If you did not read my last post “The Lonely Fisherman” then I suggest you do as it is the precursor for this post, although “Catacombs” can be understood on its own.
Remember these questions are for a Christian to ask an unbeliever. Sometimes I include an example for the unbeliever’s answer. The format follows the Socratic Method. These ideas I have heard or have considered, but obviously they are meant to be thought-provoking. You’ve no idea how an individual may respond which is why I said “example” of an unbeliever’s answer.
These thoughts may dive deep down into your mind and rattle around in the catacombs. Enjoy.
Hypothetical Rape Scenario (Does Evil Exist in the World?)
Christian: Do you believe in good and evil?
Unbeliever: No. These are societal creations.
Christian: When you think of murder, stealing, lying and cheating what do you call these actions?
Unbeliever: They’re just human behaviors.
Christian: What if a man raped your mother right in front of you? Or perhaps he raped your sister? Not only did he make you watch, but then he killed them in front of you. Do you believe this is just human behavior?
Unbeliever: It would be a horrible tragedy, but it isn’t evil. That’s just what people call it. It’s human behavior.
Christian: You said this fake scenario isn’t evil, but you called it a tragedy. Calling something a tragedy shows how you are reacting to the situation. Doesn’t a tragedy mean that something bad has happened?
Unbeliever: It’s “bad” for me and it’s “bad” that it happened to my mother and sister, but that’s just my reaction. It’s subjective.
Christian: What if you were the rapist in that hypothetical scenario?
Unbeliever: I would never do something like that, but if I did it would be wrong.
Christian: So there is good and there is wrong in the world?
Unbeliever: No. I see it as wrong. These are the morals that society has formed.
Christian: Why would society make up morals and laws? Why is that necessary if there is no evil or good?
Unbeliever: Laws help with organization and keep things fair. Laws are supposed to maintain justice.
Christian: There is no evil in the world, like you say, so why is justice necessary?
Unbeliever: Justice is necessary because one person’s behaviors can offend another person. Laws are needed to keep people from fighting. This doesn’t mean evil exists in the world. If everyone fights each other then nothing can be accomplished and harmony can’t exist in society.
Christian: So you’re saying that there are such things as “justice” and “harmony.” Would you say the opposite of these things are “injustice” and “chaos?”
Unbeliever: Yes, those are opposites.
Christian: Are injustice and chaos evil ideals because they cause fighting? Is fighting wrong? ngs such posites.
ngs are “ns each other then nothing can be accomplished and harmony can’
Unbeliever: Fighting is not always wrong. Sometimes people fight out of self-defense. Physically fighting each other impedes progress in society. This is what makes it “wrong,” but it’s not evil. If anything you could call fighting negative. Wrong, negative, evil…these are all words. They’re just titles for the actions themselves.
Christian: You say these are titles for certain behaviors. Still, you are grouping certain behaviors into categories. Murder, stealing, lying, cheating and violence are put in a negative category. Mercy, truth, love, peace and forgiveness are put in a positive category.
Unbeliever: Categories don’t indicate evil in the world. People can react positively or negatively to those behaviors you listed.
Christian: Aren’t these ideas good or evil regardless of how people react to them? If a woman says she abhors love and wants nothing to do with it, isn’t love still good?
Unbeliever: There are different definitions of love.
This would now be a good time to discuss the Biblical definition of love. Here are some verses that indicate love is an action and not a feeling.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:9-11
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
It is likely the unbeliever and the Christian will not agree on the definition of love. It is strongly advocated in American culture, at least, that love is an emotion. Love is almost like a magical thing and it happens to people randomly. Be sure to pay attention to how much culture distorts what love really is. Lust is often called love in media and in culture.
If you want to have sex with someone…that doesn’t mean you love the person.
Let’s look at a realistic example of an abusive relationship. The man says he loves his girlfriend and she is his world. He adores her. He tells her she’s beautiful…but then the man proceeds to beat his girlfriend on a regular basis. We know that the man does not truly love his girlfriend because he does not show it. He only says he loves her. He is lying.
Imagine if the entire Bible contained stories of God only saying he loves us. Imagine if God never showed his love. You know that Jesus Christ would never have been born. Truly love is something you can see. Love is in the way you treat other people. Love can certainly exist in words, but it can’t exist only in words. Someone can say she loves you, but it is her actions that prove her words to be true.
