The Problem of Evil
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”
-Isaiah 45:7, King James Version
Evil is a universally known word and is usually associated with the devil. Most religions have doctrines regarding evil. The problems surrounding evil have been discussed for millennia. In this essay I examine the biblical view of evil and the problems associated with it. The topic of evil is not, however, limited to the Bible or religion.
The word evil in Isaiah 45:7 has also been translated “disaster” or “calamity.” Modern translations, like the NIV, are more prone to avoid the word evil because of the connotations. Many contemporary believers are hesitant to admit that their God is the creator of evil. Anyway you cut it, God is proclaiming in Isaiah that he creates disaster, calamity, destruction, pain, suffering…evil.
Many people believe the Bible to be the perfect, totally inerrant word of God. Some simply think of the Bible as a spiritual guide and not an authoritative document. Some discount the scriptures entirely. The Bible has dramatically influenced human thought. Therefore, many people have derived an inherited Judeo-Christian view of good and evil. This usually supposes evil to be the antithesis of good. This does not suggest, however, that good and evil are biblically commensurate.
The Bible predominantly focuses on the redemption of God’s chosen people. Much information is listed in scripture, but the lion share of text concerns the “covenant” people or the “believers” in God. This can be followed throughout the scriptures as the Line of Seth. In the Bible, God takes absolutely all the credit for good and places most of the blame for evil on others (Satan, demons, people). God is referred to as holy and clean. Satan, demons and people are referred to as unclean. The Line of Cain is the unbelieving or unholy people.
The biblical God designed man and breathed life into him. Please stop and reflect a moment on that statement. Everything that man has become stems from the Almighty’s design. Let’s not lose track of logic here. Man’s abilities were designed by God, according to the Bible. Whatever man can do is logically attributed to the biblical God’s design of man. For example, man has the ability to swim. He also has the choice not to swim. Man was designed with the ability to choose disobedience to God. According to the Bible, Satan didn’t create man. It was not Lucifer who gave man the ability to sin. It was and is God’s design. God is the creator and is responsible for the design of the universe, according to the Bible.
The Bible says that all people after Adam and Eve commit sins because they are sinners. People, as a result of the fall of Adam, are dead in sin and will naturally do evil deeds. Lies are the native tongue for the sinner. The text is clear that from Adam in the Garden of Eden to this very day, God has always sought out certain chosen individuals for his holy purposes. In that equation, one must also see that there is also a group of people who are not chosen by God for holiness. The Bible states in Exodus 7:3 “But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt...”
I have read multitudes of theological literature discussing the “hardening” of hearts. You can do many, many theological dances with this topic. The biblical fact remains: God chooses some for blessing. Example: Moses, Saul of Tarsus, etc. And God chooses some for hardening: Pharaoh, Judas Iscariot, etc. You simply cannot “soften” the harsh realities of this biblical fact.
Scripture is abundantly clear that God creates and predestines (from before the foundations of the world) those who will believe in Him. God is God, you believe in Him or you don’t. If you don’t, according to biblical Christian theology, then you will be sent to eternal punishment in hell. A child can understand this concept. One can logically surmise that if people are going to hell then it is because God allows it. Not only does He allow it, He created it. Satan did not create or send people to hell; people are not the architects (or the key holders) of hell. According to the Bible, God is.
I can hear many readers gasping at this point. Please note: I understand that many people do not believe God does this choosing. It is interesting to discover what the Bible actually does say about God choosing. Most Christians pick and choose what specific scriptures they will believe in. Some will accept the love of God but not his wrath. The Bible, outside of our opinions, insists on a God that is both loving and wrathful (and also says that God never changes his attributes). If God does choose his chosen people for His specific blessing, then others are simply not chosen for blessing. Those people are unregenerate, hopeless sinners. They will, according to scripture, be hardened by their very nature as reprobate people. They are, in short, “left alone” to their sin.
If you are a Christian, do you believe that your life is simply random and that God has no purpose for you? You most likely do not believe that. You probably believe that God created you as a sinner and then saved you. He had to save you if he truly “predestined you from before the foundations of the world” for His divine purposes. So, in the same way that He chose you (and Saul of Tarsus, etc.) he also didn’t choose the unbelievers (Judas Iscariot, Pharaoh, etc.).
Many people have tried to make the biblical God seem less involved with the choosing of judgment and hell. These teachers place all the focus on the sins of people. They teach that people can ignore and resist God’s plan for them. In other words, people have free will to disbelieve the God of Holy Scripture. They say God chose His believers from before the foundations of the world and on the other hand say that people can ignore that plan. These teachers say that God would never send someone to hell without a choice in the matter. So, in reality, these teachers believe that God is not completely sovereign, that man shares the sovereignty of choice. Those thinkers are commonly known as Arminians, named after the Dutch college professor James (Jacob) Arminius (1560-1609).
According to the Bible, evil exists because God created it and let his creation suffer from it. That means when a helpless child is viciously attacked, tortured, and killed, God allowed it. The Problem of biblical evil is unsolvable because it is a contradiction.