Tag Archives: Natural Law

Paul Copan explains the problems of evil and suffering in 17 minutes

Paul Copan

Paul Copan explains the high points of the problems of evil and suffering in 17 minutes. (H/T Apologetics 315)

The MP3 file is here.

The video is here.


  • the question itself reveals that we are moral beings
  • the problem of evil is the great interrupter of human well-being
  • every philosophy of life has to address this question
  • is God required to give us a life that is easy and comfortable?
  • evil is a departure from good, i.e. – the way things ought to be
  • a way things ought to be implies a plan for what ought to be
  • human evil implies a plan for the way we ought to be
  • free creatures have the ability to deviate from the plan
  • where does this plan for the universe and us come from?
  • how can there be a way we ought to be come from?
  • evil is the flip side of good so where does good come from?
  • God’s own moral nature is the standard of good and evil
  • where does evil from natural disasters come from?
  • how dangerous natural phenomena preserve Earth’s habitability
  • there is a benefit from tectonic activity
  • similarly, God lets humans freely choose knowing harm may result
  • people are free to try to find meaning in something other than God
  • God is able to use negative things to bring about positive results
  • e.g. – when good people suffer, they can comfort and care for others
  • can people be good enough on their own without God?

Paul Copan is probably my favorite Christian apologist, along with Doug Geivett. I put Copan and Geivett in a separate category from guys like Meyer and Richards. Copan and Geivett are more specifically defending Christian claims and Christian theology in their work. both get involved with debates and lecturing. They are both very confident in their exclusivism and evangelicalism, addressing tough questions on specific controversial Christian beliefs. I love that. Nothing is off limits for these guys.

If you want to read two good books for beginners on Christian Apologetics that cover a much wider range of issues than Craig’s “On Guard”, then pick up Copan’s “Passion Conviction” and the companion “Contending With Christianity’s Critics”. Awesome, awesome resources.

Can atheists make sense of good and evil?

Here is a post by Michael Egnor at Evolution News. He is responding to complaints by an atheistic evolutionary biologist named Jerry Coyne about the problems of evil and suffering.


There are, of course, countless attempts to understand how an infinitely good God can allow evil. I believe that it is because he gives us freedom, and freedom entails the possibility of evil. My dilemma is with natural evil. Why did God not stop the Indian Ocean tsunami? Why does he allow innocent kids to die from accidents or disease? There are theories to account for natural evil. I still don’t know.

But there’s an issue with Coyne’s question. This is it: I believe in God, and as such the question, “Why is there evil?” is a natural question for me.

But what warrant has Coyne to ask that question? Coyne is an atheist, and therefore he believes that there is no transcendent purpose in the world. And Coyne is a Darwinist, so he believes that there is no purpose in the origin of man. And Coyne is a materialist, so he believes that the human mind is, in some way, merely the brain — evolved meat.

Does it make sense for an atheist to ask, “why is there evil?”

This might might be a fun question to ask your co-workers, family and friends who are atheists. What do they mean by good and evil? Is there a way humans ought to be that is independent of personal preferences and arbitrary cultural conventions? Is there a way that the universe ought to be? If there is no way the universe ought to be, then what are we to make about atheist complaints about evil and suffering?

Leave a comment with your story, but try not to get fired. Just ask questions, don’t fight. Unless you know what you are doing!

I’ll leave some hints in the tags for the post about what I would say to answer the problem of natural evil. Here is my full response to the problem of evil. Here is my full response to the problem of divine hiddenness. And my full response to the problem of those who have never heard of Jesus. And my full response to the problem of religious pluralism. These are all from the index of Christian arguments and rebuttals.


Christianity and the birth of modern science

UPDATE: Welcome, visitors from Free Canuckistan! Did you know that Binks is a web elf? It’s true!

Super-commenter ECM sent me this post from Pamela Geller’s blog, Atlas Shrugs. I thought that this was something wonderful because this is not an area of expertise for me, although it is something that I do get questions about, because atheists believe that Christianity is anti-science, and I need to know how to respond. The post discusses an essay by the blogger Fjordman.

And here’s how it starts:

Neither Roman, Egyptian, Chinese nor Indian civilization created the Scientific Revolution; they all stagnated after making initial gains in knowledge. This is because the natural human tendency is to want immediate results. If the research does not yield reasonably quick benefits, interest wanes. Yet you needed a critical mass of accumulated knowledge before the Scientific Revolution could be ignited. The Bible commands mankind to subdue the Earth, but in order to do so, men need to understand how the world works. In addition to this, the Bible portrays God as a Creator who made the universe work according to rational laws. Since God’s laws are immutable, it remains for us to discover them. Many of the scholars who created modern science, including Galileo and Newton, believed that they were honoring God by studying his Creation. They saw science as a religious duty.

Now, I’ve blogged on the vital importance of scientific progress to the Christian worldview. Let me be clear. We are in a period of economic abundance which exacerbates arrogance, hedonism and disdain for theology and morality. We absolutely must avail ourselves of every sign of creative and/or intelligent activity in the natural world. And that means science must progress.

The essay then cites an Oxford University Press textbook by James Evans as follows:

“…Kepler went on to become the most outstanding mathematical astronomer of his generation. His greatest gifts were inexhaustible patience, great calculating ability, and a relentless drive to understand. But his motives for astronomical research always involved a quest for higher knowledge. Everywhere, he sought for connections between apparently disparate realms of thought. He wanted to know God’s plan for the cosmos….”

Fjordman then continues:

While leading scholars during the Scientific Revolution such as Galileo, Kepler and Newton were indeed inspired by the mathematics of the ancient Greeks, their Christian world view made the connection between mathematics and the natural world even more powerful and explicit. Isaac Newton spent a great deal of time looking for hidden codes in the Bible, and undoubtedly believed that he was studying both of God’s Books: The Bible and the Book of Nature. Nothing similar happened in East Asia, or indeed in any other civilization.

But wouldn’t any old monotheism do in order to ground natural laws? Agnostic sociologist Rodney Stark says no:

…Rodney Stark agrees that Islam does not have “a conception of God appropriate to underwrite the rise of science…Allah is not presented as a lawful creator but is conceived of as an extremely active God who intrudes in the world as he deems it appropriate. This prompted the formation of a major theological bloc within Islam that condemns all efforts to formulate natural laws as blasphemy in that they deny Allah’s freedom to act.”

Fjordman continues:

In contrast [with Islam], for Jews and Christians, God has created the universe according to a certain logic, which can be described. Kepler firmly believed the Solar System was created according to God’s plan, which he attempted to unlock. Sir Isaac Newton was passionately interested in religion and wrote extensively about it.

And it ends with this:

Does mathematics have an independent existence in nature or does the human mind invent it? The answer potentially has huge philosophical implications. The people who created modern science lived predominantly in Europe, an overwhelmingly Christian continent with an important Jewish minority. They apparently had an advantage when they assumed the universe to be designed by a rational Creator. I admit this is a challenging dilemma for those of us who are not religious: Why can nature apparently be described mathematically and rationally if it has not been designed by a rational Creator? As a non-religious man, this is the only religious argument that I find difficult to answer.

It’s an interesting essay. It made me think of this article by Walter Bradley in which he talks about the relationship between mathematics and nature as a pointer to an intelligent designer. For those interested in the relationship between Christianity and science, please take a look at the index of Christianity-related posts.