Any truly objective consideration of the existence of evil must begin with an acceptance of the existence of its antithesis – GOOD. Like all components in a dualistic system, they are opposite sides of the same life experience in this present phenomenological realm.
Research employed in producing this article are in accordance with systematic theology which builds precept upon precept. In other words, each point (or precept) must be fully examined, thoroughly researched, understood, and accepted as THE TRUTH – before attempting to continue into contemplating further knowledge about ANY given topic.
For THIS topic, the subject is the origin of EVIL – NOT the origin of GOD! Therefore, any unresolved questions about GOD – His eternal essence, attributes, character, power, reliability – ALL must be firmly and rightly established as TRUTH, BEFORE attempting to consider appropriately how and why evil came into existence, since former research has concluded that GOD did NOT create evil.
Musing about other false gods, religions, philosophies, ideologies, etc., is fine for another topic, but entirely inappropriate to the subject of EVIL in THIS context. In another topic, the existence of GOD is the subject, but here it is accepted as a previously well established FACT, upon which suppositions are ready to be explored.
If there remains ANY doubt about the absolute goodness of GOD, then those doubts must be resolved before attempting to pursue a reasonable study of EVIL. GOD is good, ALL the time. If THAT is NOT the truth upon which everything else is based, then exploring possible reasons for the existence of EVIL is a moot point.
Naturalists may tend to seek more scientific and completely rational explanations, but the basis of this composition assumes that life as we know it is the result of creation by an Almighty Creator. Likewise, it also accepts that the Holy Bible is the Creator’s written word, inscribed by holy men who were divinely inspired.
Scripture nowhere attempts to explain the existence of God; it merely claims to be inspired by Him.
“We have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed … knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit“ – 2Pt. 1:19-21.
While scripture introduces many of the attributes and characteristics of the Creator, one recurring theme is consistent throughout. God is GOOD, ALL the time. For truly Born-Again believers, this is a personal knowledge perpetually fueled by an abiding conviction deep within, where the incorruptible seed that spawns eternal life, the Holy Spirit, has taken up permanent residency.
“having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever“ – 1Pt. 1:23.
While this “new-birth” experience has been shared for centuries throughout the world by billions of devout followers of Jesus Christ, it is still difficult to reconcile this wonderful truth with the existence of evil. God is good all the time, yet evil exists.
The origin of evil and the reason for its existence causes great perplexity. So, although the foundation of this examination of evil is biblical, other prominent theories will also be considered.
Universal observation of the work of evil, with its terrible results of woe and desolation, bring many to question how all this can exist under the sovereignty of God, who is infinite in power, in wisdom, and in love. God is at all times good, so why is evil so pervasive?
Indeed, it has been an age old mystery for which too few find a suitable explanation. However, uncertainty and doubt are contrary to Faith, without which it is impossible to please God.
“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” – Heb. 11:6.
Without faith, many truths plainly revealed in God’s Word are misunderstood or completely ignored. But what may be known about God is plain, because God has made it plain and has revealed it through His Creation.
“Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities (His eternal power and divine nature), have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so there is no excuse” – Ro.1:19, 20.
There are those who, in their inquiries concerning the existence of evil, erroneously endeavor to search into that which God has NEVER revealed. Finding no solution to their difficulties, their doubt intensifies, creating a convenient excuse for rejecting Scripture.
Scripture declares that there are secret things that belong only to God, but the things which have been revealed belong only to the Faithful.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of God” – Duet. 29:29.
Jesus enlisted the use of parables to purposely conceal the secret things of God from non-believers, while revealing them to the faithful.
“Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” – Lk.10:21.
Interestingly, even the hidden or secret things are also promised to one day be revealed to all.
“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known” – Mt.10:26.
So, with these things in mind, this treatise shall explore what Scripture DOES reveal, while preserving awe and reverence towards God for all those other things yet to be revealed.
EVIL IS UNIVERSAL
The existence of evil in the world is a reality that cannot be denied. The evidence of its presence is global, and obvious to every rational thinking human being that has ever lived upon this planet.
Equally obvious, is that evil doesn’t discriminate; it affects life everywhere, with or without expectation or warning. Perhaps, it is so prevalent because much of what we know about evil remains obscure. Better informed, we might be better equipped to resist, or prevent it.
Certain implications associated with evil can be legitimately debated, and the very definition can be inadequate, depending upon one’s personal perspective. Due to these areas of ambiguity, the question of evil is fraught with problems of cultural bias, individual interpretation, and inherent complications.
Additionally, due the fact that by the broadest acceptance of the simplest terminology, evil is universally considered as a negative and unwelcome ill. A random search for synonyms produces the usual suspects – bad, immorality, iniquity, sin, villainy, and wrong.
Too often however, the debate concentrates on what is or is not evil (i.e. are certain actions evil?). Consequent opinions establish social norms and dictate customs, even formulating many false doctrines, making some practices GOOD to one group, while others consider similar practices as evil.
