WARNING: Some of the ideas in this article can be misinterpreted as heresy. This article must be read very carefully, and its ideas can only be correctly understood in the context in which they are presented.
The existence of evil in the world has been a major stumbling block for many, both Christians and non-Christians. How can a God who is good create evil? If God did create evil, then He cannot be entirely good. If God didn't create evil, then He didn't create everything. There seems to be no third alternative.
Christians believe that God is absolute good. They also believe that God created everything. With the two premises mentioned above, non-Christians can refute these two beliefs, and not only justify their unbelief, but weaken the belief of those presenting the Christian faith to them. Christians that do accept these two premises become disconnected from God, as these two premises strike at the very root of Christianity.
God is not absolute good if He created evil. This premise is entirely correct. Creating evil is itself an evil act; therefore a god that creates evil must himself be evil.
Is the Christian God evil? Any Christian would say no! He would also go further and say, "Everything God has created is good." (1 Timothy 4:4) The only conclusion we can draw is that God did not create evil.
God is not the Creator if a being other than Him created evil. This premise is also entirely correct. Creating evil is nonetheless an act of creation; therefore if someone or something created something independently from God, God becomes a god, and not the source of all creation.
Did the Christian God create everything? Any Christian would say yes! More specifically, he would say that it is through Jesus Christ that everything was created: "Through Him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through Him." (John 1:3) The only conclusion we can draw is that God did create everything.
Here we have two conclusions that seem to disagree: God created everything; and, God did not create evil. How can these two conclusions coexist? What is the third alternative that makes sense of this?
Simple logic will give us the answer. God created everything, but He did not create evil; therefore, evil has not been created.
The immediate thought that comes to mind with this new premise is that evil existed before creation. We shall soon see that in a way, this is correct; however, strictly speaking, this is not correct. Remember that "not one thing had its being but through Him."
Other than God, all that exists has been created, and since evil has not been created, evil does not exist.
If it is true that evil does not exist, it is reasonable to conclude that the opposite of evil does not exist as well; therefore, good does not exist.
This conclusion is supported in Scripture. In Genesis 1:4, "God saw that the light was good." In verse 10, "God called the dry land 'earth' and the mass of waters 'seas,' and God saw that it was good." In verse 12, "The earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seed in their several kinds, and trees bearing fruit with their seed inside in there several kinds. God saw that is was good." In verses 18, 21, and 25, God repeatedly declares what he created "was good." Verse 31 goes further to say that all that God created "was very good." As well, 1 Timothy 4:4 says, "Everything God has created is good." Nowhere in Scripture does it say that God created good, only that what God created "was good" or "is good." What God created was good, but good itself was not created.
Good and evil are not things that can be created, but states that a created thing can be in. This is much like off and on. Off does not exist. It is not a thing that can be created. Evil is no more a thing than off is a thing. A thing can be evil or good, just like a thing can be off or on. Evil is a state, not a created thing. Good and evil do not exist.
What is the difference between good and evil? Most people have an innate ability to distinguish whether a thing is good or evil; however, few understand what makes something good and what makes something evil. To articulate this difference we will use an analogy of a light bulb. A light bulb is on when an electric current flows through its filament, heating it to incandescence. When the electric current is present, the light bulb is on. When the electric current is not present, the light bulb is off. In this analogy, the light bulb is a created thing, on is good, off is evil, and the electric current is the presence of God. When something is in the presence of God, it is good. When something is not in the presence of God, it is evil. The absence of God produces an evil state.
This is where it could be suggested that evil existed before creation. Where God is, is the state of good, and where God is not, is the state of evil. There are two main problems with this suggestion: there is no created thing to be either good or evil; and, there is no created place for God to be or not to be.
Be careful not to be too literal here. We are trying to understand the eternal with transitory words and concepts. The concepts of presence and places are transitory. God is not limited to such concepts.
Did God create anything that was not in His presence, that is to say, in the state of evil? No! "God saw all He had made, and indeed it was very good." (Genesis 1:31) "Everything God has created is good." (1 Timothy 4:4)
How, then, does something change states, from being good to being evil? The thing itself must make a conscious decision to change states; a conscious choice to be where God is not.
