Where Did Evil Come From?

Where Did Evil Come From?

“The devil” is best imagined not literally, as some demonic figure lurking in the shadows, but as a symbol of a deep theological truth — namely, that the evil we experience in history is more than the sum of its parts and transcends logical explanation… There is a dark spiritual force in evil as we experience it. (Long)

images

Today I’m continuing in the blog series on theodicy, based on Thomas G. Long’s book, What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith

The links to each of the blogs in this series are Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith (Guest Blogger Mary Vanderplas)The Shaking of the FoundationsThe Impossible Chess MatchThe Climax of All MisnomersRoad HazardsThe Soul’s ComplaintAwakening, by Asia SamsonRunning a Thousand Miles for FreedomDavid Will Live AgainHowl: Job and the WhirlwindChrist is the Yes of the UniverseTheodicy of Protest.  My apologies that it’s been over six months since the most recent post in this series.  In order to avoid confusion, please take a few minutes to scan through these to re-familiarize yourself with the series before you continue reading.

In his exploration of theodicy, Long asserts that evil is God’s enemy.

This begs the question, if evil is God’s enemy, and God created everything, and everything that God created He called “good,” then how did evil come to exist?  Long creates a list of four ideas, possible explanations as to how evil came about:

  1. God is the author of both good and evil and made the creation as a mixture of good and evil, for whatever divine reasons.
  2. There are two “creators,” a good one and a bad one. God is the author of the good aspects of creation, and the force of evil is the author of the bad ones.
  3. God did not fashion the creation ex nihilo — that is, out of nothing — but started with some raw materials already at hand. As for the origins of these raw materials, we cannot say, but the potential for evil was already present in them, like impurities in clay. God’s creation is a work in progress, and all of the evil has not yet been eliminated.
  4. God is the one and only creator, and the creation was made “very good.” But something happened after God’s creative act to introduce evil into the goodness of creation.

 

Long dismisses number one because it makes God the author of evil, and since this is “not the God we meet in Christ, this can’t possibly be true.”  

I can’t help but wonder how Long explains Isaiah 45:7. In The Problem of Evil by John Essex, he writes, “In the book of Jeremiah alone, there are more than thirty references to God either doing evil or repenting from evil which He had purposed doing, and there are similar passages in other books.”

Long rejects number two because it “forces us to imagine creation as the eternal battlefield of two rival deities.”

Interestingly, there are two creation accounts in Genesis. One account states that Elohim said, “”Lo, I have given to you every herb sowing seed, which [is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in which [is] the fruit of a tree sowing seed, to you it is for food,” (with no mention of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, no prohibitions) and the other states that Jehovah God “layeth a charge on the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden eating thou dost eat; and of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou dost not eat of it…'”

Long discards number three because “Yahweh, the God of Jesus, arrives on stage late in the game and begins to influence an already existing creation.”

Some Christians don’t believe in the trinity of God but believe that Jesus came from God (the Word of God) and then created everything. John 1:3, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Ephesians 3:9, Colossians 1:16, and Hebrews 1:2 all indicate that creation is dia (through, for the sake of, because of) Christ.

Another thing to consider is the difference between Genesis 1 in which God “made” (prepared) stuff and Genesis 2 in which God “formed” (gave physical form to) stuff. According to Genesis 1, God finished “making” stuff, called it good, and rested. In contrast, according to Genesis 2, He never called the “formed” stuff good or rested from forming stuff.

Long chooses number four as the only viable option, saying that evil is “an intruder into the goodness of creation” that “did not come from the hand of God.”

Rather than just taking Long’s word for it, prayerfully examine these ideas for yourself.  I’m not planting any flags here; I’m just presenting some information to explore.  “Test everything.  Hold on to what is good.”

 

Comments
  • Mary Vanderplas February 22, 2014 at 5:54 am

    You make a good point about there being texts in scripture that suggest that darkness and light come from the same source. Still, though, I agree with Long that the God definitively revealed in Jesus Christ is only good, only light, and that evil does not have its origin in God (1 John 1:5). I’m inclined to agree with those who see the Isaiah 45 text as referring to God’s just judgment against sin (God creates “woe”), not to God being the source of evil and innocent suffering.

    I don’t think that there is any sense in Genesis of two different, rival deities being involved in the creation. That two different names are used doesn’t mean there were two separate deities. And I don’t see any sense of rivalry going on here – “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” isn’t referring to the existence of evil, but to knowing what is in the best interests of human beings. I agree with Long’s rejection of this explanation of the origin of evil as having no grounding in the biblical narrative.

    I agree also with his rejection of the third option on the grounds that it doesn’t fit with what the Bible says about God creating everything that is, not simply fashioning what already existed. I don’t think that what the Bible says about Christ being the agent of creation can be taken as suggesting that God is not the author of all that is. And even if one were to interpret it this way – making Jesus the author of creation instead of God – it’s hard to see how this would explain the existence of evil. I don’t think either that the differences in the two accounts between God “making” (out of nothing) and then resting and God “forming” and not ceasing his creative work can be taken as an argument for questioning whether the ultimate origin of all things is God. The two accounts are, in my view, not conflicting; they are complementary, each having something unique to say about God the Creator.

