The question of whether God created evil is an age-old theological debate that has challenged believers and non-believers alike. At first glance, it may seem that evil cannot originate from a good and loving God. However, a careful examination of Scripture reveals that God is not the author of evil, yet He did create the potential for evil to exist.
To begin, it is important to define what we mean by “evil.” In a broad sense, evil refers to anything morally bad, sinful, or wicked. More specifically, the Bible describes evil as rebellion against God and His good purposes. Genesis 3 records the first human rebellion against God, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command and ate the forbidden fruit. Their sin ushered evil into the once-perfect creation.
God warned Adam and Eve that if they ate the forbidden fruit, they would “surely die” (Genesis 2:17). This points to an important truth – evil is not part of God’s original design. God created the world “very good” (Genesis 1:31), but gave humans the ability to choose between obedience and disobedience. Tragically, Adam and Eve rejected God’s ways and embraced sin. Their choice introduced evil into the human heart and experience.
But did their ability to choose evil mean that God Himself created evil? Scripture makes it clear this is not the case. 1 John 1:5 states, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” James 1:13 says God cannot even be tempted by evil, much less create it. So evil originates not from God, but from willful creatures who have chosen to rebel against their Creator.
Why then would God endow His creatures with a will that could open the door to evil? Because true love and goodness cannot exist without free choice. Forced obedience is not true obedience. So God sovereignly grants humans the dignity of significant moral freedom – but also warns of the consequences of misusing this gift. Evil stems from the abuse of created free will, not from a flaw in the Creator.
Moreover, God remains sovereign even over the evil in this world. Though He does not cause evil, He sometimes permits evil actions to fulfill His wise and good purposes (see the story of Joseph in Genesis 50:20). And He promises to ultimately defeat all evil and suffering, delivering the righteous into an eternal kingdom of perfect goodness once again (Revelation 21:4).
So did God create evil? No. Evil originated in created free will, not the Creator. Yet God in His sovereignty remains ruler over all, working all things together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). This grand hope in God’s ultimate victory is the Christian’s answer to the problem of evil.
In summary, the Bible makes these key points about God and evil:
- God is perfectly good and there is no evil in His nature (Psalm 92:15).
- God created the world perfect, but gave humans free will that made sin possible (Genesis 1:31).
- The first human sin introduced evil into God’s good creation (Genesis 3:1-7).
- God is sovereign over evil, but He does not cause or approve of evil (Proverbs 16:4).
- God permits evil to fulfill His wise and good purposes (Genesis 50:20).
- God will deliver the righteous from evil eternally (Revelation 21:4).
The Bible’s testimony is clear – evil originated in created free will, not the Creator. Yet God remains sovereign over all events, working even through evil for the ultimate good of those who trust in Him. This glorious promise sustains believers in the struggle against the evil of this present age.
Let’s explore a few common objections and questions that arise from this discussion:
If God is good, why does He allow evil?
This is perhaps the most common question raised against the Christian faith. First, it is important to reiterate that God does not cause evil. Sin, suffering, and death are the rightful consequences of humanity’s rebellion against God. If God prevented all evil, He would have to deprive humans of meaningful free will and choice.
However, God does allow evil under His sovereign oversight. Scripture reveals that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil. For example, God allows evil to display His justice and wrath against sin (Romans 9:22). He also uses evil to humble sinners and cause them to seek Him (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). God can even use evil for good in the lives of those who love Him (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28).
One day God will completely vanquish all evil, and the redeemed will understand God’s purposes fully (Revelation 21:4). For now, believers are called to trust in God’s wisdom and goodness, clinging to the hope that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). God uses even the tragedies of this fallen world to draw people to eternal salvation.
Is God the creator of Satan and demons?
Satan and demons are morally corrupted heavenly beings who rebelled against God. Scripture indicates that Satan was originally an angel created good by God, but he chose to exalt himself in rebellion against God (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:12-19). A third of the angels followed him in rejecting God’s rightful authority (Revelation 12:4).
Because God created all beings, one could say He created Satan and demons. But God did not directly create evil spirits with sinful purposes. Like humans, these beings were endowed with genuine free will, which they misused for evil. Their corruption originates from themselves, not their Creator.
Didn’t God create the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
Yes, God created the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and placed it in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). This tree represented the choice to define morality apart from God. Eating its fruit was a transgression that led to spiritual death and evil in the human heart (Genesis 3:1-7)
Creating this tree did not make God the author of evil, however. Again, God created a good world and gave humans moral freedom. That some would use this freedom for evil was foreknown by God, yet the fault lies with the creatures who choose evil, not the Creator.
Doesn’t God use evil to accomplish His purposes?
God is sovereign over evil and can use it to accomplish His good purposes. But this does not mean He approves of evil or needs it to achieve His plans. Examples in Scripture show God permitting or limiting evil to fulfill His will.
For instance, God allowed Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery, but used it to save Israel from famine years later (Genesis 45:5-8). Even the greatest evil in history – the crucifixion of Christ – was used by God to provide salvation to the world. Yet evil remains evil, and God holds evildoers morally accountable for their actions.
So yes, God is able to use evil to fulfill His good plans. But He does not need evil to do so. His holiness remains untainted by the evil He rightly judges and conquers.
What about verses that say God creates evil?
A few biblical texts can seem puzzling at first glance. For example, Isaiah 45:7 says God forms light and creates darkness, makes well-being and creates calamity. Amos 3:6 asks if calamity comes to a city unless the Lord has done it.
However, the Hebrew word translated “evil” or “calamity” in these verses refers to judgment or misfortune, not moral wickedness. God sometimes brings righteous judgment through difficulty. But Scripture makes clear this judgment is for sin, which God does not directly cause or approve of.
Other problematic passages use similar language but point to God undoing evil, not causing it. These texts emphasize God’s sovereignty even over the evil in the world – evil He will ultimately vanquish. Nowhere does Scripture teach that God Himself creates moral evil.
Why doesn’t God restrain Satan more?
This question relates to God’s mysterious timing in when and how He accomplishes His purposes. Scripture indicates that God allows Satan significant leeway for a time. Why God allows this is not fully revealed.
However, we know God has wise and good purposes for allowing evil to continue until the time appointed for its destruction. These reasons likely include bringing the fullest extent of sin to light (1 Timothy 4:1), manifesting Himself as Redeemer of an enslaved creation (Romans 8:20-21), and displaying His justice and mercy most fully (Romans 9:22-24).
God’s timing and purposes are often beyond human comprehension. But we can trust Him who promised to crush Satan under our feet (Romans 16:20). For now, believers cling to God’s sovereignty and goodness, resisting the Enemy (James 4:7) and waiting eagerly for Christ’s return.
In closing, the Scriptures resoundingly affirm God’s holiness and deny that He is responsible for originating evil. Evil instead flows from the sinful abuse of created free will – first by Satan and demons, then spread to the human race. This is the Bible’s sobering testimony regarding evil’s origin and ongoing influence.
Yet in the end, evil will be vanquished and God’s kingdom shall reign eternally. God remains sovereign even over the evil permitted for a time under His wise oversight. His purposes for allowing evil – though sometimes perplexing to humans – remain righteous and good. Despite the present darkness, believers cling to the glorious hope that their Redeemer is mighty to save, and “He who began a good work will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6).