There is a fundamental fallacy in the argument against God based on evil. To find fault with God, one needs an objective moral standard. Either our grounds for criticizing God are an ultimate moral standard or not. If not, then we can't criticize God on the basis of only some relative, subjective likes or dislikes. If our grounds are an ultimate, objective, standard of right and wrong that exists independent of man, then that is exactly what Christians mean by God.

So not only does evil not give us a basis for atheism, the existence of real evil actually provides an argument for God's existence! Here is what the argument looks like formally:

An Argument for God's Existence Based on The Existence of Evil

  1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values and obligations do not exist.
  2. If evil exists, then objective moral values and obligations do exist.
  3. Evil exists.
  4. Therefore, objective moral values and obligations do exist (2 & 3).
  5. Therefore, God exists (1 & 4).

Premise 1 is either true or false. Philosopher Philip Quinn has pointed out that the only way for premise 1 to be false is if and only if, its antecedent is true and its consequent false. To criticize God one needs an objective standard. Therefore, the proponent of the problem of evil would admit that the consequent of premise 1 is false. But to show that the antecedent is true he must show that God does not exist. No one has been able to construct a successful argument against classical theism, however. And I have just argued in the earlier parts of this series of articles, that the best shot the atheist has - the argument from evil - fails at disproving God. Therefore, there is no case for arguing that the antecedent is true. Consequently, premise 1 is not false.1 Since premise 1 is either true or false and, since it is not false, it must be true.

Premise 2 merely points out that in order to claim that evil actually exists, objective moral values and obligations must exist.

Premise 3 is the premise that the atheist brings to the argument since they are claiming that evil exists in order to disprove God’s existence.

Premise 4 follows logically from 2 & 3. Premise 5 follows logically from 1 & 4.

This is a sound argument for the existence of God. See Can Objective Morality Exist without God?


1 "Divine Command Ethics: A Causal Theory" in Divine Command Morality: Historical and Contemporary Readings, ed. Janine Marie Idziak [New York and Toronto: Edwin Mellen, 1979], p. 318. I am indebted to philosopher Richard Davis for bringing this point to my attention.

Copyright ©2021 Michael Horner. Used with permission.

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