Evil in This World: God Created Evil
Editor’s Note: FāVS has launched a new series on The Evil in this World. We see it every day in the murder and mayhem that trouble our lives. The world’s great religions have an explanation for this and different ways to describe the battle between good and evil. Those who do not subscribe to a religious tradition have their own perceptions of evil and good. How does your belief system describe both forces and how does it help you cope with the notion that evil exists in this world? Has your faith ever been shaken by the evil around you?
Commentary by Andy Pope
Evil exists as a concrete entity, a creation of God, a word with a meaning, a word that has been brought to life through the Word, who is Jesus Christ.
“Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.”John 1:3
While this spacey statement is clear to me, I doubt it will be clear to those who don’t read the Bible the way I do. In this column I expand on this view in the third section, subtitled “The Word of God.”
But there are some who believe that, while God is indeed the Creator of all things, he somehow did not create evil, because evil is “not a thing.”
To my way of thinking, this kind of skirting the truth is about as transparent as it gets. Even Got Questions, noted for biblical accuracy, has published this view in its article, “Did God create evil?”
They write, “Evil is not a ‘thing’ like a rock or electricity. You cannot have a jar of evil. Evil has no existence of its own; it is really the absence of good.”
Why is this thought to be true? It’s not even logical. We might as well say that “good is the absence of evil.” Neither is the case.
The Unity of Opposites
I’m reminded of the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, who believed in the “unity of opposites.” Good and evil are really two sides of the same coin. According to Heraclitus, there would be no good without evil, and no evil without good. But the absence of either is merely an innocuous state–morally neutral, neither good nor bad.
The Got Questions article goes on: “Perhaps a further illustration will help. If a person is asked, ‘Does cold exist?’ the answer would likely be ‘yes.’ However, this is incorrect. Cold does not exist. Cold is the absence of heat.”
I seriously question this! I was blasted by an 18 mph wind in 20 F degrees the other day, and the force that hit my face was a lot harder than the “absence of heat.”
Again, the “absence of heat” would be a temperate state, neither hot nor cold. The “absence of cold” would provide that same state. While this could be disputed in terms of the laws of thermodynamics, it is undeniably the sense experience of human beings who feel cold, feel heat and sometimes feel neither.
But back to the question at hand, why do people write off this thing called evil as the “absence of good?”
In my view, people downplay the existence of evil because we don’t like to think that God, whom we see as “all good,” would have created such a horrible thing. But this is not what the Bible says.
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”Isaiah 45:7
Without referencing numerous sources, I have yet to read an explanation of this Scripture by those who believe evil is “not a thing” that has not come across like a gigantic rationalization against the obvious.
Another argument often given, even on Got Questions, is that “while God did not create evil, He allows it.”
For me, this kind of statement is just plain silly. If God did not create evil, then who the heck did? Do people honestly believe that the Supreme Creator created all things except for these ugly kind of things we don’t like to look at? You know, things like Satan? Mafia dons? Organized crime rings? Sociopathic despots? Wars? Calamities? Natural disasters? Famines? Plagues? Catastrophes?
Why do we not face the simple truth that God created it alland have done with it?
In fact, if we look straight to the Word, and see it as face value, God has not only created evil, but he has also created evil people for the purpose of effecting calamity, as we read in Proverbs 16:4: “The LORD has made everything for His purpose—even the wicked for the day of disaster.”
This verse not only emphasizes that some of the people whom God has created are downright bad, but also that he created these hell bound sorts for the purpose of furthering the many acts of organized evil that have riddled the human race throughout the ages.
My Experience of Evil
But something is unsettling in this whole discussion. I don’t want to chide my fellow Idahoans, but it took me a while on moving to peaceful Moscow, Idaho, from violent Berkeley, California, to realize just how sheltered some of my associates have been.
One man at my church confessed he has “never seen suffering” nor known any personal ailments in his 70+ years of living. This is a healthy, fit man who works out regularly.
I am also a runner who works out regularly. I have also not known any serious diseases throughout seventy years of living. But what I have seen are horrible, intentional acts of inhumanity committed upon my fellow human beings. The people who committed these atrocities not only did not care, but actually enjoyed the experience.
Once, when I was homeless, I watched as a young man poured lighter fluid all over my backpack and set it on fire. I lost a PowerBook, numerous music CD’s and all my other possessions. This man, having been up for five days on crystal meth, laughed as he did so.
“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the works of Satan, and all kinds of counterfeit miracles: signs and wonders, and in every form of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth—and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, so that they will believe the lie; and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, Emphasis mine
This passage, among many others in Scripture, evidences the reality of evil as a distinct power. Note the first section underlined. Evil has form.
Note the second phrase underlined. Those who are among the condemned “have delighted in wickedness.”
Why? Because they’re on a power trip, like many of the rest of the people on this planet.
Such people are into the love of power, rather than the power of love.
Unless they be transformed, they are headed for hell — which also exists, by the way — and God has even created people who will never change, specifically for the purpose of effecting atrocities here on Earth.
As to why a just God would permit these people to exist, we might as well ask why his perfect creation was corrupted in the Garden. We could argue over all the whys and wherefores till kingdom come. But not one among us will win any of these arguments.
Theological arguments in general can be very stimulating — even inspiring — but they will never be conclusive. The question “Why?” is not one God is quick to answer.
God Is an Artist
What I do know is that God is an Artist. Like any other serious artist, he is into the creation of beauty. In the first creation account in Genesis, at the end of each day, he examines the work of his artistry: “And God saw that it was good.”
As an artist of sorts, I also like to assess my work at various stages, and “see that it is good.” I like to write songs, poems, and plays. When I write a play, do I create evil characters? Of course I do! The play would be bland without it.
Are there evil characters in God’s creation? Of course there are. His creation would be dry and shallow, perhaps even lifeless, without them.
While this all may seem quite cold and callous, I must confess that even when I read the most horrid accounts of abomination in the Old Testament, a part of me is still stricken by the beauty of the turn-of-phrase. The poetic value of many of these passages is on a par with the quality of the more encouraging portions of Scripture.
Why is this so?
Because God is the Creator. He is into creating. He is into creating the most remarkable and stunning creation possible. Whether we like it or not, that creation includes evil characters committing dastardly deeds. To deny this aspect of our human history is to deny reality.
When we face reality, in all its components — the beautiful and the terrible — we become happier than when we deny it. To dismiss the existence of evil in God’s creation is to deny a reality that has been laid down before us, often flagrantly, before our horrified eyes.
But we are happier when we accept the truth. And the truth, once again, is found primarily in the Word of God.
“If you make my Word your home, then you will indeed be my disciples. You will learn the truth, and the truth will make you free.”John 8:31
Andy Pope is a freelance writer currently residing in Moscow, Idaho, where he is a member of Moscow First Presbyterian Church. His work on social justice has appeared in Classism Exposed in Boston, Berkeleyside in Berkeley, California, and also in the Bay Area newspaper Street Spirit, where his regular column, Homeless No More, encourages those making the transition from homelessness to housing. An accomplished pianist and lifelong musical theatre person, Andy is also the author of “Eden in Babylon,” a musical about youth homelessness in urban America.