Did God Create Evil?
Is God the author of evil. let's find out...
Did God Create Evil?
When I was new to the faith I was taught that God is all knowing, knows everything, past, present, future. I was taught that God is all powerful, God can intervene supernaturally and cause His will to be done. I was taught that God was everywhere at once, that there was nowhere I could go that God would not be there. God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. I was taught that God is in complete control, that nothing happens unless He wills it or allows it, He is sovereign. Regardless of the situation, whatever happens, this is God’s will for me in Christ Jesus and I was to give thanks for it (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
For many years I was very content with these thoughts: Every closed door was a redirection, every challenge only made me stronger, difficulties refined my character, God loved me and wouldn’t allow anything really bad to happen to me, no permanent damage, I could do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).
If God is in control, nothing can happen unless He desires it. I didn’t realize in those years of inexperience that to naively hold to these thoughts was to make God into a great monster, the author of evil, death, disease, and atrocity. Today the question is still asked, “Did God Create Evil?”
The question is often asked as a trap. You believe God created everything then how can you say God is good and loving when He created evil, when He created hell, when He allows natural disasters and diseases and deformities, and the death of innocents to happen?
The accusation is also made that God knowing everything must be insane, to purposely create people who would sin, so He could incarnate in Christ and basically commit suicide to save a handful that would believe in Him and condemn untold billions to Hell. The critics say it’s a bad plan, it makes no sense.
The answer that question “Did God Create Evil?” is a no (James 1:17). There are three explanations as to why it is so. The first explanation has to do with the nature of time, past, present, and future. The second has to do with Free Will (Joshua 24:15). The third has to do with the supernatural (Revelation 12:7-17). If perchance you disagree with these explanations please use them as seeds for dialogue and use them to formulate your own explanations.
Certainly, a student of the Bible will be able to pluck a verse and use it as a rebuttal, that’s OK. But often that rebuttal will push one to conclude that God is the author of all, both good and bad, a thought supported by the prophet Isaiah
Isaiah 45:6-7 (MSG)
I am God, the only God there is. I form light and create darkness, I make harmonies and create discords. I, God, do all these things.
I have great difficult attributing pain and suffering to the mysteries of God’s good purposes. That God would cause evil in order to bring some greater good from it just seems in conflict with His attributes (Lamentations 3:33; 1 John 4:8).
Hopefully, I will not be judged to be a pot at odds with the potter (Is 45:9).
There are many theories about the nature and reality of time. We don’t have time to go into them. So I am going to take a moment of time and rush to the conclusion. We exist in God in the now, in the present moment (Acts 17:28). What we have experienced creates a history for us which we call the past. But the past is inaccessible, we can’t go to the past, we only remember the past. We assume based on experience that there will be a future. Tomorrow has become today so often we expect that there is something called tomorrow out there waiting to unfold for us (James 4:13). One concept of that future is that it is prewritten, as an epic novel, each day is like a page in the book, moving us to the author’s desired conclusion. This is not reality, the future is an illusion, there is no part we are playing like a performer in a Broadway play. The future does not exist until we actualize it in the now, in the present. God doesn’t know the future because the future does not yet exist, there is nothing to know. God knows all the possible choices that can be made in creating the next now but does not know in certainty until the choices are made. (ref.: philosophical presentism)
Choices bring us to the next point. God creates in His image, endowing humanity with Free Will. Each of us has the gift of personal volition, the ability to make moral choices (Galatians 5:13). God does not dictate the choices people make, He may influence them greatly, but the actual decision is left up to each individual. The choice we make does not take God by surprise, because God knows all the possible decisions we could make, but God does not know what we will actually decide until we actually do (Matthew 6:8). That makes each one of us responsible for how we live our lives (2 Corinthians 5:10). The Creator is not morally culpable if the gift of volition is misused by His creations.
God gives humanity the privilege of being co-creators in deciding what our present will be like (2 Corinthians 6:1). The future is not specifically determined. The Lord frequently speaks of the future in terms of what may and may not come to pass (Exodus4:1-7; 13:17; Ezekiel 12:3). God knows His destination (Revelations 21:3), but how we arrive is a collaborative effort. God’s sovereignty will be seen in the fact that even with all human decisions to the contrary we will arrive at His chosen destination (Romans 8:28).
That God works through the choices the people make is the explanation for why God’s plans for redeeming humanity, or bringing people back into a right relationship with Himself seemingly changes throughout the scripture culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It reminds me of the doctor who starts with the least invasive method to cure a disease, and if it doesn’t remedy the illness, moves to a treatment requiring more intensity. It’s not the plans would not work, they did not work because of human choices (Genesis 6:6).
It is because of free will and making wrong choices that we can lay moral evil at the foot of one choosing to disregard God’s will and His way. Humanity is its own worst enemy, we have created evil.
How do we account for natural evil? Moral evil is humanity’s creation we are the responsible party. Natural evil is things like weather that kills, the tornado, the hurricane, the earthquake, the wildfire. I am not in a position to say with any accuracy that some of our diseases are not man-made. I am sure with our pollution, poor sanitation, and malnutrition people have inflicted disease upon one another. But there also seems to be things in the natural world that can do us in. While the argument can be made because of the Fall we have natural catastrophes the scripture suggests a more supernatural explanation.
If you believe in God, you believe that He created humanity. The Bible also reveals that God created angelic beings, the heavenly host to do His bidding (Job 38:4-7; Psalms 103:20; Isaiah 6:2-3). These angelic beings are also created with free will. Some choose to disobey.
Ephesians 6:11-12 (NIV)
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
There are supernatural beings that oppose God’s authority and seek to disrupt His plans to redeem humanity (2 Corinthians 4:4). The ancients certainly believed this with various angels being in charge of nature. In writings other than the Bible, like the Book of Enoch, you will discover the various roles angels are thought to have played in the corruption of humanity.
Have I ever seen an angel, a supernatural being? Nope (Hebrews 13:2). I must take their existence in faith. Someone might accuse me of committing a form of “Deus ex machina” “apparatus autem ad Deum.” “The God of the Machine.” There are so many science fiction stories that feature this device of pulling a rabbit out of the hat at the last possible second, something previously unknown that saves the day. Basically, if I have no way out of the corner I boxed myself into, call in God to show up and saves the day. Definitely not a scientific answer to why there is natural evil but this is what one can infer from scripture. That’s at least how a prescientific world would account for natural evil. Natural evil is a result of rebellious angels and the curse from the Fall, neither are God’s intent in the Creation.
Humanity is the creator of moral evil, angelic beings, and the cursed Earth the cause of natural evil. Evil exists today because free will was used to choose rebel against God. God is not the author of evil.
There is a huge difference between understanding evil and working to overcome evil. Followers of Jesus aren’t called to understand the nature of evil, but rather to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).
This is how:
Romans 12:9-20 (MSG)
Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody.
Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it."
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he's thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness.
As disciples, we can get caught up with nitpicking about the nature of evil at the expense of doing something about it. It is better to be ignorant concerning the nature of evil and correct one injustice than it is to be a scholar on the nature of evil and do nothing to combat evil in our communities. Christians are to be the social activists working to bring about the kingdom of God, in which there is not false division but rather equality, no injustice but rather an equal opportunity, no oppression but rather freedom and liberty for all.
If you are asked if God is good then why did He create evil? You can answer God endowed His creatures with free will, and when that will is exercised contrary to God will, evil abounds. If they ask well isn’t God in control, you can say no, God is in charge and there is a difference between controlling and being the responsible party in charge.
1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV)
In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
Has God Settled the Future?