To make such a choice, a thing must have two abilities: the ability to make a choice, and ability to distinguish between good and evil. There are only two classes of things that posses these abilities, angels and men.
The first thing to make the choice to change states from good to evil was Lucifer, the Luminous One, the greatest of the angels. Revelation 12:4 tells us that a third of the angels following Lucifer, and chose to change states from good to evil.
A few verses later in the Book of Revelation, verses 7 through 9, we are told that there was a war in Heaven, in which St. Michael the Archangel and his angels threw Lucifer and his angels out of Heaven, down to Earth. Again we must be careful not to be too literal. Spiritual warfare is only allegorically similar to terrestrial warfare, and not literally the same. Angels are purely spiritual beings; therefore Spiritual warfare is not the same a physical warfare. St. Michael and his angels made the conscious choice to remain in the state of being good, and therefore remained in Heaven, which is the presence of God. Lucifer and his angels made the conscious choice to change to the state of being evil, and were therefore no longer in the presence of God. The war was comprised of the conscious decision made by the angels, not a physical battle.
To be in the presence of God, that is good, is to be in Heaven. To not be in the presence of God, that is evil, is to be in Hell. (Remember that we are trying to comprehend eternal places with transitory minds. Heaven and Hell are not physical places.) However, Revelation 12:4 and verse 9 say that Lucifer and his angels were not thrown in to Hell, but to Earth.
Earth is an interesting place, as are its inhabitants. It is the only place that is transitory, and the only place where Heaven and Hell, which are eternal, can both exist. To be in Heaven is to be good, and to be in Hell is to be evil. The temporarily transitory (mortal) beings that inhabit Earth, man, can be good at times and evil at times. Once they become eternal (immortal), they can no longer change states back and forth. They are either good for all eternity, that is, in Heaven; or, they are evil for all eternity, that is, in Hell. The eternal decision made by man as to be in Heaven or Hell is made while he is still mortal. Once he becomes immortal, he can no longer change his state.
Not having the benefit of the mortality, the eternal decision made by the angels could have only been made once. To return to the analogy of a light bulb and the electric current, angels are like fuses: once they are off, they are off for ever. Men, at least while they are mortal, are like circuit breakers: once they are off, they can be reset to on.
Did man always have the ability to choose between good and evil? Yes! Man was placed in the Garden of Eden (cf. Genesis 2:15). God also placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden (cf. Genesis 2:9). God commanded man not to eat from this tree (cf. Genesis 2:17). This was the choice that man had to make: be good and not eat from the tree; or, be evil and eat from the tree. The choice was always there.
Like the angels, man had the choice to remain in God's presence, and be eternally good by not eating from the tree. Unlike the angels, once man chose to not be in God's presence, he was not eternally damned, but could switch back and forth between good and evil until the end of his transitory life.
Like the battle between the angels that chose to be evil and the angels that chose to remain good, it is likely that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not a physical tree. The tree is likely allegory for the conscious decision made by man to remain in the state of good, or to leave God's presence and change states to evil.
Once man did leave God's presence, God realised it and went looking for him (cf. Genesis 3:9). This continues today. When ever we sin, that is, change our state from good to evil, God comes looking for us. He does not seek out the righteous, but the sinners (cf. Matthew 9:13). God calls all sinners to return to the state of good.
God did not create evil because evil is not a created thing. Evil is the state in which a created thing is not in the presence of God. Evil is the absence of God.
I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil: I, the Lord, that do all these things.
This verse may seem to discredit everything said in this article. It seems to prove that God did create evil, and would therefore be evil Himself. This is where we must be very careful in interpreting God's Word. The above quote is from the Douay-Rheims translation, and is very similar to the King James Version. The modern descendants of the Douay-Rheims and King James are the New American Bible and the Revised Standard Version; both of which replace the words create evil with create woe. This translation is actually alluded to in the Douay-Rheims Haydock commentary, which refers to the evil in this verse as: "The evils of afflictions and punishments, but not the evil of sin." The evil discussed in this article is the evil of sin, not the evils of afflictions and punishments. These are two different contexts, and should not be confused.