The Origin of Evil: Theology’s toughest Question
“Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?” Epicurus
Theodicy is defined as the vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil. Here, I will share my exploration of what many describe as the toughest question in theology, and how I have resolved it for myself from a Christian perspective.
The origin of evil is a mystery; not in the modern sense of the word- something that is unknowable- but in the greet sense of the word, as something knowable to the initiated but unknown to the uninitiated. Let us here together, therefore, search out the mystery of evils origin.
A question worth answering
As the son of an itinerate preacher I traveled the nation with my father. I had many opportunities to enquire of many noted clergymen concerning this matter. Though I was but a teen, I was amazed to see how few of them had ever thoroughly considered the question. By the tone of voice and the expression of face I could see that the answers offered were no more satisfactory to those offering them than they were to me. More often than not, I was left with more questions to answer than I had before the conversations began.
Skeptics have used this issue to pollute the minds of so many and to undermine a faith in a just God that I find it unacceptable that so many have left the issue unresolved, even unexplored, in their personal devotions; particularly those whos job it is to shepherd and protect the flock.
In addition to the Epicurean quote above, this Buddhist song from the book of Bhūridatta Jātaka sums up the quandary left to most thinking people
If the creator of the world entire
They call God, of every being be the Lord
Why does he order such misfortune
And not create concord?
If the creator of the world entire
They call God, of every being be the Lord
Why prevail deceit, lies and ignorance
And he such inequity and injustice create?
If the creator of the world entire
They call God, of every being be the Lord
Then an evil master is he, (O Aritta)
Knowing what’s right did let wrong prevail!
Here is a typical representation of the conversations I have had with spiritual leaders around the country on the topic:
Please share with me your thoughts on the origin of evil.
Evil entered creation when Adam and Eve partook of the Fruit!
What about the Serpent who beguiled them? Was he not Evil?
Ah, yes! Satan was the creator of Evil!
How did a perfect being in a perfect age come to such a state of evil?
God made him that way!
Would not creating Evil be a participation in Evil? Of course it would!
Then there must be two gods! One of Good and one of Evil! or Satan created Evil.
Finally, grasping for straws, some have even resorted to saying,
God has personified Evil in the person of Satan, to revel His goodness to mankind.
None of these answers are in keeping with the revelation of God in Christian Scripture.
It is my desire that you will have this questions answered in your mind and that you will be ready to give a defense of the faith after having read this essay. For while some contend that evil is a creation of Man, others say of Satan, and yet others say evil is a creation of God, I will hear contend that it is none of the above.
In exploring the origin of evil we must not neglect to lay a foundation of understanding pertaining to the nature of Father God, the Creator of all things. We must never lose sight of the Omniscience, Omnipresence, Omnipotence, Immutability, and the absolute Purity of the Creator. These are constants of the Creator that should chart our course in determining His liability in our subject.
Many possibilities are eliminated when we meditate on the prefect innocence of God. When I speak of God as innocent, I do not mean to convey that, as a newborn child, he is ignorant of Evil. We know that the knowledge of good and evil is included in Gods infinite knowledge.
And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil Genesis 3:22
Here God Almighty reveals to us, through His own words, a common knowledge of good and evil amongst the heavenly hosts. After all, the Daystars of Praise could not offer meaningful praise to God for His goodness and justice if they had no understanding of evil and injustice.
There is no need of experiencing a thing in order to comprehend it. I have never yet seen Heaven or Hell with my physical eyes and yet I can comprehend the tortures of Hell and appreciate that I am not there. Though no one I know has seen it, I can comprehend the communion of Heaven and sell my life to attain it. Likewise, one need not have been married to an adulterous wife to appreciate the fidelity of his bride. He can comprehend what it might be like and praise his wife for her purity.
In the same way God and the heavenly hosts can understand the concept of Evil and appreciate that God is not evil without having experienced evil. This also deals directly with any false notion of God creating Evil to reveal his goodness.
God is innocent in the sense that he has no participation in Evil.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. Psalms 145:17
Now travel back in time with me Beyond Calvary, beyond Rome, beyond Egypt, beyond Sodom and Gomorrah, beyond Babylon, beyond the days of the children of the Sons of God and the daughters of men, beyond the cherub with the flaming sword, beyond the tree, beyond the Garden to a time when there was no evil influence; A time before mankind, a time before the rebellion of Lucifer. We must hail back to a time when creation was a mirror of the Creators perfect innocence.
Was there ever such a time?
The purpose of the Scriptures are to address the fall and redemption of the human race. Therefore, we only get vailed glimpses at what will be hereafter and what was before. Such things God has concealed, but has also encouraged his children to dig out, as a parent would an Easter Egg hunt.
