Jack and George are both students of Scripture, and have known each other for some years, and are always sharing their new findings with each other. They respect each other as members of Christ’s mystical body, and preserve true love in their relationship.
G. I’ve been doing some Internet research, Jack, on the subject of evil and its creation, and I’ve been finding some pretty novel ideas. I’ve read numerous articles from some American websites, and I’ve been very surprised at what I’ve found.
J. That sounds interesting, brother. Let me hear more. . . . By the way, surely we can’t talk about evil being created.
G. Well, they seem to have a definitive answer for that in Isaiah 45:7, where the Lord says,“I make peace and create evil.”
J. But surely they don’t think that God creates evil? Regardless of how that verse reads, I can’t stomach that.
G. But they maintain doctrine must be established based on the actual words of Scripture, and they believe this is a definitive statement that we can accept at face value.
J. Well, yes, I agree completely with that statement. That’s the way we’ve always approached Scripture, but what about the First Law of Hermeneutics, that says, No scripture may be interpreted in a way that causes it to contradict any other scripture. There are other Scriptures which contradict the sense in which they are interpreting that verse.
G. But take another look, Jack. The whole verse says, “I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things.” They find that pretty definitive. Darkness and light, Peace and evil. Two sets of opposites. They have some clout in their argument, don’t you think?
J. Now hang on a minute, as I said, they are contradicting the First Law of Hermeneutics. They’re demanding an interpretation that speaks contrary to other passages of Scripture. What about Habakkuk 1:13,“The Lord is of purer eyes than to look upon evil.” Surely that is sufficient to cause them to at least query their assertion, isn’t it?
G. Apparently not. They say Isaiah 45:7 is a pronouncement from God about His creative ability, so why look elsewhere to corroborate it?
J. Are you saying they’re satisfied with believing God to be the Author of evil? Is that what my ears are telling me?
G. Jack, they’re saying it’s got nothing to do with being satisfied. Because it’s God’s word, they’re required to believe it. And since they’ve taken it on board, they say it’s opened up a whole new understanding for them.
J. Well, before we go any further let’s examine this from the Second Law of Hermeneutics.No Scripture may be interpreted that does despite to the clear sense of the context in which it is found. The context of Isaiah 45 is all about the then future King Cyrus and God’s work through him. It speaks about the peace he will bring about for the Jews, andcalamity for any who oppose it. The word evil is frequently used in Scripture to describe calamitous situations. In this context, it is used in that way. It has nothing to do with the basic meaning of evil as introduced in Genesis 2 and 3. Cyrus will be God’s agent for restoring the Jews, and bring them peace, but the prophet is told that God Himself is the prime mover in that process. Likewise, God says He will be responsible for any calamities that will accrue to nations that oppose His plan, and again, He will use Cyrus King of Persiato instigate it. Some modern versions actually use “calamity” to translate the word RA in Isaiah 45.
G. Of course, I take your point there. But could we discuss the other references they use to back up their theory? Job reproved his wife by saying, “You speak as the foolish women speak. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” Then at the end of Job’s trials, his friends gather round to “comfort him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him.” (Job.2:10 & 42:11) They say that God is not only the Author of evil, the Bible shows how God uses it in His involvement with people. Jeremiah, time and again, prophesied and said, “I the Lord will bring evil upon this people.” (Jer.6:19, 11:23, 21:10, 44:11, and 45:5) And in Lamentations 3:37-38 he says,“Who is he that speaks, and it comes to pass, when the Lord commands it not? Out of the mouth of the Most High proceeds not evil and good?” And then there’s Micah 1:12. “The inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good, but evil came down from the Lord unto the gate of Jerusalem.” How would you handle those verses?
J. First of all, in the case of Job. I see they’ve taken words too literally, and to my mind, misinterpreted them. The story of Job hinges on the fact that it was Satan, not God, who inflicted unjust punishment on Job. I accept that God took ultimate responsibility for what happened, but it was not of His doing, just of His permission being granted to the Devil. In fact, the very use of the word evil in that context seems to me to point to the pain, anguish, and punishment Job endured, rather than the concept of evil as it was first introduced in Genesis 2 & 3. So when the Lord tells Jeremiah that He will bring evil upon His people, He is saying that He will remove His hand of protection, due to their rebellion, and allow dire trouble come down upon them as punishment. . . . Let me say that the very concept of God being the Creator of evil is so blasphemously horrible, I cannot allow it to enter my mind and begin a cancerous growth there.
