Why Does a Good Creature Choose Evil?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Since the Fall, we know why people choose evil – we are all born with original sin that saturates our soul.  The Fall, however, does not explain why Adam and Eve, or even Satan, used their free will to choose evil, to reject God.

This question may never be answered this side of heaven with any certainty, but William Dembski offers some interesting thoughts about the subject in his latest book, The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World.  Here is Dembski’s stab at this persistent mystery:

Perhaps the best we can do is offer a psychological explanation: Precisely because a created will belongs to a creature, that creature, if sufficiently reflective, can reflect on its creaturehood and realize that it is not God.  Creaturehood implies constraints to which the Creator is not subject.  This may seem unfair (certainly it is not egalitarian).  The question then naturally arises, Has God the Creator denied to the creature some freedom that might benefit it?  Adam and Eve thought the answer to this question was yes (God, it seemed, had denied them the freedom to know good and evil).

As soon as the creature answers yes to this question, its will turns against God.  Once that happens, the will becomes evil.  Whereas previously evil was merely a possibility, now it has become a reality.  In short, the problem of evil starts when creatures think God is evil for “cramping their style.”  The impulse of our modern secular culture to cast off restraint wherever possible finds its root here.

Interesting thoughts.  The creature, in effect, thinks that God is holding out on him, that what God has offered is not as good as what it should be.  Out of humanity, only the man Jesus was ever content with what God gave him, which is why he is the model we are all to emulate.

9 thoughts on “Why Does a Good Creature Choose Evil?”

  1. Where does limited vs total free will fall into this? It would seem that total free will excludes God’s sovereignty, thus rendering us powerful over him to choose our ultimate destiny. But limited free will seems to imply we have the ability to choose, and God is still sovereign over the outcome? Thus God allows us to choose evil over good, and still can use the outcome in his greater plan. Even though our will belongs to us, once we accept Christ as Lord of our life, we accept the Holy Spirit’s contraint over our choices. While still our free choice, we are led by the prodding and direction of the spirit. So is our will truely free, or limited and free?

  2. Hi Jeff,
    If you mean by “total free will” that humans can make choices that are actually 100% completely free, indirectly or directly, from any of God’s influence, then I don’t think any Christian believes that kind of free will exists. Since God created us and knows everything about us, He has, at the very least, indirectly affected our will just by the act of creation.

    In some sense, God has granted us the power of free will, a power that He alone possesses perfectly. He has willed that we use that power to make choices, but he knows exactly how we will choose. How this works, I cannot say, but that we can make choices seems clear from Scripture, and that God is completely sovereign also seems clear from Scripture.

    There are several posts I’ve written on this topic that might be interesting to you.

  3. Jeff,
    It’s interesting that you bring up the concept of God bringing good out of evil choices while we’re talking about Adam and Eve. Isn’t that God’s ultimate plan, to perfect our free will. By his nature He wants us to choose him (human free will is among the things He declared good on the seventh day). In order to let us choose, He logically had to give us the option to disobey Him (and we just don’t know if Adam and Eve had descendants who live eternally in Eden). So then He called men like Noah and Abaham and Moses and prophets to turn back to him. He then sent His son to save us through our faith in him.
    When Christ returns to establish his eternal kingdom, the tree of life will remain but the other tree will be uprooted and thrown into the fire and the sin nature will be removed. This is only logically possible for those who have put their faith in God (if free will is to be preserved). This is how our free will can be perfected.

  4. The idea of original sin doesn’t appear in the old testament or the 4 selected gospels. It shows up later. There isn’t a whole lot of logic in it in my opinion, just a way to get people to think that if they don’t do what the church says they will suffer in eternity.

  5. I think the idea of “Original Sin” is not so much a way to get people to act in the way the church wants, as it is a way to deal with the fact that we don’t seem to be able to do right, and think right, consistently, no matter how much we want to.

    In the OT, I read God as attempting something of a demonstration, or an experiment. I have heard over and over the complaint that God should present himself, make himself known, and tell us plainly that He exists, and people would “believe” in Him. The OT takes up that challenge: What if God picked out a particular group, revealed himself plainly to them, taught them directly how He wanted them to behave towards one another, wrote the basic principles in stone himself. He spoke directly with their leaders, and fought their battles in ways that could not be denied. He even resorted to “bribes” for good behaviour, and punishments for bad. He appeared to all of them in as much clarity as they could stand (The people told Moses that), and to some of their leaders, even more.
    And yet even those who pronounced the Law as Good, and “sweeter than honey” could not do it. Even with all the incentive, they could not “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with [their] God”

    Either we have to say “well, God chose the wrong people! if He had chosen us, we would have done better.” or we have to admit that there is something wrong with us, and Israel as a test case. We do the things we hate, we fail to do the things we know we should (not just the things “the church” tells us), we can’t consistently get it right. The best we can do is to come to some sort of peace with that fact, and say “well, we’re only human” as if that’s not begging the question.

    Whether one likes the phrase “original sin” or not, there is no denying the experiential reality that there is something out of order with my ability to make moral choice. There is a “bondage” of some sort. If I am going to be united with perfect goodness, and perfect righteousness in a perfect setting, how can I not fail to contaminate and ruin such a place by uniting it with my own imperfection?

    To my understanding, one of the unique features of Christianity is that it is centered around that issue. It has a code of moral teaching, and there are lots of good moral teachings in the world, pick one and go with it.

    But Christianity picks up with the issue of the fact that I cannot perform that moral teaching. I can get “better” at it, but I remain imperfect. How can I join with perfection without corrupting it? Philosophically, that is the core distinctive of Christianity.

  6. Sir ,
    I am not that much professional in this kind of debate , but when the question raise about who created evil ? After review ur answer and as being a good Christain from India ( Kolkata ) as u quoted that Adam & Eve was responsible to know about that tree ( Knowledge of good and bad ) as per me i don’t agree at all coz as i know lusifer ( satan ) decieve Eve and Eve convince Adam to eat that fruit . So, i feel lucifer was creates by God and thus God created evil or ( Satan )

  7. Philip,
    When God created Satan, Satan was good. He subsequently chose to become evil of his own free will, so you cannot say that God created evil.

  8. when God created Lucifer he was not Satan, the problem raised when he used his free will in wrong direction and that was the thought of foolishness that i will sit above all, and that thought was counted as a sin. When he was separated from God almighty he became rebellious been.

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