An Answer to God and 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 (KJV)
I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the Lord, do all these things.’ ~ Isaiah 45:7 (NKJV)
The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the Lord who does all these. ~ Isaiah 45:7 (NASB95)
*Question Answered By Norman L. Geisler and Thomas Howe
What’s the Problem? According to this verse God “creates good and evil” (KJV, cf. Jeremiah 18:11 and Lamentations 3:38; Amos 3:6). But many other Scriptures inform us that God is not evil (1 John 1:5), cannot even look approvingly on evil (Habakkuk 1:13), and cannot even be tempted by evil (James 1:13).
What’s the Solution? The Bible is clear that God is morally perfect (cf. Deuteronomy 32:4; Matthew 5:48), and it is impossible for Him to sin (Hebrews 6:18). At the same time, His absolute justice demands that He punish sin. This judgment takes both temporal and eternal forms (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:11-15). In its temporal form, the execution of God’s justice is sometimes called “evil” because it seems to be evil to those undergoing it (cf. Hebrews 12:11). However, the Hebrew word for evil (ra) used here does not always mean moral evil. Indeed, the context indicates that it should be translated, as the NKJV and other modern translations do, as “calamity.” Thus, God is properly said to be the author of “evil” in this sense, but not in the moral sense—at least not directly.
Further, there is an indirect sense in which God is the author of moral evil. God created moral beings with free choice, and free choice is the origin of moral evil in the universe. So, ultimately God is responsible for making moral creatures who are responsible for moral evil. God made evil possible by creating free creatures, but the free creatures made evil actual. Of course, the possibility of evil (i.e., free choice) is itself a good thing.
So, God created only good things, one of which was the power of free choice, and moral creatures produced the evil. However, God is the author of a moral universe and in this indirect and ultimate sense is the author of the possibility of evil. Of course, God only permitted evil, but does not promote it, and He will ultimately produce good through it (cf. Genesis 50:20; Revelation 21-22)
The relation of God and evil can be summarized this way:
|GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF EVIL||GOD IS THE AUTHOR OF EVIL|
|In the sense of sin||In the sense of calamity|
|Moral evil||Non-moral evil|
|Actuality of evil||Possibility of evil|
*Article adapted from The Big Book of Bible Difficulties by Norman L. Geisler and Thomas Howe. Grand Rapids, MI., Baker, 2008.