#5: A Response To Blog #4–“Does God Create Evil?”
Updated: Jun 11, 2022
The idea of God creating evil is extremely uncomfortable. Even so, that's the assertion I made in my last post.
The reaction to my proposition from family and friends was one of uproarious disquiet. It caused the kind of sharp cognitive dissonance my wife experiences when she pulls back the shower curtain, only to see a spider on the wall opposite her.
The spider must be killed, or the entire day will be reoriented around "activities that don't require showering."
Where did I get such an idea? Does it have to be squashed, or is it our destiny to spend the rest of our lives under the shower-head of God's grace with one eye peeled toward the wall?
In Isaiah 45:5-7 God names Cyrus, a future foreign emperor not yet born, prophesying the following:
I am the Lord and there is no other;
besides me there is no God.
I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me,
that men may know from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting
that there is none besides me.
I am the Lord and there is no other;
shaping light and creating darkness,
making peace and creating evil;
I am the Lord, the one who does all these.
God is going to use this heathen king to further his purposes in regard to his people, Israel. King Cyrus will be the conduit through which the Persians defeat the Babylonians. In this prophecy, God makes clear that He will use Cyrus as the demonstration of his power so that:
men may know from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting that there is none besides me (Isaiah 45:6).
So that men may know: all mankind affected by this prophecy; Persians, Babylonians, and Israelites.
And what will all of them know?
I am the Lord and there is no other; shaping light and creating darkness, making peace and creating evil (Isaiah 45:7).
Buried in this prophecy is a broader and implicit condemnation of idol worship. Israel was constantly being led astray by surrounding people groups and their religions.
Popular all over the east during this epoch of time was the Zoroastrian belief in two opposing universal powers: good and evil. Followers of various religions created idols representing both and worshipped them in order to invoke good or evil according to their ambitions.
In Isaiah the Lord sets mankind right. He clearly states that he alone is God, and he's responsible for both good and evil.
But now to OUR predicament: Does Isaiah 45:7 mean that God creates evil?
If we think of evil as one of the following, then yes:
Judgment or punishment for sin (the losses we encounter when God's moral law is broken)
The natural consequences of fallen creation (earthquakes, famines, floods, diseases, or sudden and unexplainable tragedies)
God is the author of these judgments and consequences. Indeed, he set them in motion at the very moment of the fall. They are a natural progression at this point. A repetitive and reliable pattern.
If however, we think of evil as the choice to disobey God's moral law identified in the Ten Commandments, then no. God did not create these evils:
God is not the creator of moral darkness.
James 1:13 states:
When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.
After the fall, God makes it clear: you are in a war and there are two sides.
People will separate themselves into two groups. One, those who are "the seed of the woman"--people who trust in the redemption of Christ. Two, those who are "the seed of the serpent"--people who continuously disbelieve in the existence and power of God as demonstrated through his Son and by his Spirit.
To be clear, these two seeds (followers of Christ and followers of Satan, for that is what it means to be a seed of the Serpent) will both be subject to the daily consequences of sinful choices.
However, those who put their trust in Jesus are forgiven, and will avoid the eternal punishment and judgment for sin. Christ received that punishment on the cross.
The cross stands between the sinner and God's wrath. It absorbs it entirely. If you haven't trusted in the finished work of Christ on the cross, there is no barrier to shield you from the righteous and rightful punishment we all deserve for every sin we've ever committed.
So there are two kinds of evil: those things that are the natural consequences of a fallen world and fallen humanity, and those things that are connected to moral evil or sin.
How should we respond?
Well, to the first, we pray for protection against the natural consequences of a fallen world. But when those consequences fall upon us, we pray for healing. We pray for grace. We pray for God's strength to help us endure.
The response to moral evil however is twofold: trust and forgiveness.
As believers who have committed moral evil we trust in God's sufficient work on the cross. We confess our sins, repent, and trust in God's saving forgiveness.
As believers who have had moral evil enacted against us we trust in God's use of and sovereignty over that evil...and we forgive those who have sinned against us.
Moral evil isn't created by God, but it is certainly allowed and used for his divine purposes.
This fact prompts the question: How do we respond from the lowest point of a divinely authored journey?
After years in prison, Joseph didn't know he was eventually going to be second in command in all of Egypt. How did his day-to-day faith play a role? In prison, he was at his lowest point. The path to his renown, wisdom, rulership, and ultimate salvation passed through slavery and prison.
However, Joseph understood God's bigger plan when he confronted the brothers that sold him into slavery, "You intended evil against me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:20).
Joseph trusted in God, and he forgave his brothers.
Though Psalm 25: 1-3 is written of King David, it could equally be the cry of Joseph, every biblical hero of the faith, or you and me:
In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.
Shame came to Joseph's brothers. They asked for his forgiveness, and Joseph forgave them and restored them.
Irrespective of whether or not those who perpetrate moral evil against us ever ask for forgiveness, our response must always be to forgive.
We can forgive because we also trust that God is sovereign over all and using all for the good of those that love him and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
There was a moral evil committed against my wife and I two years ago.
God did not create it; but he allowed it and used it.
No one has confessed. No one has asked for forgiveness.
That's irrelevant. Each of the perpetrators and those that supported them are on their own journey. Jill and I are not responsible for those journeys or their consequences.
We are only responsible for forgiving them, knowing and trusting that we ourselves have been forgiven for our own moral failings, and knowing and trusting that God has allowed and is using one of our lowest points to be a touchstone on the path of a divinely authored journey.
As stated previously, God's purposes are not thwarted by evil, but accomplished by it.
What he accomplishes in each of us is transformation. Though others may raise the hammer against us, God holds the chisel they strike, using it to lovingly shape our character.
Yielding and submitting to Jesus is the only way forward in a life filled with moral evil and the natural consequences of a fallen world.
So pray for protection and grace, and always choose to forgive. After all, that's the pattern that was set up by Christ.
He asked that the cup would pass him, but hung on the cross proclaiming forgiveness.
God allowed Christ's heel to be struck as a means of drawing the serpent close enough to crush its head.
Like Joseph, Jesus can proclaim to those who persecuted him, "You intended evil against me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."
Evil sometimes has to be allowed to do its worst, in order for God to show you his absolute best.
As for the spider in the shower? Hopefully this blog has squashed it.
Bathe in peace. :)
Next time, I'll share the "good" we are processing and experiencing in spite of the "bad" that happened two years ago.
Also, I haven't related the lessons learned in these "cancel culture" blogs to the craft of acting, but I'll be making those connections in future posts.
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