It is intimated in Scriptures that, in the dateless past, Lucifer was given lordship of Earth in the pre-adamic age but his rebellion brought to earth disorder. Some point to this disorder in creation, called natural evil to disavow the absolute goodness of God. This is due to their faulty notion that God created it in disarray. This was not the case. Its disheveled state was due to rebellion, much as the earths degrading state today is due to the same.
Afterward, God reestablished order from the chaotic void enshrouded in darkness and renewed the Earth. He set man as the steward and lord of this new order as Lucifer had been before. Satan saw mankind as interlopers in his dominion and, by his wiles, the first man Adam also set his will against Gods and so again corruption came to creation. What is called natural evil; earthquakes, storms, fires and disease ensued as a result of rebellion.
In some distant forest lightning strikes a dead tree, resulting in a forest fire. In the fire a fawn is trapped, horribly burned, and lies in terrible agony for several days before death relieves its suffering -William Rowe
The Second Man Adam purchased creation in His sinless blameless blood. We are the first fruits of a harvest of all creation. Ultimately Christ will restore all things through his passion.
All of creation groans and travails but this current suffering is not to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us, the first fruits of creation. We are what creation has been birthing. Earths earnest expectation has been for the sons of God to right the ills of evil.
Did God create Evil?
It is a sadly common assumption that God himself created Evil. While this seems on the surface to be an easy way to lay this question to rest, it creates more disarray than it eliminates.
If God created Evil then He has participated in it. If He has participated in it, He is Himself not righteous in all His ways. Creation necessitates involvement with the created. The assumption of the Dystheist then is that God is not entirely good.
Isaiah 45:6-7 is often sited by those espousing this idea. It reads,
That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
A slapdash glance at this verse has led some astray. God says, I create Evil! they proclaim. Case closed.
To someone with a biblical understanding of the nature of God, however, this passage deems a closer look. One must consider the context of the phrase.
Notice that God is comparing contrasts. Allow me to paraphrase: From where the sun rises to where it sets, I create light and I create darkness, I make peace and create Evil.
Of these contrasts, the English rendering of this last phrase seems the most unbalanced. The opposite of east is west. The opposite of light is darkness. But the opposite of evil is of course good, not peace. And the opposite of peace would be war.
The latter is exactly what is intended here. The Hebrew word here is RA. Although evil is one likely translation of this word, other common translations of the word are adversity or bad calamity. Therefore, this verse is intimating Gods sovereign control over every circumstance. He is the only God for those in the east and those in the west. He is the God of the day and the God of the night. He is the cause of peace when at peace and the cause of calamity when contending with an adversary. The message here is a continuation of the previous verse; He is the only God and there is no other.
If God were the creator of Evil then one could rightly argue that he is unfit to judge evil in the world. Sin would, in effect, be His fault. Creation is a mirror of the Creator so this is not the solution.
This leads us to another unbiblical philosophy that pertains to this issue. It is manifest in the question, Can there then be two Gods; one the God of good and the other the God of evil? Despite the Bibles clear claim that there is only one God, many cite II Corinthians 4:4 which assign Satan the title of god of this world in their argument for ditheism.
There is a philosophy in oriental tradition known as the Taiji that in-capsules this doctrine of dualism championed by the Gnostics and Zoroastrians. A symbol is used to represent the Yin and Yang. One complete circle representing deity is divided into two equal halves by an S line. Then one half is shaded in black and the other white. This is to symbolize an eternal balance of good and evil within the divine. In this representation deity is equally divided for an eternally balanced struggle, each apposing and yet dependent upon the other.
This philosophy has been clothed in Christian garb and has evangelized some circles. When this wolf puts on sheeps clothing it is suggested that in the beginning God personified evil in Lucifer in order to manifest Himself to the finite mind of man. There are therefore, it is argued, in effect two gods, the god that we know to be good and that which he has projected from himself as the god of evil; Satan.
With this false notion in mind, let us answer the question of the philosophers, In what sense is Satan the god of this world?
Although the adversary claims the authority of this world (Luke 4:6) Samuel rightly asks Who is God, Save the Lord (II Samuel 22:3)? Satans claim is rebuffed by Davids assertion that The earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof (Psalms 24:1)
The immutability of God also refutes this false idea. What God is now, he will always be and has always been (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8).
Did Satan Create Evil?
Another common yet unreasoned assumption is that Satan is the creator of Evil. Satan is a perverter and exploiter. He is not a creator. His area of expertise is distorting the works of God. Even the lie he used to bring about the demise of mankind was no elaborate tapestry but a simple perversion of Gods law.
Consider the boundary of the first covenant and the consequence of its offence.
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Now take note of Satans elaborate deception
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die
Rather than an elaborate mosaic of deception, Satan simply added a three letter word to Gods law. It is only genius in its simplicity.
