This is a sensitive topic for light-weight American Christianity. We often subconsciously believe that God is good and Satan is His equal and opposite force of evil. We push back against His sovereignty and we believe that God only redeems the bad for good, He certainly would not ordain the bad. Right?
“I am the Lord, and there is no other;
Besides Me there is no God.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me;
That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
That there is no one besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other,
The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the Lord who does all these.”
– Is 45.5-7
Verse 7 is a difficult verse for many. The word calamity, in Hebrew, is ra’ ( רָעַ) and it means evil. It is found 663 times in the Old Testament, and 442 of those times it is translated as evil. 59 times it is translated as wickedness and 25 times as wicked, the rest of the translations are marginal and along the same lines. So here we have a direct quote from God, declaring who He is and what He does. He declares that He is God, the only God, and His intention is to make that known to mankind. He formed the light and the darkness, and he creates good and evil.
How can that be? How can a good God, who is love, who is righteous and holy, create evil?
Before we delve too deeply into the topic, we need to step back and understand that we are not God, but He is, and Scripture – as His spoken and authoritative word – gets to define reality. We do not have the luxury of picking out parts that we like and parts that we do not like to establish our belief systems. The moment we discredit one part of Scripture, the entire book loses its validity – because if one part may not be true than any part may not be true.
We also need to be careful to keep texts in their appropriate context. If we cherry pick a verse here and there, we can make the Bible say almost anything we want it to say. That’s why theologians suggest that we need to let the Bible interpret the Bible. It will not contradict itself, and thus we must be intentional to study the logic and reason exemplified within the Scriptures and humbly submit ourselves to God.
That being said, we have this extremely difficult passage of Scripture: “I am the Lord, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating evil; I am the Lord who does all these” (Is 45.7). Now, we all know well the reality that God created everything:
“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
– John 1.3
“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”
– Gen 2.1-2
“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
– Col 1.16-17
Scripture clearly teaches us that God created everything: both the physical and the invisible. We also know that God created the moral and holy laws: morality. Part of the creation of man was his conscience. Now, lest we fall into fatalism and basic deism, let us also remember that God is intimately involved in and sovereign over everthing that happens:
“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.“
– Col 1.16-17
“…in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.”
– Heb 1.2-3a
Jesus is continually speaking all things into existence, and he holds everything together. God directs our daily steps, He has an established plan for our lives, He is sovereign.
So God created everything: everything that exists, everything that is invisible, He also wrote the laws of morality and gave us consciences to convict us of evil. Is it possible, then, that God created natural disasters, or evil things, even evil people?
“He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth;
Who makes lightnings for the rain,
Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries.”
– Ps 135.7
“Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish.”
– Gen 6.17
“The Lord has made everything for its own purpose,
Even the wicked for the day of evil.”
– Prov 16.4
“Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?”
– Rom 9.21-22
Scripture clearly and regularly teaches that God is sovereign over and causes natural disasters, and has created everything for it’s purpose: even wicked people. But what purpose could wicked people and evil possible have?
“Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.”
– Rom 9.21-24
God has ordained and sovereignly created evil and wickedness in order to display the riches of His glory upon those who are being saved. Without wickedness to contrast God’s goodness, there is a limited grasp and pleasure in that goodness. We recognize this reality in our daily lives: if you never suffer failure, you will not have the fullest pleasure of success. If you never lose, winning is not a joyful accomplishment. If something is left untested, it is not worthy of praise. In the same manner, when Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, they had fellowship with God, but they did not know the forgiving love of God. This is why the angels marvel and long to look into our salvation. They have fellowship with God, but they have not personally experienced the greatest measure of it: forgiveness.
“It was revealed to [the prophets] that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.”
– 1 Peter 1.12
We also know that God predestined and ordained the life and death of Jesus Christ from before He even created the world:
All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.
– Rev 13.8
But the LORD was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
– Is 53.10
“[Jesus], delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”
– Acts 2.23-24
So we have seen that God created evil, He created evil things like natural disasters and wicked people, all for the sake of making His goodness and mercy known to those who are being saved, and the most wicked of evils – murdering the son of God – was predestined before the World began, for just that purpose: to glorify God by offering salvation to the lost. Thus, we can see and understand clearly that:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
– Rom 8.28-30
All things will work together for God’s glory and to our good. One might oppose on human logic, however, “If God uses evil then He must be evil”. Scripture completely refutes that logic, however:
“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”
– James 1.13
God’s usage of evil, calamity and wickedness is always for our good and His glory. He is sovereign over it, but does not commit wicked acts. Humanity is and always will be responsible for our actions. Thus, even though the murder of Jesus was God’s plan for redemption all along, those who physically murdered Him will suffer the consequences. This is what theologians call “mutual responsibility”.
“For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”
– Luke 22.22
God is the sovereign creator and can create things to preform their function, even if their function is wickedness. This does not cause Him to be wicked, it causes Him to be sovereign. And God is not tempted to evil because His plan is set and He is good. He will not change, and His plan will not change. God does not tempt us with evil, but He does test us by it. And He is glorified by our obedience through it, or our forgiveness after repentance for falling into it.
In summary, yes. God created evil. And it is all part of His glorious plan to glorify Himself, to teach us His greatness and to help us find our greatest joy and pleasure in Him. He is sovereign, He has a perfect plan that will work to our ultimate and eternal best, and we are responsible for how we obey, follow and love that plan. God is good. His plan is good. And He is so awesomely in control of everything that He even orchestrates the evil to be a good part of His plan. Satan is not an equal and opposite force of God, and actually has to report to God for what he is allowed to do, and what he is not allowed to do.
Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD.
– Job 1.12