Therefore, while there can be no reasonable disagreement about the fact that evil exists, regardless of any reasonable widely accepted definition, there is cause for a formal discussion over the origin of, and reason for, such a negative energy.
In an attempt to understand why evil exists, it will help to know how, where, and when, it originated. A clever insight contends that perhaps the greatest deception the devil has ever perpetrated upon humanity is that he doesn’t even exist. Consequently, ignoring the existence of evil is not a legitimate contribution to its elimination. While ignorance may be bliss to some, it is no remedy.
If any competent investigation can be made regarding the origin of evil, and since it appears to have existed as long as history itself, there must first be an agreement about the origin of everything else.
THE QUESTION OF ORIGINS
The interchange of views on the topic of origins is vast. Although in order to simplify matters for the purpose of the origin of EVIL, the opposing theories have been divided into two basic camps – Evolution and Creation. Of course, the debate will not be settled here, but reference to it will be beneficial to our purpose.
The following brief points in no way portray the results of an exhaustive research on the subject. Such would necessitate another thesis altogether. Therefore, please accept that whatever omissions to the argument of either side is not naive, but the result of intentional edit.
One camp contends that all life as we know it has its origin as a result of a spontaneous explosion of chaotic nothing, which produced mass and eventual order, during billions of years of constant expansion. There is little evidence regarding the absolute earliest instant of the expansion. Thus, the theory cannot provide any explanation for such an initial condition. It only describes and explains the general evolution of the universe going forward from that point on.
This explanation is commonly known as the ‘Big Bang’ theory, and concludes that life exists as a result of mere random chance, begun at some point in time, billions of years in the distant past.
The other camp presumes life is evidence of intelligent design, which implies a Creator, and offers an explanation for the formation of the initial condition and before. The oldest documentation, which is a validated evidence of at least the last ten thousand years, explains it simply and thus:
“In the beginning, God . . .” – Genesis 1:1.
If we start with the assumption that the spontaneous explosion / expansion theory is more likely, to the exclusion and elimination of the creation account, then pinpointing an exact origin of evil is quite difficult, if not impossible.
Because related theories that exclude the possibility of a Creator require looking back hundreds of billions of years to the origin of anything, positive identification of the first presence of evil seems hopelessly lost to mere speculation. Disagreement, unless supported by convincing evidence, can never be more than meaningless rhetoric.
The opposing view has similar problems, but the evidence for intelligent design does exist universally, and even secular historical records support that ancient man believed, and formulated opinions based upon this view, as far back as humanity began compiling documentation.
Conversely, archived opinions about spontaneous explosion and expansion as a source of life or cause of origin are much more recent ideas and not nearly as widely accepted.
As these theories relate to the origin of evil, only the camp of intelligent design can offer a plausible answer, because of written explanations dating back to 3400 BC. According to archaeological experts, the earliest preserved evidence of human writing was found in Mesopotamia, where the creation account in the ancient book of Genesis, places the Garden of Eden. The Biblical account also gives some information within this record that is suitable for further consideration.
At this point, any explanation for the origin of evil will inevitably be accepted or rejected determined by an individual’s convictions regarding the existence of God, and the reliability of the biblical writings. Additionally, atheistic opinions are not the only ones that may be critical of the suppositions associated with the biblical evidence, due to various interpretations of the Scriptures and resulting debated dogma.
Therefore, the answer to why evil exists will not be satisfactory to everyone. If the answer to the origin of evil comes solely from a biblical source, and is considered bias due to that connection, then the problem of why evil exists is rendered moot, for the same reason.
As a minister and theologian, it is a constant frustration when critics of the Bible argue that attempts to prove the validity of the biblical message by virtue of the Bible’s own claims to divine inspiration, are absurd. Yet, at the same time, they accept unilaterally, evidence for just about everything else, based on criteria far less convincing.
We present evidence that an orange contains citric acid by opening it up and examining what is found inside, not by seeking some other fruit in hopes of finding proof. Neither do we question the reliability of the blueprints for a three bedroom house when wanting to prove the existence of pipes within its walls.
No, it is never an issue of logic that causes a person to discount the biblical information. It is always a matter of disagreement over the existence of an almighty, personal God, and acceptance of the Scriptures as His divinely inspired written Word; that coupled with a lack of a personal experience with God, resulting in true faith.
Now that my personal position is clear, those who hold to a dissenting view may still be surprised by my conclusions, should they continue to read on, even though from here on, I am perfectly content to let the Bible prove itself reliable.
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL
In any search for the truth about the existence of evil, we must understand that God’s Word does NOT reveal EVERY secret about the origin of evil, but it does provide adequate information that is essential to the remedy.
The Apostle John understood this and wrote:
“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” – Jo. 20:30,31.