G. Yes, and they are quick to refer to evangelicals having that response, but they won’t allow personal subjective statements to be produced to establish Biblical doctrine. They comment that the orthodoxy of the Christian church has prevented it from expanding and seeing glorious truths in Scripture and, of course, we have said the same in some respects.
J. Yes, I take their point, and yes, we have agreed with them in respect of orthodoxy, . . . but I shall stand by my reaction all the same, because something tells me we’ve got to sort this thing out both logically, Biblically, and in accordance with common sense. If I feel grossly offended by such an idea as this, then I believe the Holy Spirit is alerting me to something God doesn’t like.
G. I was expecting you to say that. And of course I agree with you. But this brings me to other angles of the subject. Having made their first assertion, they then chase their argument to its logical conclusion. First of all they introduce the concept of opposites. Beginning with the verse in Isaiah 45, they say that light cannot be understood unless one has been subjected to darkness. Likewise peace cannot be properly enjoyed unless one has been exposed to the rigours of war. In fact they go further, and say that ultimate good cannot be understood apart from evil, and therefore God had to create evil to demonstrate to Adam and Eve what good really was.
J. Now this is where they are departing from sound exegesis, and inserting ideas from their own mind. This so-called “law of opposites” is sheer nonsense. I don’t have to experience darkness to appreciate light. I don’t have to go through the miseries of war to know and enjoy peace. Next thing I hear is that they tell me I can’t enjoy beauty without ugliness, or delightful perfumes without first smelling sewage! It’s ridiculous, George. I fail to see how they can, by these inventions, maintain credibility in the face of serious exegesis . . . . But the worst statement of all is their last. To think that “good” cannot be known, enjoyed, and understood without the presence of “evil”, is beyond reason. In fact it flies in the face of God’s righteousness.
G. Right. Now, having established their law of opposites, they go on to say that God could never have displayed the greatest attribute of His character to mankind unless man fell. Therefore God had to cause Adam and Eve to fall into sin, otherwise He could never manifest Himself in the full grandeur of Grace.
J. Now wait a minite. . . . Do I hear you right? Are they actually saying that God causedAdam and Eve to sin?
G. Oh Yes, exactly. Their theory runs as follows. How can anyone experience God’s Grace unless they are sinners? Therefore God had to cause them to fall into sin in order to manifest His Grace.
J. George, all this makes me very worried. First they say God created evil, and now they say He caused our first parents to sin so He could manifest His grace. I don’t believe it. I can’t believe my ears. I’ve never heard anything like this before. Here is yet another invention, made from their own minds. They say that God could not . . . yes, I’ll stop there. D’you see what they’ve said? They have placed a false limitation on God. They are saying that the Almighty God is boxed in so that He cannot do something unless He contravenes His own righteous nature. How do we know that God would be unable to manifest His grace without the fall of man? That is a monstrous assumption. “Shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid!”
G. Exactly. They are suggesting God wanted to make man sin, so that He could manifest His grace.
J. Let me tell you something. We once knew a young girl who had a small son of about two years of age, and she doted on him. She watched her child and then deliberately put him in situations which caused him to do something wrong, then she was angry with him, and then after making him cry she enfolded him in her arms to comfort him. She obviously gained pleasure from the outcome. This was all a deliberate act on her part to enable her to express her feelings for him. It was warped and cruel. Now if we can see that this is wrong in fallen man how can we impute similar actions to our heavenly Father? It’s unthinkable. What was the conclusion we came to about the meaning of grace?
