Thursday, September 1, 2011

Louis Markos on the Problem of Evil

“Why is it that the last two generations of Americans and Europeans, generations that have seen a vast decrease in human suffering, have struggled more with the problem of pain than all previous generations? … The greater our quality of life, it seems, the more apt we are to reject God on account of the suffering in our world. How can this be? …

Before Rousseau, … Christian Europe accepted that the problem with man, the reason he could never build a perfect world or free himself from evil and suffering, was his inborn propensity for sin, pride, and disobedience.

… After Rousseau, however, more and more people in the West distanced themselves from original sin and came to believe that man, at least in his natural state, was inherently good. …

Rousseau’s optimistic, secular faith in man’s innate goodness galvanized … Europe and America, filling them—and us, their heirs—with the hope that if we could eliminate sickness [etc] and purify man and society from systemic greed and injustice, we could build utopia. It was a lovely dream, but it led, as Chesterton correctly prophesied, to great horros. Throughout the twentieth century, totalitarian regimes, denying original sin, sought to eliminate evil by purging ‘bad’ groups that were too corrupt to be reformed: Jews, kulaks, landlords, Kurds, and so forth. And they were absolutely ruthless in their purges, for the ‘nobility’ of what they were trying to achieve—the purification of man and society—justified their by-any-means-necessary approach. …

Because we misunderstand—or refuse to accept—that we are fallen, we imagine that we ourselves (apart from God) can eradicate all evil and suffering through state-run public education, universal health care, and free-market capitalism. Alas, because we feel entitled to all of these things, and more, we are left angry and bitter when we do not get what we think we deserve. In response to our disappointment, we do not question our Rousseauian assumptions but blame God for not bailing us out. …

When suffering occurs, our first response is to blame society (the ‘system’), our DNA (the ‘selfish gene’), or God (for ‘making me this way’), rather than considering that it might be the result of our misuse of free will or a spur to test and purify our moral character and faith.”

Louis Markos, Apologetics for the 21st Century (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 137-39.


  1. Hey Tawa - how would you explain to an atheist how the fall of man effected creation? How can a natural disaster be a result from the actions of humans? I can understand it as an act of judgement, but to an atheist this looks cruel.

  2. Great questions, Grace - I am going to commit a whole blog essay to it, rather than just a comment in response.