As a part of the Unbelievable series, we have made a way for listeners to text in questions concerning the sermon. Here’s a summarized form of a couple of questions that came in:
God created everything good. God created man. Man sinned.
Did God create evil and sin?
This is what theologians often call the mystery of iniquity. There are certainly things we can say about the origins of sin and of Satan. But Christians have historically agreed to say that this is an area where the answer is simply not clear to us. The lack of clarity doesn’t mean that there is a lack of coherence – it just means that God hasn’t revealed it to us.
Still, there are a few things we can consider.
First, just to put it out there, free will doesn’t solve the problem. The existence of the free will of man to choose sin wouldn’t suffice to answer this question because the problem still exists: how could a person, if created good, even have the sinful desire and option to choose sin (which he did)? There is no explanation of the cause for the effect. No, God has not created us as robots that are divinely programmed to choose good. But just because man chose to sin in the Garden of Eden, it doesn’t explain away the origins of sin.
Second is the idea, set forth by Augustine (an early Christian theologian), that evil does not actually exist as a created thing. It is not an independent being. Instead, it is defined as simply not being that which is good. It is a negation, a privation of the good. Evil is only understood insomuch as it depends on good for its definition. While the existence of evil is certainly a question (and a vivid reality in our lives), it raises another: where has good come from? Some would argue that while the Christian faces the difficultly of explaining evil, the person who doesn’t believe in God has the difficultly of explaining both evil and good.
Third, the Scriptures teach that God is both good (Gen 18:25; Deut 32:4) and that he is sovereign over everything, including evil (Prov 16:4; Amos 3:6; Isa 45:7). Though God does not create evil (James 1:13-15), the Scriptures give us room to say that he permits it, stands behind it, controls it, and even ordains it. While that may be difficult to digest, it is also reassuring. Why? Because if evil comes from some source other than God, we would be hopeless. John Frame puts it this way: “It would mean that there are forces of evil that are capable of resisting, even overcoming God’s desires.” But if evil is under the sovereignty of God’s control, we know that his purposes are good and that he is not helpless to defeat it, which he ultimately has through Christ. And we hold tightly to the Scriptures that “all things work together according to God’s purposes for our good.” (Rom 8:28)
When sin meets humanity in Eden through Satan, God was not surprised. In fact, the redemption that was to be accomplished through Jesus Christ was not a plan B option that was scrambled and put together by God because evil suddenly became apparent. No, the plan of salvation was set forth by God before the foundations of the world were even laid (Eph 1:4; 1 Pet 1:20; Rev 13:8). So while we are unsure of the origins of evil and sin, or how Satan, also being created, was able to sin, the Scriptures give us great confidence and clarity about the character of God in spite of sin. He is good, not evil. He is sovereign. And his ways are just and righteous. And so we can trust him.
Perhaps more questions have been raised than answered. But thanks so much for your questions. If you have more, feel free to leave comments or message us directly.