The Problem of Evil: Part 2
Jul 06, 2006
There is no place in Scripture where we are told that evil is a creation of either man or the devil. While it is true that men DO evil, and that evil certainly exists in the world, God always takes credit for it in the ultimate sense.
All evil is the result of Adam's sin. Evil is ultimately the divine judgment for sin. Evil is the result of sin. Therefore, evil is not a CAUSE but is derivative. For example, God told Adam and Eve that in the day they eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they will surely DIE. Death is evil, and it is the consequence of sin, the effect of a prior cause.
All evil stems from this one act, the "original sin," and is merely an extension of that first great evil called "death." Who would question that death was the consequence of sin by the justice of God? Hence, in the great chapter setting forth the sovereignty of God, He tells us in Isaiah 45:7, "I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and CREATE EVIL; I the Lord do all these things."
This is not to say that God SINS. Most people object to God creating evil on the grounds that it makes God a sinner. But such a view is taken only when one does not know the difference between evil and sin. God creates evil, but God does not sin.
The Hebrew word for "sin" is khawtaw, which means "to miss" or "to fail to hit the mark (goal)." The definition of sin is made clear in both the Old and New Testaments. First, in Judges 20:15, 16 we read,
"And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men. Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not MISS [khawtaw]."
Here the meaning of the word is clear. It is applied to not missing a target. When the target, goal, or standard is the law of God, then to miss has moral implications. We call it "sin." In this sense, Paul tells us in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." In other words, the glory of God is the goal, the mark, and all men, in shooting toward that goal, have found their "arrows" falling short of that goal. All have missed the mark.
God creates evil, but God never fails to achieve His goals. He never misses the mark. If God were ever to fail to reach His goal, He would become a "sinner." So if we understand the divine plan, which is His goal, and see it not as wishful thinking but as the divine target of all history, then we will know the end from the beginning, because God will not fail to reach that goal.
There are many who think that God spends most of His time dreaming about what might have been, could have been, or would have been if only Adam had not sinned. Such a mindset would produce many regrets, spawned from the despair of a great divine Failure. Was Adam's sin outside the overall divine plan? Was God taken by surprise? If so, then God is a failure and thus a sinner by biblical definition.
But no, God forbid! God was neither surprised nor handicapped by Adam's sin. The divine plan will succeed in the end.
Evil is only sin if it misses the mark. Mankind has been given a mark to hit, a goal to achieve, a perfect standard. It is set forth in Scripture in general, and in the law in particular. The law is the expression of the moral and judicial side of God's character. When men do evil to each other, it is a sin, because they fail to achieve the perfection of the glory of God. However, when God does evil, it is according to His perfect wisdom; it has purpose, and His arrow always hits the bulls eye. Though we do not always understand what He is doing--because we do not see the end from the beginning--we ought to have faith that He is a good God who will work all things together for good.
Job is set forth in Scripture as a primary example by which we may understand the concept of evil. First, we are told that "Satan" needed God's permission to afflict Job with "evil." See Job 1:12 and 2:6.
Why did God allow this? The book makes it clear that God had a higher purpose, not merely to test Job, but to bring Job to a greater level of understanding in the end. Job already knew more than the average Christian about the source of evil, for he said in 2:10, "What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips."
Job's dualistic friends tried to tell him that surely he was harboring some secret sin in his life. This would explain why God was judging him (or allowing Satan to judge him). But in saying this, they sinned with their lips, and in the end Job was required to pray for them (42:10).
At the end of the story (42:11, 12), Job's family came and "comforted him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. . . . So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning."
In other words, when the Lord does or allows evil to befall us, it is ultimately for the purpose of blessing us. This is the basis of Paul's statement in Romans 8:28,
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
It is perhaps no coincidence that God worked anonymously to make men label this verse "8:28." The number 828 is 2 x 414, which is the factor of "cursed time," and it illustrates the fact that even God's so-called "curses" are ultimate blessings.
There are many other Scriptures that have direct references to God doing "evil" without sinning. Amos 3:6 says, "Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord has not done it?" God always takes credit for bringing judgment upon a city or a nation--including Israel--in order that they might know the Source and purpose of their judgment, which they call "evil."
Divine judgment is never coincidental, as historians may think. While God uses "natural causes," He always stands behind history as the First Cause of all things. This is the story presented in Scripture, whether God was hardening Pharaoh's heart or putting a hook into the jaw of Assyria to ensure that they would destroy the nation of Israel.
We are called to get to know the God of the Bible, so that we begin to comprehend Him and the way He thinks by the mind of the Spirit. This is often difficult, especially the more evil we see and the more that bad things happen to us personally. Our perspective is simply too limited, too personal, too miopic, and so it is fortunate that we ourselves are not God.
We must ultimately come to the same conclusion as Joseph did, after being sold as a slave by his own brothers, and after being imprisoned for years through false accusation. In Gen. 50:19, 20 he said,
"Fear not; for am I in the place of God? But as for you [brothers], you thought evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive."
This attitude is the primary mark of spiritual maturity in Scripture. All the bitterness and anger of his youth had melted away, once he saw the greater purpose of God in all the "evil" done to him. He had ceased to think of good and evil dualistically. He now saw both good and evil with a singular mind as proceeding from God and having an ultimate good purpose.
This is the second part of a series titled "The Problem of Evil." To view all parts, click the link below.