Greetings, once again, to all national and international readers and students, to this series on Christian Evidences (Apologetics). Greetings, especially to you, dear student. I pray that you are doing well. This is my fifth article in the series.
Two days ago marked the 81st remembrance of Pearl Harbor Day. The infamous date was December 7th, 1941. I remembered. I trust that many other Americans did also.
This article will first summarize the four previous articles in this series. The main purpose of this article is to address what we can know about the character of God through natural revelation.
Secondarily, this article will state and refute the so-called “problem of evil.” It will also address the everlastingness of hell. I have included those sections, as replies to two standard criticisms by atheists.
This article begins to answer the second topic question in this Christian Evidences series: What is the nature of God? Natural revelation provides certain understandings of God's character.
The full answer to this question, however, will be incorporated in future articles on the third and final topic questions in this series: Is the Bible the solely-inspired written word of God? Is Jesus the Son of God?
Summary of First Four Articles
The first article, on 10/28/2022, introduced and explained the purpose of this series. The series will encapsulate my lifelong study of apologetics – in hope that it is read and shared widely. I welcome all relevant comments (in agreement or disagreement) and questions.
The topic question on the existence of God is answered in three articles: on 11/4/2022 by the moral argument, on 11/16/2022 by the teleological argument, and on 11/26/2022 by the cosmological argument. We have three “strong poles” that support the “bright street light.” God exists. The proof cannot be denied logically. It is fact. It is truth. It is faith based on knowledge.
The Nature of God - Natural Revelation
Without referencing the Bible, what can we know about God, through natural revelation? Later articles will prove the inspiration of the Bible. The Bible provides supernatural revelation about God's character.
We can understand aspects of God's nature, by logical reasoning, as we observe His creation. (Supernatural revelation, in the Bible, provides a more full and sufficient understanding of God's character.) This section will list what we know about God, based on the three arguments that prove His existence.
First, from the moral argument, we learn that God is intrinsically moral and that His absolute moral law – which flows from His nature – transcends (is before and above) all moral laws of human origin. We know that God is good, righteous, and wise. God wants us to be good. He despises and must punish human immorality. This is His wisdom. We should follow His wisdom, by doing good.
Next, from the teleological argument, we learn that God is vastly powerful and intelligent. The design in the universe, the earth, and the human body evidence that God's supernatural power and intellect created all that exists. He fashioned each and every intricate design – of the immense and countless designs in the universe. Such great power and intellect stagger and overwhelm the mind.
Finally, from the cosmological argument, we learn that God is eternal, spirit, powerful, intelligent, intrinsic, self-sufficient, essential, and transcendent. God is the essential and eternal First Cause. God, the Creator, has always existed, above and before the material universe.
These characteristics of God are known through natural revelation. There is a God, and we can know much about him, simply by considering the evidence in His natural creation.
The So-Called “Problem of Evil”
Initially, I had thought to include this section in my 11/4/2022 article on the moral argument. I decided to place it here, since it transitions better into the third (upcoming) topic question on the inspiration of the Bible.
Those who deny the reality that God exists (atheists) rely on the so-called “problem of evil” argument – in attempt to convince theists that the God of the Bible does not exist. This section will present that argument and refute it. I place “problem of evil” in quotations, since the argument is not really a problem for the theist. In fact, the “problem of evil” can be used to prove that God exists.
The classic form of the “problem of evil” argument, as often stated, is:
If God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and perfectly good, then evil would not exist. Evil exists. Therefore, God (as described) does not exist.
That classic form, however, is incomplete. It assumes but does not state that God would eliminate all evil immediately. The atheist must admit this.
The complete form of the argument should be:
If God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and perfectly good, then He would eliminate all evil immediately. Evil continues to exist. Therefore, God (as described) does not exist.
The atheist must define his terms. Specifically, how does he define evil? Upon what basis does the atheist determine what is evil? Theoretically, if God did not exist, then evil is defined by the subjective thoughts of mankind. (My complete statement on this is in my 11/4/2022 article on the moral argument.)
