Have Atheists Proved there Is No God?
The problem of human suffering and moral evil in the world has been a vexing one for man down through the ages. From the time of Job men have struggled with this problem searching for a satisfactory solution. At least from the time of Epicurus, three centuries before Christ, men have used an argument based on this problem as their most potent weapon to attempt a logical proof against the existence of God. Charting the course of the argument still followed, Epicurus stated: “God either wishes to take away evils and is unable; or he is able and unwilling; or he is neither willing nor able, or he is both willing and able. If he is willing and able, he is feeble, which is not in accord with the character of God; if he is able and unwilling, he is envious, which is equally at variance with God; if he is neither willing nor able, he is both envious and feeble, and therefore, not God; if he is both willing and able, which is alone suitable to God, from what source then are evils? or why does he not remove them?”
Recently from the able pen of Professor Thomas B. Warren has come the most up-to-date refutation of a modern restatement of this old argument. It is in a book bearing the title Have Atheists Proved There Is No God? published by the Gospel Advocate Company, at $4.95. Warren addresses himself to the best modern statement of the argument by J. L. Mackie, an Australian philosopher. In a closely reasoned book that will not prove to be easy reading, Warren carefully sets forth his refutation of Mackie’s argument step by step. This is one of the best logical refutations I have ever read, and draws together some of the best insights of modern theistic thinking.
Mackie’s approach is to show the logical fallacy of belief in the God of the Scriptures. Mackie sets out to show that traditional theism in presenting a God infinite in power and goodness involves itself in a logical contradiction. Warren reviews Epicurus’ primary argument and Hume’s refinement of the argument as preliminary to his statement of Mackie’s position, then sets his task in such a way as to defend the concept of God set forth in the Bible by showing just where Mackie has failed to prove his case, and, therefore, where his conclusion cannot logically follow. Warren admits the existence of evil, but not evil for which God is blameworthy. He uses twenty-two propositions to set forth his refutation. He argues the position that the world is not to be judged by standards of hedonism, which is what atheists regularly do, but by the purpose of being an ideal environment for soul-making, preparing men for eternal life. Man created by God with freedom was set at an “epistemic distance” from God that he might freely choose to trust and follow God in sonship and brotherhood or reject and disobey him. Warren shows carefully how evil flows from man’s misuse of his freedom. He also gives a chapter each to the problem of animal pain and natural calamities.
There is a certain beauty about this book, a beauty of rational, logical thinking arranged in such a way that one may systematically follow the case step by step. One rarely finds a work in which the process of examination and refutation of a position and the establishment of an opposing position are so clearly and beautifully set forth. To read this book requires close attention, and concentrated thought. It shows itself as the product of a careful thinker, well equipped to engage in defending faith in the God of the Bible against the mightiest onslaught which this troubled century has seen brought against this faith. I am happy to know that we have such a man in Thomas B. Warren of the Harding Graduate School of Bible and Religion, and I am happy to recommend this book to all preachers, elders, Bible school teachers, and Christians as an aid to their faith.
[Editor’s Note: This article first appeared February 8, 1973, in Gospel Advocate (pp.86-87), at the release of Have Atheists Proved There Is No God. Frank Pack served for many years as dean of Graduate Studies in Religion at Pepperdine University.]