The fact of evil in the world is perhaps the primary reason that people start down the road of concluding that there is no God. But God is implied in the very act of making the distinction between good and evil.
Positing a Law Giver
Ravi Zacharias said this:
When you say there’s too much evil in this world you assume there’s good. When you assume there’s good, you assume there’s such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But if you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral Law Giver, but that’s Who you’re trying to disprove and not prove. Because if there’s no moral Law Giver, there’s no moral law. If there’s no moral law, there’s no good. If there’s no good, there’s no evil. What is your question?
It seems unassailable that we all subscribe to a moral law. But a law-giver? An atheist would have to object. He would argue against a Being outside ourselves who prescribes what is good, and what is evil.
So what is suggested instead is that morality comes from evolution. But if that were true, wouldn’t there be even less reason to say that one thing is good and another bad? Even in theory, evolution is not understood as a mechanism for yielding the good or the true. It is said to yield survival of the most fit for continued living and for procreation, not survival of the most truthful or moral.
What is “Good?”
If the atheist vision is true, it’s a fair question how one could call something “good” or “bad,” in order to even formulate the argument that there can be no God because of the presence of evil. Why is something “good?” Or “evil?” Evolution doesn’t speak to this. It speaks to survival.
Those atheists minded to tackle this difficult question will likely say that over the vast reaches of time, those who subscribe to a social-directed “empathetic reciprocity” are more likely to survive, and therefore the trait to empathize evolves. They would further say that the source of morality is that empathy. We’re hardwired by evolution, they would say, to behave.
Well evolution has done a bad job, then. We don’t behave. Besides, what does it mean to “behave?” Do we count good behavior to be that which we all agree constitutes good behavior? Is that it? God help us, if so. Double irony here. It should be obvious, here at the end of the bloodiest century of human existence, that a search for morality in “society” is a fool’s mission.
The “Ought” Imperative
If the idea is that good behavior is a trait selected-for because it makes us more fit for survival, then it cannot be authoritative. It would just be a fact of our being, like eye color. There is no basis for saying one kind of behavior is good, and another bad, any more than we can say green eyes are “good” and blue eyes are “bad.”
This is why the atheist argument is incoherent. The sense of morality that we share (the thing that makes us able to say one thing is good and another evil) is theorized by atheists to involve traits that have been implanted in us by natural selection by virtue of the evolutionary advantages they confer.
But in calling something morally “good” or morally “bad,” we are not merely describing what we do. We are describing what we ought to do, and what we ought not do. If something simply is, then it carries no ethical authoritativeness. And if it is ethically authoritative, then it cannot be merely a residue of passive evolution.
If we exhibit morally “good” behavior because it has been naturally selected for, then there is no basis for saying we ought to exhibit that behavior. It exists, on the atheist (and evolutionary) theory, merely as a fact. No “ought” is inferable. If morality is just a product of the mechanisms of nature, how could it possibly be binding upon the conscience of rational man?
The atheist has to be saying that good conduct just is, not that it ought to be. And if one kind of conduct rather than another is not something we ought to exhibit, then it cannot be called “good,” nor the other “bad.”
Atheists and theists alike say that there is moral good and moral evil. Atheists invoke morality in the very act of asserting that the presence of evil is the reason there can be no God. By invoking categories of moral good and moral evil, they have to be, at the same time, positing a moral law-giver, and it has to be a source of morality that is outside of biological development. Otherwise, it’s not morality at all, but rather facts about our nature that lack any ethical authoritativeness.
And so Ravi Zacharias is exactly right, in saying that “if you assume a moral law, you posit a moral law-giver.”
The Significance of Distinguishing Good and Evil
If there is no basis for distinguishing good from evil, it is meaningless to say that morality exists. If morality does not exist, there is no good. If there is no good, there is no evil (because each implies its opposite). If there is no evil, how can one say that it is present, and that its presence disproves the existence of God?
But there is evil. And so there is good. And so morality does exist. And so there has to be a basis upon which to distinguish good from evil. That means there is moral authority, not just evolved facts about human nature. That moral authority is not explained by biology. It has to come from above and beyond nature. “Super-nature.” That means God.