Did God create evil?

Genesis 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Then it details out how He created everything on the earth, how He placed the stars in the sky and put the sun and moon in their places and hung the earth on its axis. Elsewhere in the Scriptures we are told about other things He also created, such as angelic beings, and a spiritual world or dimension in which He lives that we like to call heaven. In short, the Bible tells us that God created EVERYTHING. And as Christians, we believe that. But if God created everything, and there is evil in the world (we know this to be true), then did God create evil? And if He didn’t, then who did?

This is a tough question because the Bible tells us about a God that is both all-powerful and all-good. We see this in the very first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1, which is a brief account of the creation of all physical things. It says that God created amazing, wonderful and mighty things (such as space, the sun, all of the stars, every animal, every plant, and human beings), and the narrative takes a breath at the end of each of the 6 days of creation to tell us that He looked back on what He had created and saw that it was very good. So to start with, let’s dispel any notion that God created evil or sin. What God created was good. In fact, the goodness of God is one of the mainstays of His character and we see this all throughout Scripture. It’s also the basis of the Gospel itself.

But hold on a minute…so evil exists, and God did not create it, yet God created everything that exists…how does that work exactly? This is a philosophical question. The problem is not that there is no answer, the problem is that there is a misunderstanding in the question. It’s the part about the existence of evil. Evil does not exist in the same way that your dining room table exists, or your hands, or your car keys. It’s not a physical thing.  In this tangible sense, evil does not exist. However, we can all see that something is severely wrong with the world. Everything is not ‘very good’, as Genesis says it was created.

Well, first let’s break down what ‘sin’ is. The definition of sin is ‘lawlessness’ or ‘missing the mark’. The definition of ‘evil’ is ‘profound immorality’. Notice how these definitions (lawLESSness, MISSING the mark, profound IMmorality) are in the negative. In other words, they are not things in and of themselves. They are opposites of things. They are the lack of things that should be there. Perhaps a more tangible example would be light and dark. Darkness does not exist. Darkness is simply the absence of something called light. In the same way sin (evil) does not exist, it is simply the lack of something called good.

Goodness was a part of God’s creation. That includes order, obedience, generosity, diligence, friendship, all of these things were part of the makeup of God’s creation. The world God created was made to run on these good things. We know from our own experience that when we try to use things in ways they were not meant to be used, we don’t get the result we may expect. Take a car for instance. Most were made to run on gasoline. If were to put Pepsi in the tank rather than gasoline, what would happen? Stuff we may not expect, such as the engine cutting out, or maybe even nothing happening at all. The engine wasn’t made to run on Pepsi. Pepsi doesn’t light on fire the way that Ethanol does. In the same way, our bodies were meant to breathe a combination of oxygen and carbon dioxide, but in certain proportions. When we start injecting tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from factories and cars, and we cut down the trees and plants that were replenishing the air with oxygen, the air we breathe is now in different proportions than it was meant to be. What happens? We get asthma or become allergic, or perhaps even get some forms of cancer. These are natural responses to an unnatural environment. Evil works in the same way. We don’t see only the good that God created because we have shirked the natural order of how He created the world (and ourselves) to operate.

So what happened? One of the core doctrines of salvation is the ‘fall of man’, which we are told about in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and He punished them for it. We can see in this account that Adam and Eve made free-will decisions to disobey God. And that’s the answer. God created all good things, and those good things were meant to operate in certain ways that corresponded with that goodness. Disobedience to God’s plan for creation is what brought sin and evil into the world, and these were not created by God, but are the natural byproduct of man’s disobedience. It’s like trying to fix a toaster but using the operating manual for a vacuum cleaner as a guide. 

God told Adam and Eve that because they had disobeyed Him, they would surely die. Was this a curse from God? Or was He simply sharing with them the bad news – like a doctor telling you that you just had a heart attack and that you were unlikely to pull through? You’re not going to die because the doctor said so, but because you had a heart attack. It’s cause and effect, one of the key particulars of God’s creation, one that is so consistent and reliable that it gave rise to the invention of something we like to call the Scientific Method.

So evil does exist in this world. We see it all around us, every day. It’s on the news, it’s in our governments, it’s in our workplaces, it’s driving around on our city streets, it’s in our movie theatres, it’s in the browsing histories on our cell phones, it’s in the words we say to our family members, it’s very much in our own minds and hearts. It’s apparent in everything and everyone that something has gone horribly wrong with this world. But in order for something to go wrong, there had to be a right way for it to be in the first place. God’s original plan is that right way. 

So God did not create evil because evil is not a thing. God created everything to operate in a certain way, and evil is the natural byproduct of mucking up that way. So a perfectly good God could have created the world we find all around us, and His goodness is made even more manifest in the free-will decisions He allows us to make that caused the problem in the first place. The Bible tells us that the only way to get back on the right path, to operate according to the original manual, is to bring the problem to Jesus, who is like the great mechanic (the Bible uses the word ‘healer’). He, and only He, can set us right again. In fact, we are told that in the end He will hit the reset switch on the created order and everything not operating according to spec will be destroyed.

