Q: Is God the source of evil? Did he create evil? What About Isaiah 45:7?
A: It is useful to try to gauge if a person is asking a genuine question and is open to listening to an answer, or if their question is actually a point of attack in the disguise of a question. This area of “The question of evil” is often an area where people have already made up their minds that God is responsible for evil, and they are merely trying to make a point when they ask about the origin of evil. While the Bible most clearly states that God is holy and perfect and in Him there is no evil, many people do not try to assert this, but are aggressively working to prove the opposite. If there is one claim in the Bible that is clear, it is this claim: Deut 32:4, 2 Sam 22:31, Psalm 18:30, Mat 5:48, 1 Peter 1:15, etc. So why is it that so many people are trying to assert the opposite of what the Bible says?
There are only a few possible answers to where evil came from: 1)there is no such thing as evil (e.g. Christian Science) 2) God 3)evil is self-existing (an opposing force or being to God such as the Devil) 4) man.
Jesus identifies the source of evil as within men. He says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean.” (Matthew 15:19). If the source of evil is man, then we can anticipate the response of men to this idea. Being accused of evil is not generally considered a compliment or good thing. Most people accused of evil would try to find a way to deny, rationalize, or excuse this accusation. The apostle Paul writes in the letter to the Romans (8:7), “The sinful mind is hostile to God.” The guilt and judicial culpability of evil is not something that men want to bear responsibility for. If there is a more convenient possibility, we can assume this possibility will be exploited.
The one certain and observable fact that history constantly bears out is that men commit all sorts of evil. It is something reported daily in the newspapers, it is something that we each experience from other people—whether in the deeds of other men, the tongues of others men, etc. The clear and observable immediate source of wrong-doing is man. Yet men do not easily accept their guilt. We can easily see when other people wrong us, but we are not ready to admit when we have personally wronged others. This is because the guilt and associated judicial judgment against evil is not something we want to bear. So we search for another source of the evil, rather than ourselves. We understand this enough so that in crime and justice systems we do not take the word of an accused person, but rather search for the evidence and other witnesses to either corroborate or deny the claim of the accused. If a person is arrested for murder, we do not simply ask “Did you commit this murder?” If they say “No, I didn’t do it,” we don’t apologize and let them walk. We have learned that men are not willing to tell the truth and accept the consequences of evil.
Given this, it is not surprising that even God will be accused of being the source of evil. This is consistent with the observations and claim of the Bible—that men are guilty and therefore hostile in their mind against God. Generally, when men are accused by another of guilt, this is not received well. I remember well when I worked as a waiter in a restaurant. We were supposed to do some preparation work each day for the rush of lunch or dinner such as rolling silverware into napkins. I observed one person who would come in and take the work that others had already done and take these for herself and for her credit. I observed that nearly every day she would go to where the completed rolled silverware/napkins were and take these and place them on her own tray as though she had done this work herself. I decided to confront her with this obvious problem. She did not say, “I am so sorry, I won’t do this any more!” She did not say, “I didn’t understand that I was supposed to do my own work.” Rather, she began to attack me with shouting and all sorts of accusations against my own integrity. This is something of what happens with God. The Bible clearly presents an accusation that man is the source of evil. Rather than taking the obvious statement of truth, men usually pass the blame. And the idea of being confronted by God or Jesus with guilt usually brings a strong reaction.
Something that is often mistaken is the nature of evil. Evil is not a thing in itself. Evil cannot exist on its own. Evil is a denial of good an action or choice contra good. Lying is a denial and bending of the truth. Murder is an obvious action against loving our neighbor. Evil is a bending of good and what is right. It is not necessarily the severe opposite of what is good and right, but more often takes a subtle form, even a deceitful form.
Many often make the mistake of blaming God for creating the possibility of evil. If God gives freedom to creatures and gives them choice, then the possible choice of rebellion and evil is real. Some will then say that God is culpable for he knew that man would choose evil; some will even say that God authored evil because He knew men would choose evil. This is a very strange sort of idea that some will advocate in a haphazard way. They certainly would not apply this to the parents of children: has there ever been a child who has not done something wrong—do not parents know that when they choose to have children, their children will end up doing something wrong—therefore parents are culpable. This is a mild form of the same reasoning that blames God for the evil of men as their Creator. And this argument is usually only applied to God and gets no traction in other forms.
Isaiah 45:7 “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.” Is this a proof from the Bible that God created evil? No. The first part of this passage is a statement of actual light and darkness, not the moral analogy of good and evil. If a person wants to blame God and find a way to park the blame for evil with God and find this in the Bible, then the misreading of this verse for that purpose would make sense. This is more a proof of antagonism on the part of some who are looking for and trying to force into the Bible the idea that God created evil and is responsible for evil.
I hope this is helpful to you,
Wyatt, for Karma to Grace