After Bible study one evening, a good friend of mine and I discussed the problem of evil. He asked an excellent question, "Did God create evil?" I said, "No, I don't think he did." However, my friend objected because he said, "God created everything, so he must have created evil." This conversation was quite good, and we found common ground by the end of our discussion. This article relates some of the issues that we discussed.
One of the first issues we needed to define was the nature of evil. What do we mean when we say something is evil? He was using the term to define any type of disaster or bad thing. I was using to term to define immoral behaviors, such as torturing babies. How do we answer this question? Did God create evil? In this article, I would like to look at four common tricky areas that need to be dissected in order to answer the question.
Ontology and Epistemology of God and Evil. The terms ontology and epistemology are philosophical terms but are important to this area of conversation. One cannot neglect philosophy because bad philosophy often leads to bad theology. First, let me define the terms and how they play a role in this discussion.
Ontology is the study of the nature of being. It deals with how we know something exists. For instance, does a pizza exist? How do we know a pizza exists? These are ontological questions that deal with the nature of pizza's existence. And oh, how tragic life would be without the existence of pizza!
Epistemology deals with the theory of knowledge. This area deals with how we know something to be true. What is the nature of such and such? To use our illustration of pizza, ontology would ask, "Does pizza exist?," whereas epistemology would ask, "Is pizza good? Can we know that pizza is tasty?" So, a created thing would deal with the area of ontology, whereas the nature of the thing would deal more in the area of epistemology more or less.
When we talk about God creating all things, we must understand that God created everything that exists including the potentials to do certain things. However, if we grant the existence of human freedom, then God is not responsible for the actions that people take. Yes, God provides the means and conditions that can lead to a person's actions and God knows the free actions that a person will take, but the person is responsible for his or her own actions. Therefore, God created all things and created the conditions where a person could do good or evil. But, God did not create evil, because evil is not a thing to be created. It is not like a virus or slab of concrete. Evil is an attribute. It is a personal rejection of the good, the good which is an attribute of God.
The Moral Character of God. God is thoroughly identified in the Scriptures as being the ultimate good. John tells us that God is love (1 Jn. 4:8). Scripture also indicates that God is absolutely holy, which means that he is set apart and absolutely pure (1 Sam. 2:2; 6:20; Ps. 99:9; 1 Cor. 3:17; Rev. 4:8). Since God is the absolute good and absolutely pure, it is false to claim that God does evil. James says that "No one undergoing a trial should say, 'I am being tempted by God,' since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself does not tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death" (Jms. 1:13-15). James answers the question for us in great detail about God's relationship to evil. God cannot do evil because God is the absolute good.