By Ben Swift
“When evil justifies itself by posturing as morality, God becomes the devil and the devil, God. That exchange makes one impervious to reason.” (Zacharias)
It would be hard to believe that anyone could deny the fact that evil has a real presence in this world. One doesn’t have to travel far through the pages of history to find extraordinarily cruel cases of evil. Take communist Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, for example. In his time of political leadership an estimated 1.5 to 2 million Cambodians died of starvation, execution, disease or exhaustion. Evil however is at its most obvious in cases like these but disturbingly, it can be found lurking in the hearts of every human being; the inherited seed of our most ancient ancestors.
The Rolling Stones song, ‘Paint It Black’, reflectively portrays the darker side of the human heart, continually being blackened by the evil we are all exposed to on a daily basis. Consider the following key lines:
‘I look inside myself and see my heart is black…..It’s not easy facing up when your whole world is black.’
This is why Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias in his book, Deliver Us from Evil, suggests that evil is not just where blood has been spilled but rather it is in the self-absorbed human heart.
Many theologians and philosophers have struggled and wrestled with the question of where evil came from. In other words, who or what was the author of evil?
Theology suggests that sin came into the world through one sin but the question still remains, how was this able to occur when all of creation as described in Genesis was declared to be good by the all-powerful and loving Creator Himself?
Did God create evil? Did God intend evil? How else could evil have made its way into creation in order to bring it down?
While it’s understood that sin came through one human act of rebellion towards God, the temptation to sin in this way was prompted by Satan (Genesis 3). For this to be true, evil must have already existed in Satan. It would make sense then to learn a little more about who Satan is. Jesus uses the following description of him:
“He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
Satan, along with other fallen angels whom he leads, were cast out of Heaven – God’s realm – to await final judgement. The mind of Satan and all his demon allies are permanently set to oppose God, goodness, truth, the kingdom of Christ, and the welfare of human beings. He has real but limited power and as Calvin once phrased, drags his chains wherever he goes and can never hope to overcome God. (Packer)
Despite Satan being completely at odds with God, he is not like God. Their opposing natures cannot be thought of as dualistic, yin-yang type entities. Only God is eternal in that only He has always existed. Satan is His creation and all of His creation was created by and for Himself. For if Satan wasn’t created by God, then by who? And if there was another all-powerful creator responsible for Satan, there would also need to be a realm within which God is not in control. According to Scriptures that cannot be true.
“For by Him all things were created: the things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1: 16)
Importantly, “Everything created by God is good.” (1 Timothy 4:4) and “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
As the Scriptures testify, God made everything good according to His perfect light but something went terribly wrong. Somehow darkness made its way into creation and there is only one legitimate explanation.
If the perfect loving relationship that has eternally existed in the Trinity is to be reflected in mankind back to the God whose image he bears, freedom to love must be allowed to exist. For without the freedom to love, love is meaningless; simply an act of predetermined obedience. When it comes to freedom, however, there must be an available flip side. It is through this freedom that love can become hate, obedience can become rebellion, light can become darkness. And so the story unfolded and continues to play out to this day. No fallen creature is exempt from the aftershock of Satan’s fall from God’s presence into ours, and the day that human beings tried to assume the position of becoming their own God.
Did God create Satan to be evil? Absolutely not! His evil arose from within; from the heart of the father of all lies.
Did God create human beings to enact evil in order to bring about His purposes? No! But He certainly can and has used what man has intended for evil to bring about His purposes.
In the end we can’t shift the blame for the sin that we personally bring into this world. We, as free human beings, have the ability to make choices and must live with the consequences of the wrong decisions of both ourselves and others. Here the relationship between evil, sin and suffering become painfully apparent; world history highlighting time and again what twisted hearts are capable of enacting even to the point of crucifying the Son of God.
It is only at this point, when we come to realise the depths to which evil has become intertwined with the hearts of humanity that we can fully understand the incomprehensible love and mercy shown by Christ as He paid the price for our sin, crushing evil and defeating Satan’s power once and for all through His death and resurrection. Certainly God is not responsible for evil but rather responsible for the unique hope of Christianity in that we can join with Jesus in saying, “It is finished!”