God himself is love: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:16
God lives in us through his son Jesus Christ.
The unbeliever may go on to argue that love is expressed by unbelievers. However, actions can be completed with evil motives of the heart. What if God sent Jesus into the world only so he could reap praise from people? It was never about forgiveness of sins it was about God showing off. Now Jesus could have healed people and helped people, but the motives would be evil.
I feel bad even typing something like that because it’s entirely untrue. I just want you to know that a person can appear loving and caring, but their hearts are full of malice.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” Matthew 23:27-28
I do not profess to know what is in people’s hearts; what their motives are. Only God knows a person’s heart (1 Samuel 16:7). It seems impossible to me that an unbeliever can show love with the right motives in her heart. How can an unbeliever do anything and be right with God if she does not know God? Maybe the Lord does exercise goodness through unbelievers, but at the same time if people do not accept Christ then they are in trouble. That last fact we know for certain that anyone who denies Christ is doomed. Only stand fervently by scripture. We won’t understand everything in the world. I’m only thinking about these things.
I have another example of right action, but with wrong motives. Jesus warns the disciples about the Last Hour.
“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.” Matthew 24:23-25
“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10
The Devil is the father of lies (John 8:44). His motives are to confuse and mislead people. These false prophets will have the same motives, but on the outside they may appear to be Christians.
Let’s go on to the human conscience.
The Mugger Carries a Knife (Why Does Guilt Exist in the World?)
Christian: What if you are walking by yourself and a man appears. He wants to mug you, but he only has a knife and no gun. You and the man fight. The fight ends with you stabbing the man in the neck. He then bleeds out and dies. Do you think you’d feel guilty for taking this man’s life?
Unbeliever: No. That man could have killed me. He brought his blood on his own head.
Christian: Let’s say the police show up for the body and for your account. A woman approaches you and explains that this man was her father. He struggled with mental illness his entire life. He’d lost his job and his benefits so he could no longer afford medical care. He spent his days alone and on the streets. People avoided him when he’d try to talk to them. They saw him as a crazy, dirty homeless man and they were afraid of him. Do you think you’d feel guilt for taking this man’s life knowing these things?
Unbeliever: I might feel guilty for killing him, but he drove me to murder. He tried to mug me. He’s wrong. It doesn’t matter what his life was like. You’re just trying to make me empathize with him.
Christian: Is empathy a bad thing? Haven’t you also struggled in your life and found no help from other people? Haven’t you been judged by your appearance? Haven’t you been lonely, afraid or in need? You should feel bad for the mugger because the mugger is a human being just like you who suffers and makes mistakes. Or do you not make mistakes?
Unbeliever: Of course I make mistakes!
Christian: Was it a mistake for this man to try and mug you? To try and hurt you?
Unbeliever: Yes, it was a mistake.
Christian: These weren’t just mistakes they were sins. So you have sinned and so has the mugger.
Good time to pop in and explain that sins go against God’s word. Sins are listed all over the Bible, but some lists can be found in 1 Peter 2:1, Ephesians 4:31, Titus 3:3, Galatians 5:19-21 and the Ten Commandments presented in Exodus 20. You as the Christian would want to help the unbeliever to see her sin. If she can admit that these things are wrong and evil then that’s at least something. Many people won’t even admit sin let alone weakness.
Once it has been explained that sin is evil and people sin then you can go on to punishment (death and Hell) and forgiveness (Christ’s crucifixion and eternal life).
It’s helpful to emphasize that good people don’t go to Heaven. Forgiven sinners go to Heaven. There is a wily stigma out in the world that good people go to Heaven; good meaning without sin. It’s so arrogant and untrue. Everyone is undeserving of Christ’s mercy, but we all need that mercy.
Let’s go on a bit.
Christian: Do you think the man felt guilty for trying to mug you? Do you think he felt ashamed for threatening you with a knife and then fighting you?
Unbeliever: He may have felt guilty, but it wasn’t enough to stop him.
Christian: If there is no evil in the world then shouldn’t the emotion of guilt be non-existent? Guilt indicates you’ve done something wrong, but you said before that evil does not exist in the world.
Unbeliever: Guilt exists because it makes you feel bad when you treat other people poorly. Someone believes she’s done something wrong so she feels guilt. It doesn’t mean evil exists in the world. In her own mind she’s done something wrong so she feels guilt. It’s her subjective reaction.
