Evil is real. It is not just an illusion. Some think that this is a problem for theists, for if we believe that God created everything, then we must also accept the consequence that God created evil. This puts the theist in a difficult position because, on the one hand we can’t deny the reality of evil, but on the other hand we can’t attribute the existence of evil to a God who is all loving and all-powerful.
Some try to solve the problem by arguing that evil (or the devil) is co-eternal with God. This is a form of “dualism.” Biblically, this is not acceptable for the simple reason that only God is eternal (1 Tim. 6:13-16). Satan is not on par with God at all. Rather, he is a created being. But could “evil” still be eternal? We think not.
Some would believe that to deny that evil (or the devil) is eternal means we must attribute evil to God, and this makes the concept of a loving God untenable. God would then have to be author of evil, according to the argument. A few simple thoughts can help put some of this issue in perspective.
First, evil is not a “thing” that exists all on its own. Satan is a real being, but he is a free-will being with moral responsibility. Evil is not something that just “exists” apart from everything else. It is really more of a condition that exists based upon other factors like attitude and choice.
Second, the Bible teaches that God created mankind with free moral choice (and, by implication, that the devil was a free-will creature). The nature of choice is that there are different ways one can go. Further, the nature of God is that He is holy and just, and the existence of law is a part of this. So there is law and choice, which means that there is a possibility of breaking law based upon the free will of the individual. Evil, then, is not created by God, but is rather a by-product of making a free choice that is opposed to His nature. Anytime there is law and choice, there is the possibility of breaking the law, and therefore the possibility of evil.
People cherish free will. We want to be able to choose our own way. But corollary to free will is the possibility of evil. So one might argue that God should completely abolish evil, but it would then be at the expense of free moral choice. He could have made us robots, but He didn’t. He gave us the ability to choose whether or not we will love and serve Him.
Perhaps it seems ironic that one of the reasons we are created with free will is so that we can choose to love God. In fact, the existence of free will is, I believe, one of the proofs that God loves us. How so? God is love, and love seeks a loving response. If we are made in the image of God, then we must have the capacity to love. But the capacity to love necessitates free will, for love is not love unless it can be freely chosen and given. Yet free will comes with risk. Clearly God was willing to take that risk because of His own loving nature.
Evil is a reality brought about by the abuse of free will. But God has answered it through Jesus. And in that answer, God has demonstrated the greatest amount of love possible. If any question the love of God, let them look at the cross, for in the cross God has conclusively shown how much He loves.
God made us moral beings. It is our responsibility to act with moral conscience. If we choose to act immorally, then the problem of evil cannot be attributed to God.
Doy Moyer is a native of California. He is 41 years old and has been married to Laurie (Teel) Moyer since May 1986. They have three children: Caleb (17), Luke (14), and Audrey (12). He has been preaching the gospel for over 20 years, working with congregations in Louisiana, Kentucky, Ohio, California, and Florida. He presently resides in Florida and works with the church in Cork, outside of Plant City. For five years he was an associate editor of Focus Magazine, and has written numerous articles for various publications. Since August, 2001, Doy has been teaching Biblical Studies, Evidences, and Philosophy at Florida College in Temple Terrace, FL. He has his own web site located at http://studywell.org. You can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.