God & Evil

Every once in a while, people will say that I make God the creator of evil and therefore I make God evil. I think that’s a weird accusation. To me, it’s silly to think that God created this world with no thought or intention of evil being present. Clearly He knew it would be present (He established the means for salvation before He created man: Rev 13:8; Rev 17:8), so we have to conclude that on some level, He intended for evil to be present in this world – and not the next.

But what, exactly, is the association between God and evil? I don’t like to be careless on this topic because it’s easy to get wrong. But the Bible does not cast God as an unwitting victim of evil in a universe gone wrong.

Job’s Evil

The book of Job handles the question of evil in an interesting fashion.  I figure that when it’s all said and done, I want to sound like Job does:

But he replied, “You’re talking like one of the godless women would do! Should we receive what is good from God, and not also receive what is evil?” In all this Job did not sin by what he said.   (Job 2:10 NET)

It seems to me that Job is parsing his words quite carefully.

  • He says that Good comes from God.
  • He seems to be saying that evil/calamity also comes from God, but perhaps not in quite the same way.
  • The commentary states that his saying this is not a sin. We would do well to take note of this.

If we look at the rest of the book, we’ll see an interesting pattern fall into place: God sets the parameters for where and how satan can act, and sends him out to do his evil. But when the actions are actually done, they’re ultimately ascribed to God! Take a look:

Authority given to satan:
And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
   (Job 1:12)

Event ascribed to God:
While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”  (Job 1:16)

The actions of evil men are under satan’s influence:
While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”  (Job 1:17)

The winds do evil to Job’s family. Again, context necessitates that we conclude satan is at work:
Behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.  (Job 1:19)

The events are ascribed to God:
And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”   (Job 1:21)

This is now God speaking, saying that He was the one who acted against Job. There is no direct reference to satan in the role of the agent, but one could easily infer it.
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to destroy him without reason.”  (Job 2:3)

Here, we now see satan given permission to harm – but not kill – Job:
Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
   (Job 2:4-6)

An explicit reference to satan doing evil to Job
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 
(Job 2:7)

Still Job associates both good and evil as being sourced from God. Note that the very next phrase says that Job did not sin with his lips – meaning he was not wrong to ascribe this to God. Yet, note that although he ascribes the evil to God, He doesn’t blame God for it. I think the distinction between “ascribe” and “blame” is critical.
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.   (Job 2:9-10)

And finally, at the end of the story…

God confirms that Job was correct in his assessment of God:
After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”  (Job 42:7-8)

Please note that this is the most expensive personal sacrifice recorded in the Bible. Word to the wise: don’t speak wrongly about God.

Once again, we see the evil of Job’s experiences being attributed to God:
Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.   (Job 42:11)

This all strikes me as very odd.

Yet the Bible is pretty consistent on it, not only here in Job, but elsewhere in the Bible.

So whatever we may make of evil, we need to be careful to understand and teach that God is most certainly involved in a very specific way.

But He is not morally culpable.

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1 comment to God & Evil

  • Saying that God is responsible for evil but not morally culpable sure comes across to me as trying to create a distinction where no difference exists. I’ve heard similar arguments regarding sovereign election, or more specifically, double predestination where somehow, God is responsible for the former but not that latter. They’ll yield and speak to the biblical teaching that salvation is all of God (the five verbs done by God that are stated in the Golden Chain of redemption, Romans 9, Ephesians 1, John 6, etc.), then spin around and try and get God off the hook for sending people to hell by saying that no one goes there unless they, via a synergistic “free will” choice, reject God. When examples like Pharaoh (…for this purpose I raised you up) or the many other examples in scripture are brought up where God blatantly uses and manipulates people to accomplish His will, oh my…does the dancing start in an effort to get God off the hook. When pressed for why they believe what the bible doesn’t teach, they inevitably go to a philosophical or emotional defense (not biblical) or they quote partial verses taken out of context that blatantly contradict the lengthy passages of scripture that clearly depict the opposite (A literal rendering of Romans 9:18, “Whom He wishes He mercies, whom He wishes He hardens”).

    I’m not even going to try and pretend that I understand all of this. Still, I accept it because it is consistently taught in the bible, and the bible must be interpreted without contradictions or inconsistencies (God is immutable, He doesn’t change). Evil was clearly something that God was well aware would be present before sin ever entered the world (the world that we know). The events that transpired in the garden were not an unforeseen calamity. God chose His own before the foundation of the world. Ephesians and Revelation clearly speak to this point. In the end, for me, I don’t try and get God off the hook. He does whatever he pleases to accomplish His purpose. He does as He pleases, only as He pleases, and always as He pleases – with NO accountability. So be it – that is the God of the bible and the one that I worship.

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