If God created everything, and everything includes all that is evil in the world, then God created evil. Looking at this if-and-then statement, it seems to be very logical, right? This is a perfect example of logic being very dangerous in understanding the divine. So what’s the error in this explanation?
In my attempt to refute that statement, yes, God did create everything in the world, going back to the two Creation stories found in Genesis, “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth” (The Holy Bible, NAB, 1:1). He created the world out of nothing, but of His will (creatio exnihilo*) in the span of six days. So to say, everything came from Him and no other god, establishing His sovereignty as the sole Creator (Birch, 20). “God made all kinds of wild animals, all kinds of cattle, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth” (Genesis 1:25). “[Then] Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life and so man became a living being” (2:7). “[On the sixth day,] God looked at everything He had made, and He found it very good (1:31).” So where does evil come into the picture?
The main culprit seems to be man’s fall to temptation of sin. Whilst in the Garden of Eden, Adam (the first man) and Eve (the first woman) were given dominion over all the living creatures and stewardship of the garden, tasked to cultivate it and care for it. And God gave them free will, except of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, declaring death as the consequence of doing so. That freedom of choice ultimately allowed evil to seep in.
The serpent, who was the most cunning of them all, inquired Eve about the fruit – eating it would give existential wisdom to her, wisdom that was necessary for survival, surely, it won’t bring her death. Eve eventually rationalized and she ate of the Tree and so did Adam. This caused them to be consumed by fear, shame, and guilt and they hid from God – breaking the relationship they once had. Yet, the Lord was merciful and gave them the chance to admit their sin, but the man and woman blamed others for their action.
While this story provides an origin of human sin and evil, there are still things to be clarified. The first is that the woman had not thought of disobeying God until the serpent came, but if the serpent was also God’s creation, then where did this temptation to sin come from?
The serpent in Adam and Eve’s story is often thought of as representing and symbolizing Satan. Reading Genesis Chapter 3, entitled “the Fall of Man”, however, there is no account, whatsoever, of the serpent actually being Satan nor was there any indication that it was Satan who was using the serpent to cause sin. Although Satan was present in the Garden of Eden (Ezekiel 28:13, “In Eden, the garden of God, [Satan] were”). In this case, the serpent was a representation of earthly desires as it has been shown to be a creature that has no legs and is near to the ground – earthly desires that may have pushed Eve into disobeying God, “the woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to [the man], who was with her, and he ate it” (4).
Second, man was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26) and surely, God is good, so how come we aren’t, as we commit sin and evil in the world that we are made stewards of?
An illustration of the devil may clear things up. As the serpent is not Satan, per se, this is not to say that Satan was not an origin of sin, for it was with him where evil truly began. The Bible says in 1 John 3:8, “Whoever sins belongs to the devil, because the devil has sinned from the beginning”. But God created everything, including Satan, so God did create evil?
Not quite. God created him under the name Lucifer, as an angel that was closest to Him, “with the Cherub I placed you (Lucifer); you were on the holy mountain of God, walked among fiery stones. Blameless were you in your conduct from the day you were created, until evil was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:14). Pride and desire to be just like God have driven him to evil. In Isaiah 14:12, the Lord addresses Satan: “How have you fallen from the heavens, O [Lucifer], son of the dawn! How are you cut down to the ground … [Lucifer] said in [his] heart: “I will scale the heavens; Above the stars of God I will set up my throne … I will be like the Most High (God)!”’.
Likewise, we humans were not created evil, but were even made of God’s image and likeness. This gives us the same capabilities as Him, in the sense that we all have the capability to understand even a bit of the divine (Capax Dei*). This image of God that He has instilled in us also serves as an invitation to His mission in proclaiming the truth that is Him. In the process, we have become sacramental because we can become a representation of God. But just as Lucifer’s heart was consumed with desire to reach beyond our Creator and gain more of what is given to us, our hearts may have been as well, subconsciously, and this is where disobedience and evil settle in. The gift of free will gives us the option of doing good and evil and yet, because of this greed, we choose to disobey what the Lord has deemed good. Thus, we cannot say that God created evil, for evil was something that was born out of our personal greed and desire that came from our free will.
And while we also cannot blame Adam and Eve’s original sin to be the cause of our evil, their disobedience has spurned the tendency of humanity to sin, solidifying the sinful structures of the world we have in the past, the present, and the future. They began to disobey God, and we seem to continue it in an ever-growing cycle. Furthermore, God threw the fallen angel, Satan, to the earth where he now resides, serving as the enemy of the Lord and people. In Revelation 12:12, God warns us, “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth … the Devil has come down to you in great fury.” “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
The responsibility for our actions lies in us, not of God. Ultimately, it is our choice to do what is right or wrong. And we are held accountable for them, just as Adam and Eve have been sent out of paradise (the Garden of Eden), so shall we be punished if we sin. Thus, in every situation, we must always keep in mind that we have been given the gift of freedom by God, but we must not let this gift be the source of evil in the world, no matter what the devil tempts us with. And remember to keep our faith in the Lord even if our logic seems to go otherwise.
*Creatio exnihilo – Creation/created out of nothing
*Capax Dei – the God-given ability of humans to grasp and understand what is divine
Birch, Bruce C. “In the Image of God”. What Does the Lord Require? Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Westminster Press, 1985.
Catholic Biblical Association. Holy Bible, The New American Bible. Philippines: Philippine Bible Society, 2012. Print.
International Bible Society. The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids, Michigan: The Zondervan Corporation, 2001. Print.
Written in 2014
Image from real-leaders.com