Many people seem to think that good and evil are equal and opposite, and that good cannot exist without evil. In the Bible, God is the Good and Satan always represents evil. Are God and Satan equals?
The book of Job answers this question once and for all. God is clearly in command and Satan cannot do anything without God’s permission. God is the Creator and Satan is the creature, so they are not in any sense equal to each other.
God has always existed and Satan has not. Therefore, good existed before evil. Today evil exists along with good, but that is only for a limited time. The Bible promises that at the second coming of Jesus, evil will be quarantined so that all those who love God (the Good) will no longer have to live with those who reject God (and do evil). So, yes, there can be good without evil because evil is the result of finite creatures rejecting God (the Good).
According to the Bible, an angel created by God (Satan or Lucifer) was the first creature to bring evil into the universe. But the question arises how this good creature, created by a good God, living in a good universe, could choose evil. God did not cause Satan to sin, so who caused Satan to sin?
Theologian Norm Geisler tackles this problem in his book If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Question. Geisler argues that there are only three options for who caused Satan to sin:
The best way to comprehend the basis of a free act is to examine the three possible alternatives. A free act is either uncaused, caused by another, or self-caused. That is, it is undetermined, determined by another, or self-determined.
No action can be uncaused (undetermined); that would be a violation of the law of causality (every event has a cause). Neither can a free act be caused by another; for if someone or something else caused the action, then it is not ours (not from our free choice) and we would not be responsible for it.
Hence all free actions must be self-caused, that is, caused by oneself. Now we can answer the question, “What caused Lucifer to sin?” No one did. He is the cause of his own sin. Sin is a self-caused action, one for which we cannot blame anyone or anything else. Who caused the first sin? Lucifer. How did he cause it? By the power of free choice, which God gave him. Thus God made evil possible by creating free creatures; they are responsible for making it actual.
So how did evil arise by free will?
1. A good creature (Lucifer),
2. With the good power of free will,
3. Willed the finite good of the creature (himself)
4. Over the infinite good of the Creator.
It is important to note that no evil need exist in order to will evil; for example, willing a lesser good can be an evil. Evil is created by a free person (oneself), and such a person does not have to participate in something outside of himself in order to be evil. The evil of willing oneself to take the place of God is an evil in itself. In fact, this is precisely what the Bible says about the first evil act of Lucifer: It was pride. . . .
Thus sin was born in the breast of an archangel in the presence of God. A stunningly beautiful and extremely powerful creature fell when he made himself, rather than God, the object of his adoration. God created only good things. One good thing He made was free will. A good being, with the good power of free will, chose to put his will over God’s. Who caused Lucifer to sin? No one else did – he was the cause of his own sin. Sin is a self-caused action, caused by oneself. Hence it is as meaningless to ask, “Who caused Lucifer to sin?” as it is to ask, “Who made God?” No one made God, the Unmade Maker, and Lucifer is the maker of his own sin.
Many people mistakenly believe that while God is totally good, Satan, or the Devil, is totally evil. They are polar opposites of each other.
This idea, however, is false. Satan, while being totally evil in a moral sense, is not totally evil in a metaphysical sense. Theologian Norm Geisler explains the distinction in his book If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Question. Geisler writes:
The Bible speaks about Satan as “the evil one” (1 John 5:19) who is a liar by his very nature (John 8:44). Surely there is no good in Satan – is he not totally evil? Yes, he is completely evil in a moral sense, but not in a metaphysical sense. Just like fallen humans still have God’s image, even so Satan has the remnants of good that God gave to him as a created angel.
For example, Satan has good insofar as he is a creature of God, insofar as he has intelligence, and power, and free will. Of course, he uses all these God-given good powers to do evil; he is ever, always, irretrievably bent on evil. But this is only to say he is totally depraved morally, not that he is totally deprived of all creaturely good metaphysically.
God, on the other hand, is totally good, both metaphysically and morally. They are not opposites in a metaphysical sense. In fact, Satan could not even exist unless God created him. Evil is a corruption of good, a parasite. A personal agent who is totally and completely evil is, therefore, impossible.
Post Author: Bill Pratt
The Bible clearly teaches that God is morally perfect and holy, that he hates sin. Habakkuk 1:13 says that God is too pure to look on evil. Christians often say that God cannot allow any sin in his presence.
But, this is not the whole story. There are also several instances in the Bible where Satan and other demons are said to be in God’s presence (e.g., Job 1:6; 2 Chron. 18:18-21; Rev. 12:10). In addition, the prophet Isaiah, himself a sinful man, was in the presence of God, as recorded in Isaiah 6.
We also know that God is omnipresent, which means he is present everywhere. “‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the Lord, ‘and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 23:23-24). If he is present everywhere then he cannot but be in the presence of sinful creatures.
So what are we to make of all this? I think the simple answer is that Habakkuk 1:13 is a commentary on God’s moral perfection and holiness. It is not meant to be a statement about his physical presence. In fact, the full rendering is, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil.” But we know God does not literally have eyes! God is spirit (John 4:24) and does not have a physical presence.
The Bible teaches that God is opposed to sin and evil, that he is holy and righteous. We know that eventually he will quarantine evil from good when he creates the New Heaven and Earth (Rev. 21). At that time, God will physically separate those who love him from those who don’t. Those who love him will no longer be in the presence of sin from that point forward.
Until then, God tolerates the presence of sin in order to accomplish his purposes with mankind. Thank goodness, because if God truly could not be in the presence of sin, none of us would be here!