Did God Create Evil? – Part 1
Part 1: An Apparent Contradiction of Logic
By Steve Schmutzer
An unsettling question may arise when one ponders the implications of John 1:3 which states, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
The question is, “Did God create evil?”
Let’s step back a few paces to get a wide angle view. After each sequence of bringing the heavens and earth into existence in Genesis chapter 1, God considered His creative work to be good. Over and over it is repeated, “And God saw that it was good.” The point is God makes good things.
This emphasis at the start of the Bible continues to be stressed much later on. In 1 Timothy 4:4, it’s underscored again, “For everything created by God is good….” With these verses in perspective, it’s fair to say God wants us to understand He created all things, and all those things are good, proper, noble, pure, wonderful, virtuous, beautiful, lovely, and so on.
But in between the record of Genesis and that letter to Timothy, Jesus’ own words introduce a disquieting consideration. In Matthew 25:41, Jesus stated He prepared eternal fire for the devil and his fallen angels.
So, God created hell.
Whoa – wait a minute! Did God really create hell, and if He did, how does that fit into this whole notion that God creates good things? And, if hell is intended to be the final and unending consequence for those who “loved darkness rather than light” as John 3:19 outlines, then did God deliberately insert the conditions by which humanity would receive this ultimate condemnation? In other words, did God create evil?
The first part of the first question is the easier portion to respond to. Of course God created hell. He said so. Nobody else could prepare it and nobody else could incarcerate Satan and his demonic hordes. Satan has one adversary infinitely more powerful than himself, and that is God. Nobody else is capable of preparing Satan’s final destruction.
Furthermore, Revelation 4:11 declares: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by your will they exist and were created.” The point is God freely chooses to create when, how, and what He will. He is not obligated to any outside force nor is He indebted to any situation that others may feel passionately about. He simply considers His own Triune will, and if that means if hell needs to be in the equation, then hell is what He will prepare.
There’s really no sense in debating it. Psalm 115:3 says: “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.” The Bible says God will have His way. He is God, and nobody else is – case closed. Hell’s existence fits squarely within the rights and will of God no matter that some may wish it didn’t or may choose to argue otherwise. It’s foolish to argue with the truth.
But is hell a good thing? That’s basically the second part of the first question and it’s certainly the tougher portion to answer. Our limitations of human understanding are confined to “….seeing as in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor. 13:12). We see hazy bits and pieces, but the clarity of the full view escapes us. As a result, we are challenged to see any virtues in the judgments of hell so long as we live on this earth and in these bodies.
It’s best to let the Bible speak plainly and accept what it says. In Rev. 16:5-7 and in Rev. 19:2, God’s actions against Tribulation sinners are called “….just and true,” and in Rev. 15:3 God’s pending judgments are described as “….great and marvelous.” What’s clear from these passages and from others like them is the most extreme of God’s judgments are righteous and good. The faithful believer must therefore regard the terms of hell no differently than the Word of God chooses to see them.
Here’s an additional perspective which might help. God’s judgments are designed to destroy everything that has unrelentingly sought the destruction of mankind who is “….made in [God’s] image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Therefore, God’s judgments serve to remedy the corruption of His “good” creation. His “just, true, great, and marvelous” judgments introduce a climactic vindication; they eliminate the stains of sin from all of history. Seen in that light, hell presents a virtuous element since it is part of God’s victorious plan.
Let’s now wrestle with the underlying question that is a common thread within the fabric of all these matters: “Did God create evil?” It’s a question that has embattled dedicated Biblical scholars for a mighty long time, and passionate and polarizing opinions persist in response to it.
At first blush, it seems both rational and defensible that if God created all things, then evil must have been one of those things. After all, John 1:3 is pretty cut and dried – nothing exists apart from God’s intentions.
The proper assumption is God created everything, and nothing else was necessary for that to occur. This is the Biblical creatio ex nihilo doctrine which means “creation out of nothing.” Any other view suggests that God is somehow insufficient.
While it adheres to responsible Biblical interpretation, one of the challenges of the creatio ex nihilo position is it provokes a degree of unrest when it’s placed alongside other plainly-stated Biblical doctrines. Tensions may arise as other truths concerning God are given equal consideration.
A small sampling of some of these truths might look something like this:
1. First, God is timeless, unlike everything else. God exists now as He always has and as He always will (Gen. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:9; Jude 25, Rev. 1:8).
2. Second, because God is God, He has certain qualities that nobody else has. Among other things He is omnipotent (Job 42:2; Ps. 33:6; John 19:11), omniscient (Ps. 147:5; Isa. 55:9; Job 28:24; Matt. 10:30), and omnibenevolent (Ps. 19:7; John 3:16; Rom. 5:8).
Let’s take a fresh look at this. Let’s try to put it all in the blender and see what comes out, shall we?
With God’s omnibenevolent nature in the equation, it would seem that He’d want to prevent all forms of evil. And His omniscience means He knows every way evil could possibly find expression. Finally, because He’s omnipotent, He has the power to prevent all forms of evil from even coming into existence at all.
Let’s tighten that up a bit. A God who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, who is able to prevent that evil from coming into existence, and who by His nature would want to do so, would therefore prevent any possible entry of that evil at all.
Hmm. Uhhhh, well….uh, um.…
Okay, let’s be blunt. If an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God really exists, then evil should not.
Ouch! Are you feeling uncomfortable now?
The fact remains that evil does exist. Furthermore, God is every bit the omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient being the Bible clearly states Him to be. Herein lays an apparent contradiction of logic.
In the next part of this article, we’ll look at how we may reconcile this situation by looking to the full counsel of the Word of God. In that process, we will see that tensions in our theology keep us faithful.