The atheist must affirm that there is no absolute evil. He cannot define evil absolutely. He must affirm that he thinks that there is no absolute moral law.
How can the “problem of evil” be used to prove that God exists? I will explain. Afterward, I will reply to the complete form of the “problem of evil.” The argument from the “problem of evil” that proves that God exists is:
If evil is absolute, then an absolute Moral Lawgiver must exist. Evil is absolute. Therefore, an absolute Moral Lawgiver exits.
The atheist, when pressed, will have to admit that certain types of evil are always wrong. Examples include murder, rape, abuse of children and the elderly, adultery, intent to harm, and so forth. The atheist will vacillate subjectively on certain other types of evil – thinking that what once was wrong now is right (or vice versa).
How does the atheist know that, for example, murder is always evil? He cannot appeal to societal standards. The Nazis thought that it was right to murder Jews. Does the atheist critique the Nazis? He should. If so, how? My 11/4/2022 article on the moral argument relates that the Nuremberg Trials convicted the Nazis of absolute evil, by appealing to a “higher law” – God's absolute moral law.
If the atheist admits that certain types of evil are absolutely wrong, then he will prove (perhaps not to himself yet) that an Absolute Moral Lawgiver, God, exists. The fact that absolute evil exists, however, proves that God exits, as the Absolute Moral Lawgiver.
Turning the “problem of evil” argument against the atheist, as I have done, is the first answer to the “problem.” The complete answer, which follows, is based on the concept of “faith seeking understanding” (the motto of Anselm of Canterbury, 1033 – 1109, in Proslogion). This is rational faith, based on knowledge, seeking understanding. The Christian theist is at liberty to reference biblical concepts in his complete answer, since he is defending the existence of the God of the Bible. (Proof that the Bible is the solely-inspired word of God will be established, in future articles on that topic.) The complete answer is in nine parts.
First, God is all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), and perfectly good. Any reply to the so-called “problem of evil” that limits God's power, knowledge, or goodness is incorrect. God's omnipotence, however, applies to power – not to the illogical. Logical impossibilities are absurdities that are imagined. For example, God cannot create a round square, a ball that is 100% red and 100% blue, or a rock so heavy that He can't lift it. Those examples are called logical contradictions. A logical contradiction is an impossible fallacy that is not subject to power. This is an important point to remember. (See fifth, below.)
Second, God acts according to His nature, and He will not violate His nature. See Numbers 23:19; James 1:17. God's nature is good, holy, and just. God will not, for example, lie, deny himself, make a mistake, be unjust, commit evil, and so forth.
Third, God created a perfectly good world, with no moral or natural evil. Evil was not a part of God's originally perfect world. See Genesis 1:31.
Fourth, God created mankind in His image. We are everlasting souls, and we have free will – to act and decide on our own. See Genesis 1:27; 2:4-25. God is sufficiently distant and close to us, to allow us complete free will. He is not so close as to overwhelm us by His presence, forcing us to do good. He is not so distant that we cannot grasp His presence, encouraging us to do good. Consider Acts 17:27-28.
Fifth, God cannot force mankind to freely choose to do good always. That is a logical contradiction, not subject to power. For example, God could not have forced the 18-year-old female to freely choose not to turn directly into my right of way, which almost killed me (on 3/29/2016).
Sixth, moral evil exists, in abundance, due to the immoral freewill decisions that mankind makes. This is intrinsic evil. Moral evil started when mankind freely chose to sin (violate God's moral law). See Genesis chapter 3. All (of age to know right and wrong) have sinned. See Romans 3:23; 5:12. The consequence of sin is death. See Romans 6:23.
Seventh, natural evil – distinct from moral evil – includes physical suffering and death, due to aging and disease. It also includes natural disasters, such as fires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, blizzards, extreme heat or cold, droughts, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and so forth.
