The Origin of Evil: Is God to Blame?
The question can often come up: “Where did evil come from? Is God to blame?"
Or, in its more accusatory form, it’s often stated, “If God exists, and the world is like this (with the evil things I don’t like), then I want nothing to do with God.” Sadly, this was Christopher Reeve’s position, especially after his paralysis from a 1995 horse-riding accident.
Below are a few things that help us to see what the Bible teaches on the presence of evil and hardship in the world.
First of all, Satan is not a rival god that God cannot overcome. He is created. He is a created angel who rebelled, along with some other angels, sometimes referred to as demons or evil spirits (Matthew 8:31, 25:41, 2 Corinthians 11:14, Job 1:6, 2:1, Judges 9:23, 1 Samuel 16:14), is not on God’s level (Matthew 8:31, Revelation 20:10), and will be judged by God. Satan is created and not like God, who is uncreated and eternal, from eternity past. Satan is not God’s peer.
In regard to “the problem of evil”: everyone—including the best theologians throughout the centuries—has struggled with this. Here are some truths to sort this out:
God knew it was good to create both angels and men with the ability to follow Him in faithfulness and the ability not to follow Him. That is, God created men and angels free, giving them free will. As the Westminster Confession of Faith 3.1 states, God never violates the will of His creatures, even when He is causing His will to come about in His timing. All men and angels are doing things according to what they most desire to do. For Christians, because the Spirit is in them, they sometimes most want to do God’s will, but are left free to sin (and many times do); for non-Christians, they will always do their own will within their available choices, always choosing what they believe is best for them. Sometimes what they deem best for them is best for others, too; and, in altruism, the nonbeliever seeks his own will of obtaining the good feeling he gets (which God gives, via his conscience) from doing good (Romans 2:15). So we say (and here’s the part that plays well with those finding fault with God), “You think that’s good, right, that God didn’t make us all robots—with no free will and no choices about what we do and like and say, and whom we choose to be friends with?”
Within this, we can see that God is not both good and evil, and that He is not the one who does evil nor the one who created it and introduced it into the world.* [see asterisked sidenote below] God is good and He created all things in a state of being good (men, angels, and non-human life and nonlife). Part of what is good in men and angels is their being free and not robots nor slaves, beaten into doing God’s will, against their wills. Having free will (which God gave to men and angels) is good. How do we know that? Because God did it (created man free) and declared it “good” when He did so (Genesis 1). What is evil is the exercising of God-given free will and abilities (which were given for man to love God, love neighbor, and watch over the earth in care) to hate people, harm the created order, and rise up in rebellion against the God who gave the person his life and constantly sustains him. And that evil is done by man; and he did not have to do it. Parallel for the angels: Satan and certain other angels rebelled against the Lord, exercising their free will, to do evil to bring harm to man and the earth.
We see here that God is not the author of sin or evil. Sin and evil acts are not something God does. He does not commit acts of evil. Sin and evil acts are things men and angels do. Men and angels do sin and evil (not God), as they, apart from God’s directives and force, misuse/pervert their abilities unto acts of evil.
*[from above, the sidenote: The argument is fallacious that says, “If God created all things, and evil exists; then God created evil.” The first premise there, “God created all things,” is a false premise, as it equivocates (redefines in a way the Bible doesn’t define it) what the Bible means when it delineates “all things” that God created. Evil acts and rebellion are the creation of fallen angels and men, who use God’s creation (the abilities He’s given them) in perverted ways. God created all things, but the created have done evil, not Him. Evil is not his creation. Example: If a groom’s friends upon his wedding buy him a tool set, and he later uses the hammer to crush someone’s skull and kill them, the friends of the groom have not created evil, even though they gave him the hammer. It is his using of a good gift for perverted purposes that is evil, and the friends have not created that evil in their giving of the gift. We do not turn to the friends and say, “You created this evil, that is, you murdered so-and-so.”]