One of the most popular questions Biblical skeptics will ask, and a good one I might add, is, “If God is a God of love then why did He create evil?” Dr Jonathan Sarfati explains in, The Genesis Account – A theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1–11:
No Actual Evil in the Finished Creation
To set the scene, first of all, it’s hard to over-emphasize that God’s finished creation was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). German theologian, Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890) explained that the first couple:
stood in a more direct relation to God, their Creator, than any other man has ever done, that their hearts were pure, their discernment clear, their intercourse with God direct, that they were surrounded by gifts just bestowed by Him, and could not excuse themselves on the ground of any misunderstanding of the divine prohibition, which threatened them with the loss of life in the event of disobedience.
Thus when God created moral beings, there was no actual evil. In fact, evil is not a ‘thing’ in itself, even though it is real. Rather, evil is the privation of some good that something ought to have. Augustine pointed out 1600 years ago. Murder is a removal of a human life, i.e. removal of an intrinsic good. Adultery is a privation of a marriage, another intrinsic good. Good is fundamental and can exist in itself; evil cannot exist in itself. It is always a parasite on good.
For example, a wound cannot exist without a body, and the very idea of a wound presupposes the concept of a healthy body. Blindness in a human is a physical evil, because humans are supposed to see (but oysters are not, so blindness is not an evil for oysters).
Also, evil actions are done to achieve things like wealth, power and sexual gratification, which the evildoer finds ‘good’ (meaning ‘pleasing’). Evil things are not done as ends in themselves, but good things are.
Now, since evil is not a thing, God did not create evil.However, He does create calamity, as He has a right to do, and this is the correct understanding of Isaiah 45:7.
Power of Contrary Choice
But God created both Adam and Eve, as well as the angels originally, with the power of contrary choice. This means that they had the power to make a choice contrary to their own nature. Even God does not have this power, for He cannot sin and go against His perfectly holy nature (Habakkuk 1:13, 1 John 1:5).
The power of contrary choice was a good, with no actual evil, but it meant that there was the possibility of evil.
But, evidently, God saw that a greater good would come from it, in that the result would be creatures who genuinely love God freely. Actually, real love must be free—if I programmed my computer to flash ‘I love you’ on the screen, it would hardly be genuine love.
But Adam’s misuse of this good resulted in actual evil befalling him and the rest of the material creation, over which he had dominion (Genesis 1:28).
Free will defense?
Sometimes Christian apologists invoke something similar, the well-known ‘free will defense’ to the ‘problem of evil’ today: how can we reconcile a good God with the existence of evil in the world? But the biblical account is more nuanced—any ‘freedom’ applied only to Adam and Eve; their sin caused them to lose the true freedom they were created with. Their descendants are now in bondage to sin. Only redeemed humans in the eternal state will have true freedom from this bondage (Romans 6:6–7).
But indeed, humans have a voluntary will, and very many evils can be caused by this, including the ‘9/11’ terrorist attacks in 2001 and 2012. For God to intervene against this type of evil, he would need to remove this volition. But then, how much volition should He remove, and would an atheist really be happy with this solution? If God stops evil murderers, should He also stop evil thoughts, which Jesus said were behind evil deeds (Matthew 15:19)? So then, if this were acceptable, should God give all atheists a splitting headache when they think a militantly atheistic thought? They would probably protest mightily!1
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”2 Corinthians 5:21
References and Notes
- Sarfati, Jonathan. The Genesis Account – A theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1–11. Creation Book Publishers. Kindle Edition.