Perhaps the simplest of explanations regarding the origin of evil is that it originated with satan. Just as God is our ‘Heavenly Father’, satan is the ‘father of lies’.
“When satan speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar and the father of lies” – Jn. 8:44.
Jesus attributed the origin of lies to satan. Perhaps he is also the father of all evil. Logic follows that since a lie is the opposite of truth, and evil is the opposite of good, God is good, and satan is evil. However, while the two are exact opposites, they are NOT equal. God is Omnipotent and Eternal: satan is NOT.
According to Scripture God rested from His Creation and declared that it was good; but Scripture also reveals these additional contrasts between God and satan . . .
“Satan, the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night…Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea. For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time” – Rev.12:10,12.
So, evil originates with satan, and likely entered our world when he was cast out of heaven. He has one purpose; to enlist as many naive and gullible human beings into his rebellion against God as he can – the ultimate purpose of EVIL.
“The thief (Satan) comes only to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I (Jesus) am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” – John 10:10.
All the powers that God had bestowed on Lucifer, Satan now uses to “steal, kill, and destroy.” The great reformer Martin Luther once said, “The wickedness of the devil is so great on this planet, that no man can grasp it. To be so wicked to find one’s pleasure and delight only in the misfortune of other people; in their lingering hunger, thirst, misery, and want, in the perpetration of nothing but bloodshed and treason, especially in the lives of those who neither have done nor could do any harm, this is the hellish and insatiable rage and fury of the wretched devil.”
The Apostle Peter further admonishes in his first epistle:
“So be alert, because your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” – 1Pt.5:8.
From further evidence given in Scripture, we see that God never created ‘satan’, but He created a being named ‘Lucifer’ who, by his own decision, chose to resign his appointment as the anointed cherub, rebel against God, and to eventually become satan.
‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom, perfect in beauty. You were in Eden the garden of God; you were the anointed cherub who covers: I established you on the mountain of God; you walked to and fro in the midst of the stars. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you” – Ezk.28:11-15.
“How have you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning? How are you cut down to the ground, to weaken the nations” – Isa. 14:12.
Perhaps it is beyond human comprehension why Lucifer would chose to rebel instead of continuing in his exalted place at the throne of God. Scripture doesn’t reveal how evil could germinate in the heart of this perfect being. Suffice it to say, that it is a great riddle which the Bible calls the “mystery of iniquity”.
“Now you know what withholds that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity is already at work: only he who now lets will let, until he is taken out of the way. Then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” – 2Thes.2:6-8.
The prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah give some further insights.
“Your heart was lifted up because of your perfect beauty; but you have corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness” – Ezk.28:17.
“You have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High” – Isa.14:13,14.
While God has done all He can to save creation from perishing, He never forces anyone to accept His love and grace. He never violates the free will that He has bestowed upon all His creatures.
God is good, ALL the time. So, we know that God surely provided Lucifer an opportunity to repent from his error; but apparently due to his pride, he refused to humble himself and willingly submit again to God’s authority.
It takes humility to accept that we are wrong. We are so quick to justify ourselves, to blame others. In that sense, we are familiar with the level of pride that refuses to submit to authority. Every time we chose to ignore God’s revealed will and act instead in accordance to our own understanding, we too, have conspired to exalt our ‘throne’ above the stars, and to be like the Most High.
Maybe our comprehension of the existence of evil needs to be expanded to include the possibility that evil exists because we also will it. Does not Scripture remind us of this?
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’ – Ro.3:23.
Most of us know from experience that rebellion doesn’t suddenly erupt in a moment of time. It builds slowly. It can be sparked by a single thought or emotion of discontent. If not rejected, it seeks support and builds alliances with other unsubmissive arguments. Then ultimately, it becomes powerful and demands its way, rendering God’s will less important than self-will.
By the same process, Lucifer came to indulge a desire for self-exaltation. A stubborn pride in his own glory nourished his desire for supremacy. The high honors conferred upon him were no longer appreciated as the gift of God. He allowed himself to become ungrateful. He gloried in his brightness and exaltation, and aspired to be equal with God. Now as Satan, he deceives the nations with the same subtle vanity.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” – Ro.1:21.
DID GOD CREATE EVIL?
To the casual observer it may be assumed that since God is the Creator, evil is surely among the many things He created. Just as naïve is the assumption that since Lucifer is one of God’s created beings, evil can indirectly be traced back to God.
If this is indeed so, then the goodness of God must be challenged. For if God is supremely and infinitely good, evil cannot have come from Him.
Since the final authority in decisively determining the truth about these assumptions must be God’s revelation found in His written Word, this would be a good place to introduce a brief consideration of scripture.
While most true believers would absolutely agree that scripture is the divinely inspired written revelation of God, few of them exercise spiritual discernment when accepting a specific version or translation of the Bible. Most gravitate to modern versions that are easy to read, without much concern for the reliability of the translation from the original languages.