 

3 Replies to “Did God create evil?”

  1. Can you explain- Isaiah 45:7 in the King James Version reads, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” I cannot wrap my mind around this verse. Can you shed some light? ♥

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    1. Hey Nancy. That’s a great question. Isaiah 45:7 seems to say the opposite of what I have said. That God “create[s] evil”. The word used here for evil most often means…well, evil. It can also mean calamity (the way most translations put it), or war, or strife, or disturbance. I think it makes the most sense to read it as some event that disturbs the peace, considering Isaiah is contrasting “evil” with “peace” much like “darkness” with “light”. It would not make a ton of sense if he said “I form the light, and create the darkness; I make peace, and create moral depravity”. Those aren’t really opposites in the same way that light and darkness are. So while you are correct, that this word means evil, I think it’s using the term ‘evil’ in a different way than I was using it in that post. There are different ways people use the word evil (and different ways it is used in the Bible). There is moral evil, which affects the spirit directly through temptation and leads to a state of separation from God, but there is also a kind of evil that is more like a disturbance, or an unhappy circumstance, something that that can be morally neutral but can seem “evil” from our limited perspective. Some examples of this usage might be the death of a loved one, or being diagnosed with a terminal illness or becoming handicapped, or getting attacked by a pit bull, or a tornado destroying your house and everything you love. Those circumstances could be termed ‘evil’, but they are actually morally neutral occurrences that, in and of themselves, have no bearing on sin or salvation. James 1:13 certainly dispels any notion of God tempting anyone to sin, and the Bible insists throughout that God is perfectly righteous (in fact that’s the only reason the gospel makes any sense at all), which holds as a base assumption that God does not and will not (possibly cannot?) sin (or create the moral kind of evil).

      My personal belief is that God creates all kinds of drama on this earth, and a lot of that drama we may term as ‘evil’. This displays His sovereignty and His vast love for us. If He wasn’t sovereign, He could not meddle in the world and in our lives in the ways that He does, and if He did not love us, He would not bother. Amos 3:6 seems to say that every war and adversity that comes to a city is from the hand of God. In the Pentateuch and the history books (such as Joshua and Judges), we see God commanding the destruction of peoples, causing a worldwide flood that killed almost every living thing, ordering genocide, and, again, all throughout the prophets, we watch numerous judgments come upon Israel for their unfaithfulness (judgments that are filled with horrific things, like babies heads getting dashed against rocks, and people eating their own children so they won’t starve). In the New Testament we see the same thing, but often more in a spiritual sense, Jesus judging the world and sending souls that would not believe in Him to a place of eternal destruction and torment. That is what we would call a form of ‘evil’. But this is not a sinful kind of evil, because God is a perfectly righteous judge. In fact His seemingly merciless judgments at some points in history show clearly how much He hates sin, and they are to serve as examples for us so that we steer clear of sin ourselves (1 Corinthians 10:6). His motives for His actions are out of pure love, and His omniscience (all-knowingness) leads Him to make judgments that perhaps we would not make with our finite knowledge and also our sub-par hatred for sin. No human could do ‘evil’ that leads to the best and most perfect good like God can.

      So yes, God does create calamity and causes much distress in our world. But He does not create moral evil. Everything He created was very good. His judgments are also very good, and could only be termed ‘evil’ from our (and Isaiah’s) finite understanding and perspective. Is that helpful?

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      1. Hi Jeremy!
        First off, I hope Pastor Lonnie shared my email with you…I should have cc.’d you and Anne, I’m sorry. Was a tough letter to write! But, I will send to you and Anne on FB PM… Anyhow, back to your reply.
        Yes, I can see now that there is a “moral evil” as opposed to the destructive kind. Kind of like there is a suffering kind of evil and a sin kind of evil. I wish I knew Hebrew, lol. Imagine how deep we could dig into the word!

        “He could not meddle in the world and in our lives in the ways that He does, and if He did not love us, He would not bother. Amos 3:6 seems to say that every war and adversity that comes to a city is from the hand of God.” <—-Indeed. I believe His hand is on every single thing that happens, or doesn't.
        "God is a perfectly righteous judge." Always ♥
        "…He hates sin…" <—I believe that is ALL He hates…and He hated Esau while he was still in the womb…knowing what his character, or lack of, would become-sinful?

        "…and they are to serve as examples for us so that we steer clear of sin ourselves (1 Corinthians 10:6). His motives for His actions are out of pure love, and His omniscience (all-knowingness) leads Him to make judgments that perhaps we would not make with our finite knowledge and also our sub-par hatred for sin. No human could do ‘evil’ that leads to the best and most perfect good like God can. <—-Amen to that…I think a lot of folks believe that God and Satan ar opposites…Ha!!! Not a chance, lol.
        Gotta say, the large majority of my life has been ME making MY own decisions…every one ending badly, or not as I had hoped. Knowing God as I now do, I see how living in the world is like trying to fill a cup with holes, never fulfilled, always left wanting. But, now that God is my All in All, HE IS my cup…at His right hand are pleasures and treasures forevermore…He always has THE BEST of all things in His plans. And, His cup has no holes, it just keeps running over with Himself ♥ I do not need to see Him work on behalf of my prayers anymore, it is enough to know that He DOES hear and He DOES answer, whether I see it or not.
        Thanks Jeremy, and yes, your reply was helpfull ♥
        In Him,
        -nancy

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