The Skeptic’s Faulty Assumption
One of the skeptic’s favorite tactics in an attempt to discredit the God of the Bible is to insist that God is a cruel, heartless, vengeful God Who capriciously sends floods or armies through the land destroying innocent men, women, and children. Skeptics especially like to focus on the children. How could a loving God send Saul and his army to destroy all the Amalekites, including the “infant and nursing child?” Steve Wells claims that “God just wanted to see some more innocent people killed” (2001). Or, how could a loving God send a flood to destroy all the people of the Earth, including the innocent babies? The argument goes something like this: (1) the God of the Bible is supposed to be good and loving; (2) the God of the Bible kills innocent children; (3) therefore the God of the Bible cannot be good and loving.
At first glance, this logic seems to make sense. When examined more closely, however, there lies within this syllogism a faulty assumption. The faulty assumption built into this line of reasoning is that death is always, in every circumstance, an evil thing. With the assumption built in, the second premise should read like this: The God of the Bible kills innocent children, and death of anyone innocent is always a bad thing. The assumption that death, especially the death of innocent children, is always bad, stems from the skeptic’s adherence to pure naturalism. If this physical life and material world are all that exist, then to take an innocent person out of this physical world is inherently evil, according to the skeptic.
Yet, the same Bible that tells about a God Who takes the physical lives of innocent children also informs the reader that this physical world is not all there is to existence. In fact, the Bible explains that every person has a soul that will live forever, long after physical life on this Earth is over (Matthew 25:46; see also Thompson, 2001). The Bible consistently stresses the fact that the immortal soul of each individual is of much more value than that individual’s physical life on this Earth. Jesus Christ said: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
Although the skeptic might object, and claim that an answer from the Bible is not acceptable, such an objection falls flat for one primary reason—the skeptic used the Bible to formulate his argument. Where is it written that God is love? The answer: in the Bible in such passages as 1 John 4:8. Where do we learn that the Lord did, indeed, kill or order the deaths of babies? Once again, that information comes directly from the Bible. Where, then, should we look for an answer to this alleged discrepancy? The answer should be the Bible. If the alleged problem is formulated from biblical testimony, then the Bible should be given the opportunity to explain itself. As long as the skeptic uses the Bible to formulate the problem, we certainly can use the Bible to solve the problem. The biblical solution to the alleged problem in this instance is that every person has an immortal soul that is of inestimable value.
With the value of the soul in mind, let us examine several verses that prove that physical death is not necessarily evil. In a letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul was writing from prison to encourage the Christians. His letter was filled with hope and encouragement, but it also was tinted with some very pertinent comments about the way that Paul (and God) view death. In Philippians 1:21-23, Paul wrote:
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better (emp. added).
According to the skeptic, the death of an innocent person is always, in every case, an evil thing. In these verses, however, Paul lays that faulty assumption to rest. Paul, a faithful Christian, said that death was a welcome visitor. In fact, Paul said that the end of his physical life on this Earth would be “far better” than its continuation. For Paul, as well as for any faithful Christian, the cessation of physical life is not loss, but gain. Such would apply to innocent children as well, since they are in a safe condition and go to paradise when they die (see Butt, 2003).
Other verses in the Bible show that the loss of physical life is not inherently evil. The prophet Isaiah concisely summarized the situation when he was inspired to write:
The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness (57:1-2, emp. added).
Isaiah recognized that people would view the death of the righteous incorrectly. He plainly stated that this incorrect view of death was due to the fact that most people do not think about the fact that when a righteous or innocent person dies, that person is “taken away from evil,” and enters “into peace.”
The psalmist wrote: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). Death is not inherently evil. In fact, the Bible indicates that death can be great gain in which a righteous person is taken away from evil and allowed to enter peace and rest. God looks upon the death of His faithful followers as something precious. Skeptics who charge God with wickedness because He has ended the physical lives of innocent babies are in error. They refuse to recognize the reality of the immortal soul. Instead of the death of innocent children being an evil thing, it is often a blessing for that child to be taken away from a life of hardship at the hands of a sinful society, and ushered into a paradise of peace and rest. In order for a skeptic to legitimately charge God with cruelty, the skeptic must prove that there is no immortal soul, and that physical life is the only reality—neither of which the skeptic can do. Failure to acknowledge the reality of the soul and the spiritual realm always will result in a distorted view of the nature of God. “The righteous perishes…while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil.”
Butt, Kyle (2003), “Do Babies Go to Hell When They Die?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2255.
Thompson, Bert (2001), The Origin, Nature, and Destiny of the Soul (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Wells, Steve (2001), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, [On-line], URL: http://www.Skepticsannotatedbible.com.