Post Author: Bill Pratt
Now here is a question that many people struggle with. Here is how the argument generally goes:
- God is the Author of everything.
- Evil is something.
- Therefore, God is the Author of evil.
This is a valid syllogism, meaning that if premises 1 and 2 are correct, then the conclusion follows.
Looking at premise 1, is God the author of everything? Well, if he isn’t, then we don’t have a sovereign creator, but that’s what the Bible teaches. We can’t reject this premise.
Looking at premise 2, if we deny that evil exists, then we deny a basic truth about reality. There clearly is evil in the world and we all know it. To deny the existence of evil would be to deny a fundamental aspect of life.
Are we stuck? Not exactly. It turns out that premise 2 is problematic because it misunderstands the nature of evil.
Christians argue that evil is not a thing or a substance. There is no glob of evil floating around the universe. Instead, evil is a perversion of a good thing. It is a privation or lack in something good. Evil takes what ought to be and twists it into what ought not to be. According to Norm Geisler, “Evil is like rust to a car or rot to a tree. It is a lack in good things, but it is not a thing in itself. Evil is like a wound in an arm or moth-holes in a garment. It exists only in another but not in itself.”
That last statement is extremely important to understand. Evil cannot exist by itself. It can only exist where there is already good. You cannot imagine a creature who is pure evil, for instance. Even Satan has many good qualities: 1) he is persistent, 2) he is beautiful, and 3) he is intelligent. What makes Satan so evil is that he was originally created so good!
Good and evil are not opposites, contrary to what many believe. You can have good without evil and that is, indeed, what God promises to those who believe in Christ and dwell in heaven with him. Evil is truly a parasite that leeches on to good and ruins it. Evil is not a real substance, but it is a privation or lack in a good substance. If evil completely destroyed a good thing, then there would be no evil left, because nothing would be left. According to Geisler, “A totally rusty car is no car at all. And a totally moth-eaten garment is only a hanger in a closet.”
So how would the Christian re-frame the argument?
- God created every substance.
- Evil is not a substance (but a privation in a substance).
- Therefore, God did not create evil.
Who is responsible for the evil in the world if God did not create it? That’s a question for another post!