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THEOLOGY > Sin > The Problem of Evil > The Source of Evil


The source of evil is not God, which simply means that God is not the author of evil. Sin does not originate within the essence of God; it is inconsistent with what it means for God to be God—from His holy essence evil cannot arise. The Scriptures are plain:

Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just? (Gen. 18:25);

For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to Yahweh your God (Deut. 25:16);

The Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice (Deut. 32:4);

There is no injustice with the Lord our God (II Chron. 19:7);

Hear me, you men of understanding: far be it from God that He should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that He should do wrong (Job 34:10);

You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with You (Ps. 5:4);

Yahweh is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him (Ps. 92:15);

Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh of hosts (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8);

Do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares Yahweh (Zech. 8:17);

For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God (Lu. 16:15);

Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! (Rom. 9:14);

God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one (Jas. 1:13).

From the above texts we learn that God is thrice holy and that evil does not dwell with Him. All of His ways are just, and no injustice can be attributed to Him; there is no unrighteousness in Him. He does not delight in wickedness; in fact, the wicked are an abomination to Him. He can do no wickedness and He can do no wrong, for our God hates evil deeds. Regarding all of these points the Scriptures are unmistakable.

The central fact to be made is that the source of evil is not God! He did not originate it, and it cannot be credited to Him. Within Him evil cannot be, and by Him evil cannot be committed.

If sin did not originally arise within God and was not part of His original creation, then what is the origin of evil? Some answers proffered are as follows:

Answer of dualism – there are two eternal principles, good and evil, light and darkness; therefore, evil has always existed, and these eternal principles are engaged in eternal conflict; in such suppositions God becomes something less than all powerful and also limited in the exercise of a supposed sovereignty; sin is no longer a moral thing, for man cannot be completely responsible if sin is necessary because it is eternal;

Answer of finiteness – sin is the result of our existence; God could not create something like Himself, so what He created must be less than perfect; He alone is infinite; in man’s finiteness is the basis for evil; view of Leibniz and Spinoza;

Answer of science – evil is man’s inheritance from the struggle to survive; conflict is the essence of survival and only the fit survive; evil is not a moral issue but is the inevitable violent character of an impersonal evolving universe.

In contradistinction to the above answers is the answer of Revelation, the answer of the Scriptures. And according to these the source of sin in the created order was the act of Lucifer, and the source of sin on the earth was the act of Adam.

Evil originated in the person of Lucifer, the one now known as Satan; “The thought, the wish, the will to resist God arose first in the heart of the angels” (Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith, 221; see: Sin in Heaven).

What was the source or essence of Lucifer/Satan’s original act of evil? If he was created good, then what interior element caused him to sin and bring evil into existence? How did it arise within Lucifer in heaven? What caused the thought of rebellion against God?

The sin of Lucifer is veiled in mystery. If the cosmos and the heavenly angelic host that had only recently been created were characterized by goodness and righteousness, then what occasioned the sin by one of them? Is it true that there was no external temptation for Lucifer? How could an evil thought spontaneously originate within the thinking of such a high and holy creature? No evil existed exterior to him and no evil existed within him, but within him sin began. There was no temptation from that which was outside of him, and nothing within him it would seem should have precipitated the sin. But sin he did, first privately and then publicly.

But the sin of Lucifer was not unknown to God prior to God’s creation of him, nor was it unexpected by God after his creation of this exalted creature. God created him knowing the sequence of events that would develop. So God created Lucifer with full knowledge that he would become Satan, and He still created him. Such a thought, such a truth, cannot be fathomed!

With regard to Adam and Eve, evil appeared after day six because at that point God said all of creation was “very good.” God did not restrain Satan from tempting them, and He did not restrain Adam from sinning; He allowed both to take place, even ordained that both would take place. God did not cause Satan to tempt, that was the doing of Satan, although God did create the occasion for the first sin: Garden of Eden; two trees; presence of the serpent, and the command not to eat. Satan, with his crafty ability, had access to Adam and Eve; God did not create Adam with immutability but with mutability, so even in the creation of Adam there was a potential for the sin that arose.

God had foreknowledge that the Fall would take place (He foreknows because He has determined); He determined that the Fall would take place for nothing takes place apart from His will. As some have said the Fall was from a “necessity of immutability” but not from a “necessity of force.” God, therefore, was not the author of sin in the sense that sin did not arise from within Him but from within Adam.

It is impossible to comprehend how a sinful desire and a subsequent sinful act came to be in a mind that was set on righteousness. How did the impulse to sin arise within Adam and Eve? Such a thought, such a truth, cannot be fathomed! John Gill wrote the following:

God permitted or suffered Adam to sin and fall, which permission was not a bare permission or sufferance; God was not an idle spectator of this affair; the permission was voluntary, wise, holy, powerful, and efficacious, according to the unchangeable counsel of his will; he willed, and he did not will the sin of Adam, in different respects; he did not will it as an evil, but as what he would overrule for good, a great good; he willed it not as sin, but as a mean of glorifying his grace and mercy, justice and holiness: and that this was not a bare and inefficacious permission, but attended with influence, is clear; because, there was a concourse of divine providence attending this action, and influencing it as an action, without which it could never have been performed; as divine providence supports every wicked man in his being throughout the whole course of his vicious life, and so while he is sinning; . . . The influences of divine providence concur with every action, since all live, and move, and have their being in God; every action, as an action, is from God; but the obliquity, irregularity, and sinfulness of the action, is from the creature: wherefore God is not the author of any sin; as he is not the author of sin in any man . . . (Body of Divinity, III, Ch. 8, 2).

God cannot be made the author of evil: He gave instruction to Adam not to eat; He warned of the punishment if they ate, and He punished them when they ate. God is the author of our essence or of our substance, but not of our sinful nature. The evil that arose in Eden was man’s doing.

True, sin is not something which goes on outside the pale of His providence; the fall did not take place outside the scope of His foreknowledge, His counsel, and His will (H. Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith, 228);

If in a particular sense one can say that God willed sin inasmuch as without His will, and outside its pale, nothing can come into being or exist, still, it should then always be remembered it is as sin that He willed it, something which is abnormal and ought not to have been at all, something illegitimate, therefore, and in conflict with His command (H. Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith, 228).

One must be willing to affirm that sin is not outside the purpose of God for His creation and that sin is consistent with the eternal will of God. But to affirm more is to run the risk of blasphemy.

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