Evil And The Burden of Proof

Who has the burden of proof when it comes to evil? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There’s often a debate about who has the burden of proof in a discussion. Many atheists will automatically assume that a theist has a burden of proof. This is really begging the question to argue that the theist has something additional to add to reality since it assumes reality is atheistic. My rule is much simpler. If anyone makes a claim, they have a burden to show it.

Thus, if I get into a debate about the existence of God and I say “God exists”, then I have the burden. If we are talking and you say “God doesn’t exist”, you have the burden. Note also it won’t work to say “Well demonstrate otherwise.” Even if I could not demonstrate the existence of God, it does not mean His non-existence has been demonstrated.

So when it comes to evil, evil is a claim that God does not exist. Some atheists will be more lenient and say it is probable that God doesn’t exist. Most internet atheists haven’t got the memo yet that the logical problem of evil isn’t used by academic philosophers anymore.

This will often come down to what is called gratuitous evil. This is evil that it is thought that no greater good can come out of this or no greater evil is prevented by this. I hope observant readers will notice that this is a very bold claim. How could someone know this? The problem for the claimant is that they need to back this.

Now you as at the person not supporting this argument, theist or not, do not have the burden here. I think you should answer, but never lose sight of the fact that you don’t have the burden. Let’s suppose that you don’t have a reason why God allowed a particular evil to occur. So what? Are you obligated to have personal insight into God and know why He does everything He does?

Now some might say that you need to show that God exists if you’re going to assert it’s possible for God to bring about a greater good or prevent a greater evil. This is false. Note that this is an argument against Christian theism or at least general theism. With that, you take God as He is in the system, which would include the omni qualities. The argument is meant to show if the existing of evil is compatible with the reality of God. If you want to say that God might not be powerful enough or know enough, then you’re dealing with a different concept of God.

This is one reason I really don’t find evil convincing. There is a huge burden of proof. One could go with an argument that says that it is improbable that God exists, but then if you’re a theist, you could have several arguments in waiting, like the Thomistic arguments I prefer. If you do, then you have prior justification for your theistic position.

For the arguments I have, they are deductive and lead to the conclusion with certainty. I also think the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is powerful enough. I will grant that evil is certainly emotionally appealing. When I am suffering, my head tells me the truth of Christian theism, but my heart says otherwise. It is not really the temptation of atheism that I face. It’s more what Lewis described. God is real and this is what He’s really like.

Remember again that you do not have to provide a reason why a particular evil has occurred. Your lack of such a reason does not mean that there is no reason. That is the claim your opponent must meet and you are not obligated to demonstrate his argument for him, which you can’t anyway. If he can’t meet it, then you have no obligation to be persuaded. In reality, neither does he.

In Christ,
Nick Peters