G. Grace is the manifestation of God’s love to the undeserving. That’s why they maintain it was necessary for man to sin, so that he became undeserving, thereby to be able to sense, and be thankful for, the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
J. But if God did this, He would be making grace a misnomer. Having given man the gift of freewill, He knew its limitations, and was quite prepared for the misuse of the gift, but if man was forced into sin, this would make him an automaton, without freewill. The very act of making him a sinner denies the operation of freewill. And if we don’t have free will, we are not made in the image of God. It seems to me there’s a possibility they’re idolising “grace”, and twisting it so this false theory could be applied, and it’s wrong to single out one aspect of God’s love. God’s love is so wide, expansive, and all embracing that it is capable of expressing itself towards any circumstance that arises. How can we believe otherwise? But at each turn they are throwing mud in the Lord’s face, and making Him devious, deceptive, and unrighteous. It is shameful and disgraceful and we can’t let this pass without serious response.
G. Of course not. But let me conclude by telling you the rest of the tale. They say God created the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to cause the fall. They treat it as a form of trip wire, to cause Adam and Eve to fall. Furthermore, the Serpent was planted there to assist. They quote Jesus saying “Satan was a murderer from the beginning”? (John 8:44) They interpret this as God actually creating him to be a murderer and a liar. Such was the nature God gave him, so that Satan could bring about man’s fall.
J. This goes from bad to worse, George. Not only is that a monstrous assertion, but logically unsustainable. A righteous God cannot create a being with the nature of a murderer and a liar. And if He did, then justice would demand that Satan cannot be destroyed, because he would be completely non-responsible for his actions. He couldn’t help himself, because he was made that way. Can’t you see that having made their first assumption about God creating evil, they allow the lie to work its way through into a whole pageant of blasphemous error.
G Yes, I agree with you. I thought you ought to know about this teaching, if only to be ready to refute it.
J. Exactly.Wehave always believed God created a race of people with the free ability to choose. Man was created in His image, and therefore he had to have freewill. Having that gift, he would be vulnerable to making the wrong choice, but God had taken that into account, He was not caught napping and off guard, He had made plans before the foundation of the world in case man disobeyed and fell. His great goal was to have all men eventually come to worship and obey Him of their own volition, and this could have been achieved without the fall otherwise we are saying that God needed sin and evil and He doesn’t need anything to enable Him to achieve His purposes. Having achieved this, God would thereby have justified the initial gift of freewill, even with its inherent dire possibilities, to achieve that free and glad worship and obedience of mankind. Everything revolves around the correct use of freewill.
G. They even say freewill is a delusion! They maintain man does not have freewill. They would point to you, for example, saying you are blessed with having been born in England, having loving parents, having a good education, a mind to be able to study the Bible, and so on. But what if you had been born amongst the headhunters of some primitive tribe, with no knowledge of the existence of God, of the Bible, no awareness of the history of the Jews, no knowledge of the death and resurrection of Christ? What then? Isn’t it a matter ofchance, where you are born, what are your surroundings and environment, what sort of brain you find yourself with and so on? How can we say we are all free to choose?
J. There certainly are imponderable questions relating to our place of birth, our personality, our environment, and other factors that vary considerably from one man to another, but to speak in that way is to impute unrighteousness to God. If we have no will to choose, then we are indeed no more than puppets.
G. Yes, I’ve noticed they talk about God’s sovereignty in a very fixed and inflexible manner.
J. So what is sovereignty? Our God is sovereign, He is in complete control of everything, He knows the end from the beginning, He is the Alpha and the Omega. But what does this mean in practice? I know we cannot comprehend the vastness of this, but surely we can grasp some of what it means. Because God is in control this does not mean Hecontrols everything. Even if He were to know every little thing that is going to happen every second of the day, this isn’t control, it is simply knowledge. But on the other hand, if He doesn’t know how I am going to react to a certain situation but remains in complete control, that is amazing sovereignty – wow! He has such control that He doesn’t have to know every one’s reactions. In fact what a boring time He would have if He knew every one’s responses and reactions. He must love surprises just as we do. How can we surprise Him if He knows every thing in advance. When He was angry with Israel and He told Moses He would make a nation of him and destroy them, was He simply having a game with Moses to see His reaction, knowing his response? Was the Master Computer Programmer just feeding in information and getting a pre-programmed response? God forbid, He is not a computer programmer, that is not the God we believe in. He is full of glorious unpredictability, an attribute which He has vouchsafed to us as well, and in which He delights. Therefore that unpredictability must, of necessity be a factor in His reponses to us and therefore He delights to await how we will respond too. And yet, marvel of marvels, within all this, He is still in complete control. This understanding of sovereignty is grander and more expansive than the sovereignty of these people who believe that God created evil, or the God of the Calvinists. Let me give you a simple picture. I am taking my daughter of 2 years old to the park where she is going to go down a slide for the first time. I have no idea how she will handle that experience. Some children love the feeling, others are scared by it. So I stand next to the slide to be there in case she’s scared. I don’t know her response until she starts down that slide. It doesn’t make me any less in control as her parent because I don’t know, I am there anyway to cover every eventuality as any good parent would be. This may be a very poor picture but it does demonstrate what I am trying to say about God’s control.