Physical suffering and death exist, as the consequence of the first sin and since all (who understand good and evil) choose to sin. See Genesis chapter 3; Romans 5:12. We age, are afflicted with various illnesses, and die. Infants (unborn and born) and children – who do not yet understand good and evil – have never sinned. Their deaths are due to illness, injury, natural disaster, or the immorality of someone. When infants and children die (the separation of soul from body), they (as everlasting souls) live everlastingly with God, since they never sinned.
Natural disasters exists, due to the worldwide flood, as God's punishment for mankind's sin. See Genesis chapters 6 - 9. The worldwide flood was God's judgment on the world's evil population (except Noah and his family). God's original creation did not include natural disasters – until mankind chose to sin. Before the worldwide flood, mankind had become rife with sinful choices. The earth was damaged, and still suffers damage, due to the worldwide flood. See Romans 8:19-22.
I will pause, to consider two questions. Why did God create mankind, with free will – knowing that sin would enter the world, that His creation would suffer terrible moral and natural evils due to sin, that mankind, in minority, would be rewarded in heaven everlastingly, but that mankind, in majority, would be punished in hell everlastingly? Would it have been better if God had not created?
I have pondered those questions many times. I have concluded that it is better that I exist than not exist. Since I exist, I can speculate my non-existence. If I did not exist, then I would not be here to consider my non-existence. Since I exist and have saving faith in God, then I will exist everlastingly. It is better, therefore, for me to exist than to not exist.
Revelation 4:11 states that God “created all things” by His “will” (θέλημά, in Greek). The King James Version translates “θέλημά” as “pleasure.” θέλημά, in English, is “will, decision, desire.” God willed, decided, and desired to create – knowing that His eternal Scheme of Redemption would result in everlasting salvation or punishment. Consider 2 Peter chapter 3.
I do not question why God made me. I am the clay. He is the Potter. Consider Romans 9:20-21 in context. The Potter formed me as perfect clay. My sin made me imperfect; however, I have accepted the Perfect Gift and live by faith in God's promise. This is my purpose and duty (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Eighth, God, ultimately, will reward good and punish evil, according to His eternal Scheme of Redemption. See Romans 3:23-24; 5:6-9; 6:23. John Keats, the poet, described the earth, filled with both evil and good, as a “vale of soul-making” (in his April 1819 letter to his brother and sister). God's circumstantial will allows moral and natural evil to exist – for while. God has given us the choice – to freely accept or reject His eternal Scheme of Redemption. Ultimately, God will not allow evil to continue to exist. He, however, is granting mankind time, in this temporal “vale of soul-making,” to choose good over evil.
Ninth, God has three wills, as I will explain.
1. The intentional will of God was for mankind in the Garden of Eden. Perfect humans had a perfect world, in which to live everlastingly. See Genesis 1:26-31.
2. The circumstantial will of God is His eternal Scheme of Redemption, from Genesis to Revelation. God always knew that He would create, that mankind would sin, and that He would sacrifice Himself to save mankind. The biblical record, from Genesis to Revelation, unfolds God's eternal Scheme of Redemption. This article is written during the period of God's circumstantial will. God allows moral and natural evil to continue, during this period.
3. The ultimate will of God will be the culmination of His eternal Scheme of Redemption. Christ will return. All mankind, who have lived or are living, will be judged righteously. The unsaved will be punished everlastingly. The saved will be blessed everlastingly. God will eliminate all moral and natural evil completely and finally.
In summary, the complete answer is that God – all powerful, all knowing, and perfectly good – does not eliminate all evil immediately. His grace is allowing us time and freedom to accept or reject Him. God, however, will eliminate all evil completely.
Imagine if God eliminated all moral evil completely as it happens. No person would have the time, freedom, or grace to repent of his or her evil and to turn to God in saving faith. Grace would not exist. I am glad that God does not eliminate all moral evil completely as it happens! Thank you, for your grace, Lord!
