God and Evil

I’ve been having a “heated discussion” (Andy’s words, not mine) over at a friend’s blog and while the discussion has been good, I feel as though I have overstayed my welcome. So I’m moving the discussion front and center, partly to make keeping up on the discussion easier (navigating ’round Xanga stinks) and partly to have a record of it on my own blog.

The post originated with this blog entry that Andy linked to which essentially said that because God created everything, we can revel in everything. I responded that at the gist of what he was saying was that God created evil. Jeremy Killian then chimed in on the discussion and we had a go of it: (I’ve made my comments red to make reading easier, not because I’m a megalomaniac)

Me: Didn’t you see the comment I wrote on Josh’s blog? Here it the gist: “So is it safe to assume that the long and short of what you’re saying is that since sin is in the world, we should revel and find meaning in it because God put it there?” I realized right away that he was calling sin beautiful because it’s all part of God’s “grand scheme”. That’s a great way of mixing Taoism into this whole discussion, but I’m not buying it. Why don’t we just slap a ying-yang on our pulpits and say that everything, both good and evil, is ordained and maintained by God? Oh guess what? I just made a new best friend, and his name is Judas… I mean come on, he didn’t have a choice! His betrayal was predestined! That great big Bully in the sky pulled a Charlie McCarthy and violated His own holiness by proxy.

Jeremy: Now you’re on to something completely different. God’s creation of everything, even evil…that’s kind of something that I am still very uncomfortable in addressing…although, at some points in Isaiah and in Amos, God comes very near saying this about Himself. I think I’ll let Him speak for that one. I also need to address something that you referenced to in your “Tao…pulpit” statement. Saying that God created evil is not Taoist. As a matter of fact, it is just about as far as one can get from Taoism. Taoism states that Evil and Good are forces that must exist in order for the other to exist. They are dependant on one another, and equal in power. Is that the same as a transcendant being creating His opposite? I hardly think so.

Me: I think you understood where I’m coming from, though, and that’s a start. You mentioned that Taoism states that Evil and Good are forces that must exist in order for the other to exist… if God created Evil, as a Calvanist, wouldn’t you say that He feels it necessary for it to exist? What makes you so confident that God doesn’t need Evil to exist, especially if you believe God created it? Now, admittedly, this doesn’t make Evil equal in power to God; but it is certainly a silly charade if He doesn’t need it and keeps it around just for no reason.

Jeremy: I think that I recanted Calvinism a few comments back…but nevertheless… So, you think that Evil exists outside of God? Like to hear some evidence for that one. I’m not being sarcastic here, honestly, if the evidence exists, please fill me in.

Me: Romans 5:12-14: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.” (Adam introduced sin into the world, and if Evil is a part of God’s nature, then God would have been incomplete without it having been introduced yet. Ok, this says sin “entered the world” through Adam, but it could have existed before “outside the world”–keep reading…)

James 1:13-15: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (notice that sin springs forth from the womb of lust, not the hand of God)

I John 1:5: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”

Jeremy: Again, I don’t say that Evil exists as part of God…that is heresy, based upon the Scripture. but I do think that there is a difference between the abstract concepts of Sin and Evil. So, I don’t agree that man was the cause of evil…Don’t forget, God created the Choice.

“16For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”-Colossians 1:16-17

I think this passage not only speaks of physical “things”, but of intangible concepts (visible and invisible). Dr. William Lane Craig taught me about two categories of existance in the universe: things that exist because of a prior Cause (integral to the defense of the Kalaam cosmological argument), and things that exist upon necessity of themselves (numbers and other related abstract concepts). I think that Evil falls into the first category. God does not need Evil to exist, but to say that it exists outside of God’s reign I think is an opening to all kinds of heresy. To say that man created Evil gives man an ability that apparently God could not have (in your view–I think).

Andy butts in acts as a kind host: Ah, this is like having two guests over who commence to holding a heated discussion at my table, as I serve them tea and biscuits. One lump, or two?

Karla: Okay, not planning to jump in on this whole debate, but I had one little thought regarding Jeremy and Jesse’s conversation. I’ve always seen evil like darkness. God created light, not darkness. He separated them after light was created, but darkness is just the absence of light. Evil would then be the absence of righteousness. God created perfection, and when man deviated from that, evil existed. Really, I guess the beginning of that would be when Satan rebelled. However, evil existed because a choice was made, right? God didn’t say, “Let there be evil!” Quoting Jeremy: “So, you think that Evil exists outside of God? Like to hear some evidence for that one.” Evil is the absence of holiness. (True holiness = God) His holiness demands that evil be absent, just as light demands the absence of darkness. Evil in our hearts, as humans, stems from the sin nature we received through Adam, and as our “old nature” causes us to be susceptible to sin.

Jeremy: Great thought, but have you ever considered where you get the concept of “opposite” from? Before the creation of the universe, nothing existed but God…not darkness…nothing “he is before all things; and by Him all things consist..” God was the only thing there.

Maybe this analogy could help (not sure if it is totally viable, but it’s worth a shot): Let’s say that you were placed into a room that was entirely illuminated, completely covered by light. No shadows existed in this room at all. It would be difficult to navigate this room, wouldn’t it? You see, the shadows help us appreciate and see the Light for what it is…clarity and truth.

Maybe that’s why God allowed (let’s not say created anymore) the abstract concept of Chaos or Evil into the universe. I firmly believe that God is so big that he transcends this concept: not that Evil is a part of Him (as Chesterton subtitled The Man who was Thursday, a Nightmare—rabbit trail, sorry), but that He has indeed perpetuated Entropy to allow for freedom of the Will. So that we might perceive Him in all his Holiness.

Evil will end. God will not. I also think that this is another important distinction from Taoism.

Me: Ok, I follow, Jeremy. (whew, almost missed the comma before Jeremy… what a mess THAT would’ve been!)

There is a HUGE (say it slowly) difference between saying that God allows evil to happen and that God created evil. You’ve backed away some from your “God’s creation of everything… even evil” sentiment and I agree that all things exist inside of God’s reign. Of course, just what that entails is a whole ‘nother discussion. And we don’t to overstay our welcome at Andy’s blog.

Let me just quickly ask you this in reference to your shadow analogy: If we perceive God’s holiness best by His allowance and perpetuation of evil, will our perception of His holiness be dulled when we’re in Heaven? Was Adam and Eve’s perception lacking?

Two lumps, please.

So… any thoughts?