But if God nor Satan nor Man created Evil than who did?
Allow me to submit to you that evil is a state of being and not a substance. As such, evil needs no creator.
When you lose your temper in a moment of passion because, perhaps, your car broke down again on your way to an important meeting, you have done an evil thing by giving into the anger. Does this mean an evil substance was lurking about your car, waiting for the opportune moment to posses your soul? No. Rather, in a moment of weakness you slipped into an evil state of mind.
There are, of course, evil spirits but that is their state of being and not their predestined constitution. Simply put: Evil is an adverb and not a noun.
Now, if the need of a creator of evil is eliminated, we have only to discover how it first entered pure creation, or its origins.
First Evil -Perfect Evil
The first known instance of evil was found in the rebellion of Lucifer. Originally Lucifer was the Son of the Morning; the highest of all created beings. He was an arc angel or one that covers at the throne of God. His honor and exaltation was higher than any other of Gods creatures.
What brought this Angel from glory to gory?
God has been wrongly accused, by many, of designing Lucifer to fall. It is argued that God, in His foreknowledge, programmed Satan to crash so that the Bride of Christ would be perfected and so the love of God might be revealed to creation through His Son.
Wont God sentence Satan to the torments of the Abyss for his rebellion? For this to be a just judgment God cannot be culpable in Lucifers rebellion. Satan cannot be held liable for a crime he was designed to commit! If God is just and true in all His ways He could not condemn a vessel to eternal torment for being obedient to Gods own purpose. It could not have even been Gods will to see Satan rebel.
The free will of the creature was an essential ingredient of creation. He wanted free moral agents that would willfully worship Him out of choice, else the Day Stars praise would not be meaningful in any way.
While God predestines some things for the better of creation based on His knowledge of our ultimate decisions and eternal destination, to believe that God has scripted lives without will and determined eternal destinies would truly be nothing more than a puppet theatre of a cosmic tyrant as it has been said.
In fact the opposite is true. God has chosen to subject His will to the willingness of His subjects. He will only bind what we bind and loose what we loose. If God is going to send laborers, He would not have asked us to pray for laborers! If Gods name will be hallowed regardless, He would not have taught us to pray Hallowed be thy name. If His kingdom will come on time regardless of what his church does, there would be no need to pray thy kingdom come. If He will come at an appointed time regardless of our prayers, God would not have lead John to cry out in Revelation for His quick return. God will not enact His will where His creation will not submit to it.
In the image of God
Our answer, then, comes in the meditation of a simple truth: God creates in His image. A master artists work can often be recognized, without the autograph of the painter, by the way the brush has stroked the canvas or by the texture of the paint. Even so, we see the tripartite brush strokes of God in His handiwork.
The one God of eternity has revealed himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Man is Spirit, Soul, and Body, yet he is one man as god is one God. The very foundations of creation also show the tell tale signs of the Master. Space is comprised of three dimensions; length, width, and depth. Time, which God has set as a ruler over created things is composed of Past, Present, and future. Even the essential ingredient of life, water, in its elemental chemistry is composed of three atoms, two of hydrogen and one of oxygen. Water also comes in three various forms, namely, liquid, vapor, and solid.
These are but a few evidences that God creates in His likeness.
Was Lucifer created in the image of God?
Lucifer and the rest of the angelic hosts are spirit beings with spirit bodies as real as our physical bodies. Although we are created in the likeness of God, the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that we are created a little lower than the Angels.
I would submit to you that the angelic host could not be higher than us if they were not also created in the image of God. It is inconceivable to hold that they would be greater creations than mankind while being less like God than we.
In fact, we are told that in the original creation, the angels were given a characteristic shared by God and not granted unto Man, a characteristic central to our thesis: the knowledge of Good and Evil. For when Man took the knowledge without divine consent God declares to the angelic hosts of Heaven, Man has become as one of us now, with the knowledge of Good and Evil.
Though, we will revisit the subject of the knowledge of good and evil in short order, suffice it now to conclude that Lucifer (and the other Heavenly Hosts) were created as an even clearer mirror of the Creator than was humanity and so the angels were designated in Scripture as Sons of God.
Internal Drive Paradigm
As a Son of God (or direct creations of God, as the term is used in scripture) created in His likeness, Lucifer displayed other godly attributes in his pre-fall state that all children of God share.
The beloved Revelator of Christ wrote now we are the sons of God. It doesnt yet appear what we shall be but we know that when He appears we will be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.
Here we see what I call an internal drive paradigm that is instilled in the Sons of God; desires to excel unto Godliness, to be more like our Father. Paul the Apostle tells us we are changed from glory to glory as we behold His glory. Did not our Great Teacher instruct us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect? Are we not to go on into perfection?
