In my last post on the nature of plausibility structures, I used a movie with death as a central character to show how subtle messaging in movies leads to making God seem more or less real to people, thus more or less plausible. As I said, death never caused one of the other characters to ever bring up God, as if the divine being is irrelevant to life and death. I want to make the case briefly that although death and suffering often cause people to reject God, they are a far bigger problem for the materialist/atheist than the Christian. My contention is that death and suffering lends credibility to the Christian faith, while making atheism/materialism less credible.

Many skeptics would laugh at such a claim. They believe that a world full of evil negates the possibility of a benevolent, almighty God. Yes, “the problem of evil,” as it is known, is a challenge to the Christian worldview. Why would God create a universe in which he would allow suffering and death? Who knows. But as a Christian I trust God’s character, so I don’t need to know the answer. A long time ago I decided to affirm with Moses (Deut. 32):

I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
    Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
    and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
    upright and just is he.

So regardless of how things might appear to me, how I might interpret them, I know that God cannot do wrong, that he is perfect and just. And for me, a beautiful thing about Scripture is that it never apologizes for suffering and death. It simply tells us where it came from, and shows us what God has done to overcome it.

For the atheist/materialist, on the other hand, death is simply a brute fact. According to Wikipedia:

In contemporary philosophy, a brute fact is a fact that has no explanation. More narrowly, brute facts may instead be defined as those facts which cannot be explained (as opposed to simply having no explanation). To reject the existence of brute facts is to think that everything can be explained.

Death, then, affirmed as a brute fact, needs no explanation. That is why in a movie such as Mr. Church, death . . . just is. It raises no questions. The elephant-in-the-room problem with this take on things, is that nobody treats death, especially their own, as if it just is—Oh well, just another death. Let’s go out to lunch. Quite the contrary. Everyone in their guts knows this: death is wrong! We may not feel the wrongness of it at the funeral of a great grandmother, but go to the funeral of a five-year-old and you will feel wrongness . . . viscerally . . . deeply . . . painfully. Where does the explanatory power most compellingly lie for this feeling, with atheistic materialism, or Christianity? In other words, what best explains death?

The atheist/materialist has no explanation, and they claim there is no need for one. Death is a just a brute fact of existence. Such a non-explanation, however, is deeply unsatisfying to human beings who hate death, who feel it’s wrongness, who know without having to be convinced that life is precious. But if all we are is lucky dirt in motion, why would death be wrong and life precious? It wouldn’t! A human death is no more significant than the death of an ant. Of course, we all know that isn’t true. And as I’ve often told people over the years who struggle with believing in God in the midst of pain, suffering, and death, if you get rid of God, what does that buy you? At least with God there, you can rage and cry out to him at the apparent injustice of it all. Fortunately, he’s provided an answer to the questions that death raises. That’s why it’s called the Gospel, the good news.

In my next post I will explain where death came from, and what Jesus, and thus Christians, think about it.

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