Is this the best of all possible worlds
By: The John Ankerberg Show
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|If God exists, why is there evil in the world? What is evil? Where did evil come from? Why doesn’t God intervene and stop all evil? How can physical evils such as earthquakes, tornadoes and cancer be explained? Is there a good reason for the existence of hell on which even some atheists would agree? What about those who have never heard the Gospel?
Copyright: 2003, Number of Programs: 8, Cat. No. EVL
Keywords: Creation, Earth, Physical suffering, Natural disasters, Romans 5:3, Mark 14:21, Psalm 16:21
- Ankerberg: Then go one step further. The fact is, these things are each pieces that help us understand why we experience some of this evil and physical suffering in our world. And God decided that the package that He would make, where we would have this freedom, these things would be part of that package. And that’s where we get into this thing: Is this the best of all possible worlds? Is this the best way to do it even if you’re God? Talk to that.
- Geisler: Well, Voltaire wrote his famous satire on Leibniz’s Theodicy, “This is the best of all possible worlds,” and Candide was right: This is not the best of all possible worlds. Anyone could improve on it. One less crime today; one less murder, one less rape, one less child being abused would make it a better world. So, this is not the best of all possible worlds. But you can argue convincingly from the Bible and good reason that this is the best of all possible ways to get to the best of all possible worlds; that this is the necessary pre-condition; that “tribulation works patience,” [Rom. 5:3] for example; that allowing sin permits the possibility of forgiveness; that higher order virtues cannot be produced without lower order evils being permitted. In other words, God permitted the dentist’s chair, the pain of the dentist’s chair so He could produce in us the pleasure of having a better set of teeth.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. But there are still some critics that don’t agree with you, so they’re going to try to do a better job. And they’re going to say, “Listen, you know, if I was God, I could have made a better world.” So let’s take some of the better worlds that have been suggested. One option is really a strange one: “You know, it would have been better if God hadn’t created at all.” And let’s use Judas in the illustration because sometimes they’ll use Jesus’ words in Matthew where He said, “It would have been better if Judas had not been born.” [Matt. 26:24] Now, Jesus wasn’t talking about existence at that spot. What was He talking about?
- Geisler: Well, He was talking about the intensity of his sin. It was probably a hypothetical hyperbole, an exaggeration for the sake of effect. He talked about “straining at gnats and swallowing camels.” [Matt. 23:24] He used figures of speech like that. That it would be “more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah.” [Matt. 10:15] He said “Sodom and Gomorrah would have repented.” [Matt. 11:21] Not really, but to show how sinful they were. So He’s probably saying, “Look how great Judas’ sin was.”
- But let’s take it literally, for example. He didn’t say, “It would have been better if he didn’t exist.” He said “it would have been better if he had not been born into this world.” He already existed in the womb – and life begins at conception. Non-existence is not better than existence. So the atheist who says, “Look, why didn’t God not create at all because no world would be better than this world” is a gigantic category mistake. A category mistake is, “How does blue taste?” Well, blue isn’t a taste, it’s a color. So you’re confusing categories. So to say a non-world would be better than a world is not even comparing apples and oranges because apples and oranges are both fruit – you can at least compare them. It’s comparing apples and non-apples. You can’t compare them.
- Ankerberg: Yeah, “nothing” and “something” have nothing in common.
- Geisler: That’s right. Something is not better than nothing and nothing is not better than something because something and nothing have nothing in common.
- Ankerberg: Yeah, but some people would still argue and say, “But isn’t nothing better than existence with pain and suffering?” In other words, the pain and suffering is so great, they said, they’re almost like in the boat of saying, “I really wish I wouldn’t have been born.” What do you say to those folks?
- Geisler: Even John Stuart Mill, the philosopher, said, “It’s better to be an unhappy human than a happy pig, because at least humans have the capacity for a higher good and higher joy.” No. That’s nonsense because it’s still saying that nothing is better than something. It’s saying no existence at all is better than an existence where you have some pain. And furthermore, it’s assuming that that’s all there is. You know, there’s more to it than that. This is just a brief moment in time and we have all eternity of pleasure ahead of us. Psalm 16:11 says, “At thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.” So when we look back on it, we’ll say this brief moment was worthwhile. Jesus said, in essence, “I never told you that it would be easy, I just told you that it would be worthwhile.”
- Ankerberg: Yeah. And as we’re going through this, if there are no good reasons for accepting these other hypothetical worlds that people have concocted and so that we’re left with only this one, then we might start to understand why God gave us this one.
- Geisler: Exactly.