This internal drive to be as our Father has led some to great piety and humility. Others, like Darious, have- in the pursuit of godliness- set themselves up as gods to be worshiped.
When we apply these Sons of God attributes to Sata,n the origin of Evil comes into clear focus. When we consider that Lucifer had a desire to be more like His Father and had knowledge of Evil, the recipe begins to materialize.
The internal drive paradigm is manifest in Satans proclamation, I will ascend into Heaven and exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will sit upon the northern mountain of the Divine Presence.
Lucifer was THE Son of the Morning. Given his role as king of the praising angels, his honors promoted him naturally to the position of highest of all. God had already granted him dominion of the crowning work of creation, Earth itself.
I propose that his drive to be more like Father brought him to the place where he could not ascend any higher without challenging that impassable gulf between the created and the Creator. Lucifer had come to an evolutionary end, if you would. So his ambition searched his knowledge for greater means of manifestation.
The Birth of Sin
In the consultation of his own knowledge Lucifer meditated there on the knowledge of evil, the understanding of all that is the antithesis of God. Although there was no existing example, Lucifer had the faculties to comprehend what a negative sum of Yahwehs attributes would entail.
James, the half brother of our Lord taught us that we are not tempted by God. Our own lust entices us unto temptation. Temptation plants itself in the will and conceives sin. Notice that neither the enticement nor the temptation were sin. When temptation births intent it becomes sin.
It is noteworthy that a tempter is not needed to initiate the process which leads to sin. One can be drawn away by his own lust and enticed.
Some may ask how this thought could have entered into a perfect being, forgetting that one can be tempted and yet be Holy. Was not Christ tempted in all points as we are and yet he remained without sin? The thought of sin may have entered the minds of other angels many times, and could have been meditated on by Satan himself many times before he consummated corruption.
In a single ancient moment that reverberates to the presen,t Lucifer- being a free will agent- of his own accord decided that if he could not ascend to be a God then he would, in its pursuit, become the antithesis of Father.
God is Light. I will be lights void.
God is love. I will be hatred.
God is contentment. I will be bitterness.
God is Holy. I will be Profanity.
God is Pure. I will be Perversion.
God is the Father of Truth. I will be the Father of Lies.
God is Good I will be Evil.
I would rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.- Dantes Inferno
This is why the Satan of today has no similitude to the Lucifer of Paradise; in that moment in time he made the decision to become the perfect antithesis of God. What a sad creature he now is, for in his mission he has failed. In taking on Evil he still has not attained his goal, to be God, not even the god of evil. Satan cannot embody the power of evil as God embodies good. He can only represent it and perfect it in himself. Because any light will overtake darkness, Satan can never be as hateful as God is Love. He can never be as bitter as God is Content. He can never be as profane as God is Holy. He can never be as perverse as God is Pure. Because the lie is dependent on truth, Satan will never be the lie the way that God is the Truth.
In simple conclusion then, Lucifers internal drive to be more godly, his knowledge of evil, and his free will afforded Satan the opportunity to be the first and perfect manifestation of evil.
Why does God tolerate the wicked?
Finally, it remains only to ask the question of why a just and omnipotent God would allow evil beings such as Satan to remain. If He is just, good and all powerful, why does he allow the suffering caused by sin?
The question answers itself. As a just God, He confines himself to precedent. Father God requires of Himself a rule or standard by which to cast judgment. There was no precedent for what Satan had done. No one else had ascended in ultimate creature glory and honor only to concede it back to Yahweh as the all in all.
Such an example did not exist to condemn Satan and his angelic third of Heaven until Christ and His church. What! Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? Know ye not that we shall judge angels?
One day God will declare to Satan and his angels:
You were perfected in a perfect age without a tempter and yet you decided to set your will against My own.
Behold Christ and his church! They lived in imperfection, in an imperfect age, with a tempter and yet they decided to submit their will to My own.
Then upon our example, God will cast Satan into the Abyss. This is the sense in which we will judge these higher angelic beings.
Then there will be a decree, I make all things new! Once again, there will be no more death, no more tempter.
This is why the Church must repent and command her will to the Almightys purpose. The Church (and by the church I mean the universal body of Christian believers) must unite her will with His will against Satans will. This is why the Apostle Paul tells us that when Jesus has subdued all things, He will not be overcome with vanity as Lucifer was. Rather, Christ will subjugate himself, returning all things back to the Father so that God can be the All in All once again.
May we hope that when the Church achieves her eternal position of honor as the Daystars, that she does not err in the way of the original Son of the Morning and his Daystars when she is glorified; having before her a memorial of Lucifers judgment. This memorial shall be the red hue illuminating the throne room of the Most High from the fires of Hell beneath the floors of crystal. Knowing hers would then be an immediate judgment, having the original Daystars as our precedent.