courts of law, judges and juries observe substantial arguments and examine evidence for events they did not see. Justice may be blind in the sense that it is impartial and objective, but we would certainly hope that our justice system is not blind in coming to a verdict.

Everyone accepts some set of foundational ideas by faith, no matter how much reasoning comes first.

Many Christians grow uncomfortable when there is talk of evidence and rationality in support of faith. They assume the misconception that there is an inverse relationship between faith and reason. They feel that if they depend too much on arguments for their faith, then they must not have much of it. They feel more like the Apostle Thomas and less like the Apostle John.

However, Biblical faith is not weakened by substantial evidence; it is strengthened by it. The more evidence a jury hears, the more assurance they have in their verdict. Similarly, the more we examine the evidence and rationality of the Christian faith, the stronger our assurance becomes.

Christian theologians have always been careful to define not only what we believe but also what we mean when we say we believe. For centuries, theologians have outlined faith using three Latin words:

  • Notitia (as in, to take notice of) refers to the content that one must be aware of in order to believe.
  • Assensus (as in, to assent to) refers to the assent to the truth of that content.
  • Fiducia (as in, to place faith in) refers to the commitment of trust in that belief, what we call faith.

A perfect example of this outline in Scripture is found in 1 Thessalonians 2:13:

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us (i.e., notitia), ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth (i.e., assensus), the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe (i.e., fiducia).

It must be said that saving faith is not simply notitia and assensus, knowing of and agreeing with the gospel. James warns us (almost sarcastically, I might add) that it’s great if we believe there is one God, but so do demons (James 2:19). The step that raises belief to to the level of saving faith is the trust in what we have known to be true.

Nevertheless, Paul reminds how important notitia and assensus are:

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord (fiducia) shall be saved.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? (assensus) and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? (notitia)

Romans 10:13-14

Presumably, blind faith would be fiducia without notitia and assensus, trust with no content or evident truthfulness. It is certainly possible for a person to claim Christianity in blind faith. However, blind faith is not Biblical faith.

A Universal Application

What is amazing about the Biblical definition of faith is that it has a universal application. Every belief system has its way of seeing the world, the content of its worldview. What’s more, every worldview reaches the point at which they commit to their beliefs in faith, stepping out in hope toward things unseen.

This, of course, applies to religious people. But it also applies to the nonreligious.

In our secular culture, many people reject ideas about God as meaningless, only accepting ideas that have been scientifically proven. At least, that is what they would like to think. But there is a problem. The idea that only empirically verifiable statements can be true is itself not empirically verifiable. It is a belief that must be assumed…wait for it…by faith. This is a major dilemma for those who claim to need no faith.

Even when someone attempts to build a worldview with no need for a step of faith, it is a step of faith to believe they can do so.

As if that were not enough irony, those who assume that faith is merely a belief in the absence of evidence do not have much evidence for that assumption. Sure, there are those “you just need to have more faith” believers, but they are an unfortunate exception and not the Biblical or historical rule. Just consider how Christian thinkers over the centuries have discussed the correlation between faith and reason.

Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honor and love only what is true. – Justin Martyr

But they are much deceived, who think that we believe in Christ without any proofs concerning Christ. – Augustine of Hippo

The supreme function of reason is to show man that some things are beyond reason. – Blaise Pascal

He that speaketh against his own reason speaks against his own conscience, and therefore it is certain that no man serves God with a good conscience who serves him against his reason. – Jeremy Taylor

Faith is not a blind thing; for faith begins with knowledge. It is not a speculative thing; for faith believes facts of which it is sure. It is not an unpractical, dreamy thing; for faith trusts, and stakes its destiny upon the truth of revelation. – Charles Spurgeon

Regularly, the Prophets appealed to evidence to justify belief in the biblical God or in the divine authority of their inspired message: Fulfilled prophecy, the biblical fact of miracles, the inadequacy of finite pagan deities to be the cause of such a large, well-ordered universe compared to the God of the Bible, and so forth. They did not say, “God said it, that settles it, and you should believe it!” They gave a rational defense for their claims. – J.P. Moreland

Blind faith? Not here.

A Hopeful Correction

Christian apologist Greg Koukl, explains further why there is no conflict between faith and reason:

Reason assesses, faith trusts. No conflict. The opposite of faith is not reason; the opposite of faith is unbelief, or lack of trust. The opposite of reason is not faith; the opposite of reason is irrationality.

So, what can we do to correct the popular misconception of faith?

Proclaim our notitia.

Several times over the course of his ministry, Charles Spurgeon compared the Bible and the gospel to a caged lion. He noted a pattern that the less people preach and teach God’s Word, the more concerned they seem to be with protecting it. He painted the picture of how silly it would be to put a lion in a cage out of concern for its protection. Spurgeon’s point: you don’t defend a lion; you let it loose. At the end of one of these illustrations, he stated, “The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible. The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible.”

If we don’t want people to think we have blind faith, we ought to show them the object of our faith.

Demonstrate our assensus.

William Lane Craig is a world-class philosopher, a renowned apologist, and a Baptist Sunday school teacher (which is awesome!). He commented on the importance of Christians understanding the truthfulness on which their faith rests.

