Did God Create Evil?


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

Not one sparrow will fall to the ground apart from God.

When I was a little girl, my family lived on the edge of the city of Philadelphia.  Our yard was full of full grown evergreen and maple trees that towered over our house.  Every year the starlings would nest in our trees, and many times baby birds would fall out of the nest.  Being an avid animal lover and having a curiosity about pirates, I would rescue those baby birds.  I had found a robin’s nest that I kept on my windowsill.  I would go out and hunt worms to feed my baby birds, and take care of them until they were big enough to learn how to fly and return to the wild; my back yard.  I loved those birds!  As they grew, I would train them to sit on my shoulder and I would pretend to be a pirate, standing outside waiting for my dad to come home from work.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”

– Matt 10.29-31

I vividly remember reading that passage one morning, and immediately going to visit a church with some friends in Cleveland, OH.  While we were standing and singing the first song of the service, I looked out of the window and saw a squirrel running down the trunk of a tree.  The reality hit me right then, God is overseeing and ordaining the movements and life of that fluffy brown squirrel.  My mind then raced back to those starlings falling out of their nests – God was sovereign over every single little bird that fell and giving me the chance to care for them.  He numbers the steps of even the animals that no one will ever see!  Not one sparrow or starling will fall to the ground apart from God.

And you are much more valuable than many sparrows!  God knows the number of hairs on your head.  He loves you, He created you, and He is in sovereign control of your life.  Whatever situation in which you find yourself today, God has established it for your growth and for His glory:

The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

– Prov 16.9

There is no greater comfort for me than to know that God has everything under control.  Everything that has happened in my life and your’s is a part of His glorious, eternal and perfect plan.  And it is in this confidence and comfort that Jesus can exhort us,

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

– Matt 6.34

God knows our needs.  In fact, he gave us those needs.  And He promises to care for His children to bring about our sanctification (Matt 6.8, 32).  He may not give you what you think you need, and He may not give you what you want.  But He will cause your path to bring you to the end that He has foreknown and established for you before the foundation of the world (Eph 1.4).

Enjoy Him today.  Trust Him.  Let the words of this Psalm be your prayer back to Him as you relinquish your desire for control over your life:

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

Psalm 139.1-16