- Religion and Philosophy
God: the Author of Evil
The so called "problem of evil" has been a thorn in the side of Christian theologians for over two thousand years. Christians believe that it was their God who was responsible for all creation; absolutely nothing exists outside of God's creation. The Christian faith also hinges on the belief that God is all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present. Yet, we live in a world full of suffering; not just human suffering, but the suffering off all species of life on earth. Throughout the ages, the pesky problem of pain or problem of evil has haunted Christian theologians attempting to rationalize how a perfect, loving, personal god could allow the miseries encountered in life to exist, let alone persist. What's more, how could a perfect being have created such an imperfect, brutal existence in the first place? Shouldn’t an all-knowing god have known better, and an all-powerful, loving god cared more? The knee jerk response by Christians has been to postulate an evil rival deity who seeks to destroy all that God has created. The Christian bad guy is known by many names, but is most commonly referred to as the Devil or Satan. Christian theology claims that Satan is the originator of evil, not God. However, postulating an all-powerful, all-good God whose master plan was fouled up by an evil arch nemesis is fraught with difficulty.
The first and most obvious problem, is that according to Christian theology, it was God who created Satan. The creation of such a being immediately begs a series of uncomfortable questions: who or what caused Satan to choose evil? Wasn't Satan originally a part of God? Was Satan not a created being? If Satan was the first created being to choose evil, how did he do it; where did evil come from?
Christian theology attempts to deal with this conundrum by concocting a storyline in which Satan, angels, and then human beings somehow manifested the idea of evil and rebellion on their own, after the great gamble God took by creating beings with free will. However, that argument does not stand up to scrutiny. If Satan was an angel, and God created everything including the angels, then God created evil. The guardians of Christian theology like to pretend that God only created the possibility of evil and the exercise of free will allowed Satan, then man, to rebel against God. Christian apologists have gone to great lengths and invented detailed theologies in order to protect this story line.
Philosopher Peter John Kreeft, PH.D., stated, “He [God] created the possibility of evil; people actualized that potentiality. The source of evil is not God’s power but mankind’s freedom….It’s a self-contradiction – a meaningless nothing – to have a world where there’s real choice while at the same time no possibility of choosing evil.” (1)
I emphatically disagree. Dr. Kreeft’s worn out line of reasoning is not only wrong, it is logically impossible. If God is only good and created all existence, evil and rebellion simply would not be possible any more than a straight curve. If God created everything, then he also created the faculties of choice, emotion and thought; necessarily including all of the possibilities stemming from those characteristics. Without God, there would be no such thing as free will, thought, choice or possibility. Without God, not only would those characteristics not exist, but even the words used to describe those characteristics would not exist. Remember, according to Christian theology, absolutely nothing exists apart from God’s creation. Free will is simply a created faculty as must be all conceivable choices of action. If nothing exists apart from God, then all possible outcomes of free will, every imaginable potential, must have been present within the being of God prior to creation – good and evil. The possibility or potential to actualize evil cannot exist without first having been brought forth by God during creation. No matter how one spins it, there is simply no escaping this reality if one assumes that the Christian God created everything.
So not only did God create the possibility of evil, he then passed it on to his creations like a congenital disease. When God created sentient beings, he endowed them with the characteristics which were eternally present within Him. Contrary to the standard Christian excuse for evil, free will would still be perfectly preserved without having passed on the hereditary potential for evil and rebellion. God’s creations could choose from an abundance of options: whether to eat an apple or an orange, sing a hymn of praise for God or speak a sermon about God. If a person was simply unimpressed by God, apathy could be a choice of action. A person could easily show disinterest, even dislike for God, without choosing deliberate rebellion and evil, particularly if he did not know what evil and rebellion were.
Even the choice of hatred does not translate to evil. Since when does disliking, disagreeing with, or even hating someone mean that one has become evil? If a Jewish woman hated the Nazis for executing her entire family, does her hatred for the Nazis make her evil? If a family member to one of Jeffrey Dahmer's victims hated Dahmer for what he did, is the family member evil? If Christians hate Satan because of Satan's malevolent works, do those Christians suddenly become evil? Of course not. Harboring hatred inside does not make a person evil.
In reality, the creations could make multiple choices regarding their daily routines, careers, interests, art, music, hobbies, diet, lifestyle, etc., all without the infection of evil. Free will would remain unchanged and entirely valid without the possibility of evil. The underlying point is so fundamental that I will repeat it one last time: unless the possibility of evil resided somewhere in the being of God, the possibility of evil choice would not have been transmitted to his creations and evil simply would not exist. Just as the possibility of a square circle cannot exist, the possibility of evil choice cannot exist if the characteristic of evil had not been pre-existent and available as a course of action.
*(1) Strobel, Lee. The Case For Faith. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI. 2000. 37.