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October 2004

Evil – silent witness to the truth

The existence of evil is a potent apologetic argument for the truths of Christianity. Evil is an experiential reality that atheists and agnostics cannot hide from, however ingenious their philosophical arguments.

The writer can recall an ex-RAF officer explaining that he could not believe in the existence of God because he witnessed the appalling suffering of prisoners liberated from one of Hitler’s concentration camps.

Yet this man could have had no more compelling proof of the starting point of the gospel — the depravity of the human heart! There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Which humanist does not belie his professed optimism about human nature by locking up the house at night and guarding his computer with anti-virus software? A Yale or mortice lock is a potent visual aid for Christians engaged in pre-evangelistic argument — everyone has one!

Universal sinfulness

Those who deny the existence of God are as likely as devout Christians to have their car broken into or their home burgled — or their reputation trashed by malicious gossip, or their children bullied at school.

Unbelievers, for all their denials, experience the same sense of horror and helplessness as property and persons are violated. They are exposed to the ravages of a fallen world. This is a fact their conscience cannot evade — witness the recent tragic terrorist attacks in Russia.

For all the unbeliever’s derision at the idea of universal human sinfulness, he or she remains a practising sinner among practising sinners, knowing what it is to be hurt by the malice of others or to retaliate in sinful resentment.

But how does the atheist explain human nastiness? On this particular point there is a deafening silence. Here atheism is at a loss — it has nothing to say.

The depths of human cruelty are inexplicable to evolutionary theory. The living world is ‘red in tooth and claw’ (and the Bible explains why) but it does not sink to the demonic depths plumbed by human nature.

Credible explanation

Unbelieving critics blame ‘God’ for hurricanes and earthquakes, but it is not so easy to shift the blame for the enslavement or murder of children or the abuse of hostages and prisoners! These crimes are perpetrated by people.

The fact is that no other explanation for the gratuitousness of human wickedness approaches the credibility of that given by the Bible.

The Bible’s explanation for evil is unambiguous — and different from the ritual palliatives often uttered in the name of religion. It says, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God … there is no one righteous, no, not one’ (Romans 3:23,10).

It is sin, not evolutionary incompleteness, that explains the way men treated the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, two thousand years ago — ‘God in the hands of angry sinners’, it has been called.

The brutality of Christ’s crucifixion, the perverted justice of his trial, the unprovoked malevolence of the religious rulers towards his sinless life — all testify alike that man is a fallen creature in need of salvation.

Salvation

To face up to the reality of sin in general, and of our personal sin in particular, leads us to discover this amazing reality. God in sheer grace and mercy has done something so radical and glorious about sin that it is called salvation. Salvation is God’s free gift to every guilty sinner who receives mercy through Jesus Christ.

Before time began, God determined to send his Son to die as our substitute, to take the punishment we deserved — he died ‘the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God’.

This is what the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is all about. He did not come to condemn the world, but to save it.

Has the reader faced up to these realities?

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