    I’m with Long that the fourth option is the only way, in light of the biblical revelation that God is altogether good and that everything that exists comes from the hand of God (p. 136), to “explain” the existence of evil.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking blog.

  • Stephen Helbig February 24, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Love the pic ~ The apple bitten has arrived

    This subject of “theodicy” and understanding of God’s justice (eternal judgement) ~ is indeed a much needed reformation of this age ~ and it is the last elementary teachings before going on to perfection, God permitting as seen in Hebrews 6

    The title ~ Where Did Evil Come From? Has been debated far to long for us to remain in darkness. So with Alice I reiterate, “Test everthing. Hold on to what is Good.”

    ~ “He that committeth sin is of the devil; ~ FOR THE DEVIL SINNETH FROM THE BEGINNING, For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”(1 Jn 3:8) (Note ~ The devil WAS NOT ~ IN THE BEGINNING ~ A Glorious Angel)
    ~ He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a falsehood, he speaks what is NATURAL to him; for he is a liar and the father of lies (Jn. 8:44, Amplified Bible).
    ______________________________________________________________________

    Four Ideas introduced (by Long) ~ with clarified illumination of my YES or NO response…

    1. YES ~ God is the author of both good and evil and made the creation as a mixture of good and evil, for whatever divine reasons.

    ~ Key Word Author with another emphasis on another word ~ Finisher
    ~ “The Author and Finisher of our Faith” ~ “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”. (Heb 12:2)

    Notice
    ~“Now the Serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which THE LORD GOD HAD MADE” (Gen. 3:1). ~ “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and THE LORD HATH NOT DONE IT?” (Amos 3:6). ~“ALL THINGS were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (Jn. 1:3). ~And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, WHICH IS THE DEVIL, AND SATAN, and bound him a thousand years” (Rev 20:2).

    2. YES ~ There are two “creators,” a good one and a bad one. God is the author of the good aspects of creation, and the force of evil is the author of the bad ones ~division in creation

    Clarification
    ~ “No you not that you are “gods” ~ “creators” (Tree of Life & Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil) ~ Let us make man in Our Image ~ Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher

    Note
    ~ I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” (Ps. 82:6)
    ~ Jesus answered them ( in the temple), “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS ‘? (Jn. 10:34)

    3. YES ~ God did not fashion the creation ex nihilo — that is, out of nothing — but started with some raw materials already at hand.
    NO ~ As for the origins of these raw materials, we cannot say,
    YES ~ But IN CREATION” clarification) the potential for evil was already present in them, like impurities in clay. God’s creation is a work in progress, and all of the evil has not yet been eliminated.

    Notice
    ~ For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him (Col. 1:16)
    ~ And God seeth the light that it is good, and God separateth between the light and the darkness, (Gen. 1:4 YLT)

    4. YES ~ God is the one and only (SUPREME) creator, and the creation was made “very good.” But something happened after God’s creative act to introduce evil into the goodness of creation.
    Notice
    ~ To us, ours is one God The Father, for all things are from him and we are in him, and The One LORD JEHOVAH Yeshua The Messiah, for all things are by him, and we are also in his hand. (1 Cor.8:6)( Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

    • Stephen Helbig February 25, 2014 at 11:54 am

      p.s. ~ continuation of my above comment ~

      For an illuminating and interpretive writing (on the subject at hand)
      ~ Check out the following three chapters on the subject of evil, the serpent, the devil, and SATAN ~ (based on scripture)

      Echoes From Eden
      Book Three
      Chapters 31, 32, & 33

      found @ the following web site ~

      http://www.kingdombiblestudies.org/Echoes/echoes03.htm#31

    • Lanny A. Eichert March 1, 2014 at 1:38 am

      Stephen, the author of your faith is certainly NOT the author of my faith. Satan is not a beast of the field; he is a personal spirit, not an evil force. A force cannot author anything. Hey guy, you must account for raw materials if you won’t go ex nihilo or else you’re spitting into hot air; or join the Mormons. Also account for impurities or your evil existed before your god. What a mish-mash of confusion you author by your opinions.

  • Lanny A. Eichert March 1, 2014 at 1:20 am

    Alice, in Isaiah 45:7 evil is not moral wickedness, but merely bad consequences for that moral wickedness; and tell that to John Essex.
    It is consistant with Mary’s assessment (God creates “woe”).

    It amazes me you don’t harmonize the two creation accounts; and you deny raising evil flags?.

    Yet you miss His name as Son BEFORE creation {Hebrew 1: 2 & 10} as indicative the Son of God always existed as both the Word and the Son. He came forth from the Father {John 16: 27, 28}, not from the Logos.

    • admin March 2, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      In not reconciling the two creation accounts, it leaves the possibility to explore and discover. I still believe the two accounts do not conflict, but I also don’t want to leave any stone unturned. God isn’t mad at me for asking questions and thinking outside the box. He can handle it.

      • Lanny A. Eichert March 3, 2014 at 11:20 pm

        No Alice, God is very angry with you for promoting the falsehood that He reconciles everybody.

        the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. {Psalm 11: 5b, 6}

        As long as you continue to do violence to His words by denying eternal and everlasting and corrupt His fire, He promises your cup will be full of His hate which will bring upon you snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest.

  • Post a comment

    Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.