G. Yes, I see what you mean. This teaching is very disturbing, Jack, isn’t it?
J. The Psalmist says, “All you who love the Lord, hate evil.” (Ps.97:10) Instead of God using sin as an instrument for His work, He declares His hatred of sin, and the tragic circumstances of our Lord’s death show most vividly just how hated it was, in that God the Father had to turn away from His own Beloved Son, dying on the cross as the sin-bearer. As for God creating Satan to be a liar and a murderer, read again in Ezekiel 28, and see that the “anointed cherub who covers” was in fact “perfect in all his ways until iniquity was found in him.” Satan was created perfect, as were Adam and Eve and all the angelic host. How otherwise could God pronounce all His creation “very good”? Far be it from me to impute evil and sin to the Almighty. I believe these people have made a very serious error, and I cannot understand how they began to get these way-out concepts.
G. My investigation showed that these various groups tended to rely pretty heavily on one source, that of the Concordant Publishing group in California.
J. That explains a lot. I happen to know through personal correspondence with them that they deny the deity of the Lord Jesus. They are a group calling themselves Unitarian Universalists, and they have quite a following in the United States. Once you deny the deity of our Lord, you prevent the Holy Spirit from working through you, because one of His main tasks is to glorify the Lord Jesus. If He is disallowed this function, then such people cease to have inspiration, and have to rely on their own minds to establish theology. I think you have found the real basis of all this blasphemous teaching. Being Universalists, they have struggled to eliminate the concept of everlasting conscious torment in hell, but replaced it with a God who inflicts sin on humanity in order to enjoy showing His grace. God is able to save all to the uttermost without resorting to that.
G. So Jack, how do you see sin entering the world?
J. Sin entered this world, and if you like was ‘created’ by, Adam and Eve turning their backs on their Creator and disobeying Him – then sin was ‘created’. It did not exist as ‘something’ to choose or not to choose. The word means “fallenness”, “missing the mark”, and that’s what they did.
G. And what about evil?
J. As I have said before, originally evil was very different to sin. The tree of Tov/Good and Ra/Evil was a good tree. God simply asked Adam and Eve not to eat from it.
G. But in Genesis 3:22, God says “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know TOV/good and RA/evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever -“ and God sent them out of the garden. So there was something about understanding TOV and RA that was dangerous then?
J. No. God intended mankind to become like Himself, the NT is full of such teaching, so that wasn’t the problem. It was the route Satan proposed which was wrong. To understand and have knowledge of TOV and RA in disobedience, and hence in a fallen state, was very dangerous and therefore God had to send them out of the garden so they wouldn’t live forever in that fallen condition.
G. But why was it dangerous if RA wasn’t evil as we know it?
J. As we saw when we studied TOV and RA, RA in its unfallen state was loud/boystrous/magnificent/showy etc. This in a fallen being leads to pride and drawing attention to oneself. RA in the unfallen state would have been a strength righteously under control. For some reason, which we will only understand when we meet the Lord, He chose to use that particular tree to test man’s obedience. I believe He wanted to teach Adam and Eve about TOV and RA but in His own way and in His own time. There is more to investigate on this subject, George, and the prospect is fascinating. Let us remember though, that if their teaching is true and God wanted man to sin then He would be defacing His own image. Almighty God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity, is declared in Scripture to be of a character elevated far above all, He is the Fountain of all goodness. Our Lord Jesus Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sin. To believe that His Father deliberately caused that to happen is unthinkable.
To Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness and live, be all glory and honour and praise. Amen