An argument was presented against William Lane Craig during a debate with Stephen Law regarding arguments for a good God are the same as arguments for an Evil God. He posits many of the arguments presented by William Lane Craig in a form that would also suggest the possibility of God being evil. This is a view that Mr. Law shares with many atheists where if there is a God, in their view, that god would necessarily be an evil one given the amount of pain and suffering that is clearly present in the world. It is not possible, in their view, for there to be an ultimately good God and there be suffering in the world, as a good God would not let anyone experience pain or suffering.
There are many arguments that demonstrate this point to have no logical foundation. In this article, I am going to focus on the idea of there being an Evil God alone. Is it possible for an Evil God to exist? If there is a God, is it even possible for that God to be Evil?
This Begins from a Moral Premise.
In order to judge anything to be either a good thing or a eivl thing, there must be a foundation laid of what is actually good and what is actually evil. As it is with all things, there is something that comes before it. So it is with morality. There had to have been something which set the framework within which morality exists. This would necessarily have to be God if morality was to exist in any firm manner where one could even suggest that something is or is not evil. So in making this argument, the individual would have to acknowledge absolute and objective morality. If the individual does not, then they are building their entire argument on premises that are not grounded in reality, but are instead grounded only in the personal preconceptions of good or evil that individual has, and is therefore not based on any reality. There would be no point in saying there is an evil god because there is no real objective validity to making such a point. However, for sake of argument, the individual claiming God to be evil must accept morality as objective and absolute in order to judge God as being evil and that being the case.
Is It Morals Then God, or God then Morals?
So, setting aside the immediate contradiction in professed beliefs about morality, let us consider this from the acceptance of reality, which would be the existence of certain, absolute, and objective morality. To view God as evil based on what we currently view evil to be is to put the cart before the horse. If there are indeed absolute and objective moral values, then they could not be derived from humanity, and would have to originate from a transcendent being. There is no path to absolute and objective morality through reason alone, nor from any naturalistic sense, as many moral virtues are counter intuitive to what is instinctual in human nature. Indeed, to achieve the greatest of morally good acts is to act against one’s own survival. This would then join up with the other premise that the individual arguing for an evil god makes in presenting his case. That is, there is a God, and that God must be evil. But that God must come before the ability to judge anything as evil. We can’t have what is evil come first, and from that, comes God. If there is a God, as the individual would have to first affirm, then that God is the creator of the moral standard by which we can judge anything as good or evil. Then the arguer would have to suggest that this God would create a moral standard that would define himself as evil.
How Does God Define Good and Evil?
The Christian argument is that the manner through which God set the nature of morality is by providing a comparison between Him and anything else. God is the ultimate good, and anything that takes one away from Him is evil. This means that God, if He does exist, is the standard by which good is determined, not the standard by which evil is determined. Now, do not get confused. We derive what it is to be good from God. Once we know what is good, it then becomes clear what is evil. We must come to know the fullness of goodness first, then we can come to know that which lacks goodness is then evil. This is where we come to define what evil actually is. Evil is not a thing, like a creature with red skin, horns, and a pitch fork. Evil, in reality, is the absence of that which if good, right, and as it should be. So, Evil, in its truest form, is the lack of something good. So can God exist as the lack of something? That would suggest, if God is evil, that such a God would then necessarily exist as a lack of that which is good. Therefore all that he creates would be good, while he is Evil.
However, this does not make sense. Out Evil comes a desire to destroy what is good, right, and as it should be. If such a God were indeed evil, then why would such a God create all that is good and remain itself a lack of such things? If that God exists as a lack of what is good, then that would suggest, necessarily, that all which was good existed before it! Then we are indeed not talking about a God, as by definition, God would have to come before what He creates, not be created by it. Evil is formed out of what exists as good. Evil is a byproduct of the creation of that which is good. Where ever there is something that does not exist that is good, there is evil. But this requires further understanding. Evil being a moral state of existence can only exist in moral agents, or moral beings!
This Argument Argues for a Flip-Flop
The essence of this argument is to suggest a switch of what evil is known to do! Evil is evil because it lacks what is good, right, and as it should be. We know that what is good, right, and as it should be results in the creation of life, that is, moral beings that are capable of appreciating what is good, right, and as it should be. Evil seeks to destroy such beings, bringing about more of the lack of what is good, right, and as it should be. This leads us to understand that an individual suggesting that there is an evil God, is creating life that can understand and appreciate what is good, right, and as it should be. If God was Evil, it would be acting counter to its very nature as an Evil thing. This goes beyond placing the cart before the horse, and suggests that that which seeks to destroy the cart and the horse would create them instead, and then not act to destroy them! So in making this argument, the individual is affirming absolute and objective moral values, then suggests the God comes after their creation and exists as a lack of what is good, right, and as it should be, while attempting to suggest that an evil God would create, which is counter to what we know about the nature of Evil! At this point, it becomes clear that this argument is absolutely illogical and not grounded in sound reasoning. But wait, there is more!
God Defines What is Good, Remember?
Since the individual arguing for an evil God is arguing that there is a God, then they must accept that this God sets the moral standard. From a very childish understanding of the nature of good and evil, this would mean that were God evil, then what we now consider to be evil, would actually be good! Remember, the whole nature of this argument is based on our present understanding of what is good and evil. But if God exists, as the individual arguing for an evil one is affirming, that God defines what is good! So, what we call evil in order to suggest there to be an evil God would then be the standard by which good is measured. Therefore, it is not possible for there to be an Evil God, as the existence of God sets the standard for what is good. Evil, then, is derived from the knowledge of what is good, and the identifying of things which lack what is good.
So, no, it would not be possible for there to exist an Evil god. If there is a God, then it would define only that which is good, right, and as it should be. If there is a God, its very nature would be to create and not to destroy, otherwise we would not exist. Evil is the moral state of lacking the moral qualities of what is good, right, and as it should be. A God can not exist that lacks anything, as it would not be God at that point. What is evil is derived from what is known to be good, and what is known to be good is derived from God. It does not work the other way around and maintain any form of logical consistency. If God was evil, we would not exist. God’s actions set what is good, right, and as it should be. We can not judge God to be Evil, as God is what determines what is good. Sure, we can call Him evil all we want, but that does not make it so. Nothing that man says becomes reality purely because man says it is that way. In short, to counter this argument, one simply has to ask the Atheist, “Upon what absolute, objective moral standard do you base your conclusion that God is evil when you claim that morality is in the eye of the beholder? To make your point, you have to first affirm that there is a God, then you have to affirm that morality is absolute and objective. Then you have to argue that the God who, by its nature, sets the standard for what is good is by its nature, evil. How do you come to such a conclusion and claim any form a logical grounding for your argument?”