Our churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral. As Christians, their minds are going to waste. One result of this is an immature, superficial faith. People who simply ride the roller coaster of emotional experience are cheating themselves out of a deeper and richer Christian faith by neglecting the intellectual side of that faith. They know little of the riches of deep understanding of Christian truth, of the confidence inspired by the discovery that one’s faith is logical and fits the facts of experience, of the stability brought to one’s life by the conviction that one’s faith is objectively true.

Amen, Dr. Craig. Amen.

If we don’t want people to think we have blind faith, we ought to show them the results of our faith.

Embrace our fiducia.

Everyone everywhere ultimately has faith in something. The pantheistic East has faith that everything is spiritual, and that reason is largely useless. The secular West has faith that everything is physical, and that spirituality is largely pointless. Yet both sides only see half of reality.

The gospel of Christ is powerful enough to break through that which blinds both sides and to fulfill that which both sides lack. We ought to embrace our faith and take it to the world.

If we don’t want people to think we have blind faith, we ought to show them the way to our faith.


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Precious in His Sight

The Bible states in Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

In late March of 2017, I saw this verse in a new light. My family and friends had gathered in the church of my childhood for my mother’s funeral. One of the pastors spoke from this passage.

Frankly, this verse had never sat well with me. The grief that we go through being separated from our loved ones by a force as unpredictable, unstoppable, and sinister as death—how could that be precious to God?

By all human accounts, my mother was taken unexpectedly. Her passing hurt in a way I had never felt. My father lost his wife. My brother and I lost our mother. My children lost their grandmother.

Again, I ask—how could that be precious?

But, here’s the thing…

It’s precious because it’s merciful.

Viewed from God’s perspective the whole scene changes. He sees us born into a sin-filled world with sin-filled hearts, living sin-filled lives. The Holy Spirit moves with the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we become God’s own, turning to him in repentance and faith. We become his saints.

But the battle is far from over. We spend the rest of our lives fighting the good fight of faith, failing often. We press toward the mark of a higher calling, but we stumble along the way. We live our lives afflicted at every turn, fights on the outside and fears on the inside. We see our fair share of evil, much of which is our own doing. Meanwhile, God looks on, comforting through his Spirit and guiding through his Word, but the struggle continues. God watches. He sees every moment, every tear. He sees every regret and all the sorrow. What is more, he knows how bad it all feels, because his Son went through worse.

Until one day, our Father calls us home—to himself. After all the suffering, all the trials, all the pain, he is finally able to rescue us from it all. This is not just healing; it’s merciful deliverance.

As Tim Keller wrote, “All death can now do to Christians is to make their lives infinitely better.”[1]

There are few words more appropriate for a father’s opportunity to deliver his children from suffering. It is precious.

It’s precious because it’s meaningful.

Death means something to everyone. Philosophers have spent thousands of years pondering how to live well but also how to die well. The two go hand in hand. To quote Epicurus, “The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.”

This is particularly true for the Christian. When we say with Paul that for us to live is Christ and to die is gain, we mean it. Spurgeon once said, “The best moment of a Christian’s life is his last one, because it is the one that is nearest heaven.”

The Christian possesses real hope in the face of death. Other worldviews offer little by comparison. Naturalistic worldviews at their best offer us usefulness as fertilizer. Pantheistic worldviews at their best offer us oblivion. Other theistic worldviews at their best offer a checklist of ordinances, sacraments, and rituals by which we can try our best. However, Christ offers infinitely more. He offers us, not just healing, but resurrection. He offers not just enlightenment, but glorification. He offers not just merit, but redemption.

My mother is absent from the body and therefore present with the Lord. Meanwhile, our memories of her live on with us, pointing to he who is the resurrection and the life. At my mother’s funeral my family and I experienced a peace that passes understanding. It is a peace that is precious.

It’s precious because it’s motivational.

No matter your worldview, no matter your perspective, no matter your opinions or background, biases or intuitions—one thing we all have in common is that we ultimately have no clue what tomorrow holds. Oh, we have good guesses. We are often almost certain. Almost.

Naturalistic worldviews at their best motivate us with the urgency to not waste our few moments of consciousness between bookends of nonexistence, but they never fully explain what that life should look like or why we should fear such a waste. Pantheistic worldviews at their best hasten us on to oblivion past the illusion of this life, death being “like a magician sweeping aside a curtain, [as the] soul reveals what lies beyond.”[2] In the Christian worldview, however, there is a Father to love because we are loved by him. There is king to be served because he served us. There is a “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

A year before my mother passed away, she did not know she had a year. Forgive me if this seems morose, but neither do we. We are charged by Jesus to not be anxious about tomorrow. Tomorrow’s anxiety will come soon enough. We are to first seek the eternal kingdom. The death of loved ones reminds of that truth. And a precious reminder at that.


Viewed from God’s perspective, the whole scene changes. My mom was a lady that had a wonderful life, but not an easy one. For over two decades she worked a demanding job. She raised two ornery boys who gave her grief every step of the way. She had bad knees and diabetes. She felt her share of pain and suffering as does every child of God. And God watched. He saw every moment, every tear. He saw every regret and all the sorrow. And he knew how bad all of it felt, because his son went through worse.

Then he brought her home. He delivered her from all the difficulty, pain, and sorrow of this world by bringing her to the next. God rescued her from a sin-cursed death-bound world and brought her into his eternal kingdom, never to hurt again. How precious that must have been. Precious indeed.

[1] Tim Keller, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical, p. 166

[2] Deepak Chopra, Life After Death: The Burden of Proof, p. 25.