Then we had some Bible study.
I had prepared a brief lesson based on something that had been discussed in Sunday School a couple weeks ago, and again in Youth Group, about the origin of evil. As I was contemplating this, it struck me how essential it is for Christians to have a proper view of the origin of evil.
What do YOU believe about the origin of evil? The most common beliefs include:
- There is no such thing as evil. Evil is an illusion.
- Evil has always co-existed alongside good.
- In the beginning there was God, and God created evil along with everything else.
- Evil is the absence of good. God created all things good, but allowed his creatures to choose non-good.
I think we can strike the first one off the list pretty easily. I know there are many people who deny the existence of evil, but I can't imagine this belief being too deeply rooted in someone who isn't delusional. A brief glimpse at the atrocities in our world should be evidence enough that there are some truly evil things that happen. Moreover, the Bible is filled with passages warning us against the evils of, not just this world, but of the unseen world (1 Peter 5:8, Ephesians 6:12).
The second one is also false—evil has not always been around. God is Eternal. God is good. Before the creation of the world, before the creation of the heavens and angels, there was only God. Therefore evil has not—could not—always co-existed with him.
Did God create evil? No. Scripture says that when God finished His creation He saw everything and declared it "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Many Scriptures affirm that God is not the author of evil (James 1:13, 1 John 1:5, 1 Corinthians 14:33). The sovereignty of God gives him full control over evil circumstances, but even these He orchestrates for good.
But this is where some skewed thinking can dramatically alter our beliefs.
If we believe that God created evil, or that He negligently allows evil to happen, then we run the risk of believing that He isn't the loving, gracious, good God the Bible says He is. And casting doubt on the character of God casts doubt on our belief that He is even real. When we allow school shootings and terrorist bombings and sickness and death to call into question God's goodness, it's easy to see how a Christian could just throw up his hands and say, "How could a good God let this happen?! I've had it with God!" Suddenly the path to atheism isn't so far away.
But what if we look at it this way: evil is the absence of God.
Think about this: what was there before God created the world? Was there darkness? No. There was nothing. Prior to the creation of the world darkness had no definition. Then God created light, and suddenly darkness had a name, and it is defined as the absence of light.
We were created to have a relationship with God. He loves us more dearly than we could ever imagine, and He wants our love in return, but such a relationship is impossible without choice. As such, at the moment of creation, God gave mankind the ability to choose or reject Him. When we choose Him we are bathed in the light of his mercy, his love, his goodness, but when we reject Him it's like turning off the light in our bedroom, closing the door, and pulling the shades, surrounding ourselves in darkness. Evil.
It is helpful, I think, to understand that evil is not itself a thing created. Evil is neither substance, being, spirit, nor matter. So it is technically not proper to think of evil as something that was created. Evil is simply a lack of moral perfection in a fallen creature.
It should come as no surprise then to see evil increasing on the earth. We've kicked God out of our schools. We've taken the 10 Commandments out of our court houses. Every day there are stories of people getting in trouble for praying at work, of athletes getting called-out for bending on their knees after a touchdown, of Christian-themed television and radio programs getting banned from the airwaves. If evil is the absence of God, it's no wonder why our world is so wicked.
This should radically change our view of God. When we understand that evil is the absence of God our immediate reaction should be to run to Him. And when evil strikes our lives as a consequence of man's choices, our reaction shouldn't be to blame God for all of our woes, but to seek Him even more fervently.
God is certainly sovereign over evil. There's a sense in which it is proper even to say that evil is part of His eternal decree. He planned for it. It did not take Him by surprise. It is not an interruption of His eternal plan. He declared the end from the beginning, and He is still working all things for His good pleasure (Isaiah 46:9-10).
But God's role with regard to evil is never as its author. He simply permits evil agents to work, then overrules evil for His own wise and holy ends. Ultimately He is able to make all things, including all the fruits of all the evil of all time, work together for a greater good (Romans 8:28).