Why Atheists and Christians Both Get the Problem of Evil Wrong

There are two really bad ways to deal with the problem of evil. One is to deny that it is real, like many atheists do. The other is to act as though it’s not something faithful Christians will face, as many televangelists do.

We all know evil is real. Every time there is a mass shooting, even the most secular among us are quick to call the shooter wicked. We can’t deny evil. It’s too prevalent, too powerful, and too pressing to ignore.

Yet some leading atheist public intellectuals still try. Alex Rosenberg, philosophy professor at Duke University, says that moral distinctions are mere illusions. In his book The Atheist Guide to Reality, he argues that things that cannot be described in objective scientific categories are not real. Since evil can’t be studied under a microscope or through a telescope, it must just be something we have made up.

We all know better.

But some Christian preachers don’t do any better. Turn on religious broadcasting and you’ll find a fair share of evangelists who will act like evil is only something faced by people who don’t have enough faith.

They should read their Bibles.

The oldest book in the Old Testament isn’t Genesis, it’s actually Job. He was a righteous man who lost everything. Nearly half of the Psalms are songs of lament, songs of suffering. And the last book of the Bible begins with letters to faithful Christians who are being persecuted. The effects of evil run throughout the pages of Scripture. Until the last page.

The Bible leads us to expect that bad things will happen to good people and good things will happen to bad people. Instead of denying evil, the Bible gives an explanation for it in the third chapter of Genesis. But more than just describing evil, the Bible offers a solution in the coming of a serpent crushing child who will one day upend evil and re-establish goodness.

Until then, we fight for faith in this fallen world. But in the end we will discover that it’s faith that has been fighting for us all along. Until that day when the Lord returns to welcome us home, out of the wild.


This is an edited excerpt from my book that comes out on February 1st, Life in the Wild: Fighting for Faith in a Fallen World