Christian: So guilt is the effect of something. What is the cause?
Unbeliever: Believing you’ve done something wrong is the cause.
Christian: People believe they’ve done something wrong when they go against these laws. These laws you said are created by society. Laws such as not stealing, murdering, lying, cheating or abusing. People believe in these laws that they’ve made themselves. Where do the ideas for these laws come from?
Unbeliever: The ideas have been around as long as people have. It’s based off of human behaviors.
Christian: Aren’t the laws universal?
Unbeliever: To a point, yes.
Christian: Wouldn’t you say that humans have consciences and this is why they feel guilt? This is why these laws are universal. Each person has the ability to distinguish right from wrong?
This discussion took an interesting turn. I thought I could trap the unbeliever by bringing in human conscience, but then my mind went to homosexuality. People are pretty good at saying rape is wrong, but a lot of people accept homosexuality. Both rape and homosexuality are against God. These are sinful activities and only cause harm. I thought perhaps that the advocates for homosexuality could be supportive yet in their minds they know it is wrong. So in this respect it’s ignoring what is right for what feels good. It’s that human rebellion against God. People want to do things that aren’t good for them and they don’t want anyone to stop them or tell them they’re wrong.
We are a brilliant species, aren’t we?
Still, my mind focuses now on rape. I have heard that there are many men who do not understand that rape is wrong. I’m not sure I believe that. I think they must know it is wrong, but again, they do what they want. Is it possible not to know that rape is wrong?
My mind went on to wonder if unbelievers do have consciences. If you feel guilt it’s because you’ve done something wrong. It seems to me people disregard their guilt. If unbelievers do have consciences then this appears to be a way for God to try and reach people. He is a tiny voice, indeed a whisper, that is telling people when they’ve sinned.
Paul talks about the laws making us conscious of sin. It makes you wonder about people who’ve never heard or read the law…is that fair they should be punished? Remember that God is love and he is merciful. I wouldn’t worry about that. It’s not like God skips over people or doesn’t care for them.
Guess what, my friends? There are answers to these things I just brought forth!
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
This says that all people have sinned and that they “suppress the truth by their wickedness.” This says that people know when they are sinning. They suppress the truth. Also, no one has excuse for not knowing God. He has made himself known. I have another list of sins coming. Hold please.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”
“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
So people exchanged the truth about God for a lie. And look! Homosexuality is mentioned as a sin. So what I was wondering about above has been resolved. Advocates of homosexuality know that it is wrong, but they support it regardless. Doesn’t matter which sin it is. The world holds fast to sin.
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” Romans 1:18-32
We can back track all the way to Genesis; to Adam and Eve and the fall of man. The pair ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their eyes were opened and they suddenly knew they were naked. They covered themselves (Genesis 3:6-7). In other words they just lost their innocence. Everyone comes from Adam and Eve. We have inherited their nakedness.
Some additional verses regarding the human conscience: Hebrews 9:14, Titus 1:15.
I’m not as bad as Hitler (Are There Lesser and Greater Evils?)
Christian: So was Adolf Hitler an evil person as compared to you or someone else (feel free to substitute Hitler with any “evil” person’s name)?
Unbeliever may respond and say that Hitler was a far worse person as compared to herself. This does two things: it reveals evil in “Hitler” (or whoever the substitute is) and it reveals evil in the unbeliever. This is just an additional approach to revealing sin in people.
Let’s say the unbeliever says she does believe in good and evil. The Christian can go on to ask if there will be punishment for evil actions. Who exercises this punishment? Do humans succeed with their systems of punishment and correction?
Humans definitely do not succeed with their systems of punishment and correction. Of course not! All humans are sinful creatures so we’d all have to fit into prison. Hell is certainly a big enough prison for all of us, but God’s love is bigger than Hell. People need only find Christ and then they are forgiven now and always. God’s wrath is removed from them (Romans 5:9, John 3:36).
Anyway just to reiterate that the Socratic Method above was used to promote critical thinking. The Christian and the unbeliever will find themselves on totally different paths. The unbeliever’s answers were examples just as the Christian’s questions were examples. The scripture is the same though. God’s word is immovable.
“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” Psalm 33:11
“Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” Psalm 119:89
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8