By living in the temporal realm, during God circumstantial will, we face and endure moral and natural evil. If we freely choose God's grace, by our faith, then our everlasting reward awaits us. If we freely deny God's grace, then our everlasting punishment awaits us.
The so-called “problem of evil,” therefore, is not a problem to the theist. It can be used to prove that God exists. The complete answer is accomplished by the concept of “faith seeking understanding,” as I have explained. God, in His grace, does not eliminate all evil immediately. He, however, will eliminate all evil everlastingly.
The Everlastingness of Hell
The atheist, however, struggles with the concept of everlasting punishment in hell. Some theists do also. How could a perfectly good and loving God punish people in the fires of hell everlastingly? Imagine a person enduring the intense heat and fire of a blow torch, blasting against his body everlastingly. An atheist and some theists do not accept that a perfectly good and loving God would allow an everlasting hell to exist. Some theists argue, incorrectly, that hell is not everlasting but that is the permanent annihilation of the soul.
Heaven and hell are both everlasting. Heaven rewards the saved everlastingly. Hell, originally prepared for the devil and his angels, punishes the sinful everlastingly. Consider Jesus' words in Matthew 25:31-46.
Yes, God is perfectly good, merciful, and loving. He is, however, also perfectly holy, just, righteous, and angered. God created a perfect world for mankind, and created mankind in His image. Mankind, however, has sinned and continues to sin. God, in His eternal Scheme of Redemption, sacrificed Himself to save mankind. God will reward everlastingly all who accept His grace. He, however, will punish everlastingly all who reject His grace. Consider, among many passages, John 3:16-21.
Physical death is the separation of body and soul. Spiritual death is the separation of the human soul from God. Everlasting life is in heaven. Everlasting death is in hell. Our existence, in either location, will not be the same as in our physical existence now. We will have spiritual bodies. Consider 1 Corinthians chapter 15 and 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, especially verse 9. The “fires of hell” express the spiritual torment of everlasting separation from God, which is far worse than physical fire.
All people – the saved and the unsaved – are connected to God, while alive physically on earth. God grants life and provision to all. See Matthew 5:43-48. Those who reject God's grace, by continuing to live in sin, must face everlasting separation from Him.
Yes, God is infinitely good. He is also infinitely just. In His infinite goodness, God rewards the saved everlastingly. In His infinite justice, God punishes the unsaved everlastingly. Could God's infinite justice punish the unsaved one minute in hell? If so, then what about a year, a decade, a century, a thousand years, or a million years? What about everlastingly? As a sinner, saved by grace, I have no right to judge the Righteous Judge, by critiquing His infinite justice.
God's infinite goodness and justice are perfectly fair. The atheist's critique of hell will not protect him from what I call “the ultimate acknowledgment of truth.” We will each stand before God at the final judgment. I am ready – not by my righteousness, but because of Christ's righteousness. See Romans 3:21-26 and 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. The atheist will believe and know God at the final judgment, but it will be too late.
The main purpose of this article has addressed what we can know about the nature of God through natural revelation. Secondarily, this article has stated and refuted the so-called “problem of evil” and has addressed the everlastingness of hell.
The psalmist David wrote:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Psalms 19:1, NIV)
As I have stated, supernatural revelation, in the Bible, provides a more full and sufficient understanding of God's character. The full depth of God's nature may be beyond our temporal understanding. The apostle Paul wrote:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36, NIV)
The saved, however, will know the fullness of God's nature, once we are in heaven. The apostle John wrote:
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2, NIV)
Natural revelation is sufficient to understand that God will not excuse sin. The apostle Paul wrote:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20, NIV)
The third and final topic questions will be:
Is the Bible the solely-inspired written word of God?
Is Jesus the Son of God?
In those sections, I will expound further on God's nature and continue to encourage non-believers to believe, so that God's grace will excuse (forgive) their sins, as they turn to Him in salvation.