Sadly, many available translations were created by appointed scholars who hold particular denominational doctrines and have allowed their preconceived beliefs to interfere with proper transliteration. Consequently, few modern translations are free from such bias.
Obviously, this subject is too great an undertaking for a complete examination here. Several other articles would barely suffice to provide a full disclosure of these facts. For this reason, what should be prayerfully and intently considered about all the different translations is wherever they disagree, only the copies of the original languages should be accepted in the formation of sound doctrine.
This may seem as off subject and irrelevant, but it is not. One of the very first manifestations of evil was the perversion of the WORD of God. Many translations have purposely twisted the original terms and words to deceive. Who would not consider such actions absolutely evil?
A CHRONOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT OF EVIL
The first mention of evil in the Bible is found in the second chapter of Genesis.
“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” – Gen. 1:9.
Prior to this reference, life was ‘paradise’ on earth. Throughout Genesis, passages leading up to this contain this phrase repeatedly:
“And God saw that it was good.” – Gen. 1:4; 10; 12; 18; 21; 25.
At the culmination of the creation account, God gives man dominion over the planet and all life forms upon it. The final comment as God rests from His creative activity is . . .
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” – Gen. 1:31.
Up to that point, according to the biblical record, there was NO evil on earth. But then . . .
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you do, you will certainly die” – Gen.2:15-17.
Most people are familiar with the rest of the story about Adam and Eve disregarding God’s warning, and partaking of the ‘forbidden fruit’. Was this then when evil entered into the world?
Perhaps this is HOW evil entered, rather than actually WHEN.
As was previously explored in this commentary, at some point in time Satan was cast out of heaven onto the earth. Presuming that answers the question of when, we need to also understand that the biblical record is not arranged in chronological order of events, in terms of time and space as we recognize it. The books of the Bible are not arranged in order of their dates of writing, nor the events they are reporting.
Because the writers of the Bible claim inspiration from God, to account for information that transcends this phenomenological realm, many of their revelations came as the result of inspiration to writers who lived centuries apart. Their information can speak of events that occur prior to their birth, during their lives on earth, and also related to things that are yet to happen, at some time in their distant future.
Sometime during the 7th century BC the prophet Isaiah received this revelation:
“How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning? How are you cut down to the earth, to weaken the nations!” – Isa. 14:12.
As has already been noted, Biblical scholars have widely agreed that “Lucifer” is the name given to the angelic being who was originally numbered among the cherubim, the highest order of angels, who attend the throne of God in Heaven. From this passage and others, the consensus is that Lucifer rebelled against his assignment by desiring to be exalted above his position, and was consequently cast from heaven to the earth.
“You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of the assembly; I will sit in the utmost heights and ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” – Isa. 14:13, 14
No one knows when this happened, but most biblical scholars conclude that this accounts for where the ‘serpent’, called Satan, or the devil, comes from when he is introduced in the Garden of Eden.
“The serpent was more crafty than any of the animals the Lord God had made.” -Gen. 3:1
The biblical information includes a discussion between Eve, the first woman, and the serpent. The serpent challenges God’s instructions to the man and woman about what the consequences of partaking from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
“God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you do, you will certainly die.” – Gen.2:17.
One must wonder here, especially related to the question we are hoping to answer in this article (why does evil exist?), why was the ONLY restriction on edible fruit, placed solely on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
It is merely conjecture, and having not actually been there to receive any first-hand knowledge to the contrary, it’s reasonable to determine that God restricted the consumption of this particular tree’s ‘fruit’ because it contained something detrimental and foreign to their experience up to that time.
The very name of the tree, introduces something that they had no experiential knowledge of. It wasn’t the knowledge of ‘good’, for we have already the earlier account:
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” – Gen. 1:31.
Now we have arrived at the very point evil entered this world.
The entire third chapter of Genesis recounts the story. For the sake of time and space, I haven’t placed the complete text here. But, in order to solidify the point, the following is included.
“He (the serpent) said to the woman, Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ‘You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”
Two things made this first temptation to question God’s instruction and authority irresistible: the fruit was ‘pleasing to the eye’, and also ‘desirable for gaining wisdom’.
Consider that very carefully and prayerfully. Before that, Eden was paradise. All about it, and everything else up to that time was “very good”, according to Genesis 1:31.
Now, because of a conversation with this creature (the serpent), thought by most scholars to be the devil, cast down from heaven due to his own resistance to God’s authority, a similar temptation presented first to the ‘heavenly host’, is then also offered to the first humans.
Up to this point, Adam and Eve had everything, and everything was GOOD. But then, the idea that they are naive about a whole side of life that they have no knowledge of or experience with, causes them to disregard God and respond to the only dissenting voice they’ve ever encountered.
Why the fruit was appealing (‘pleasing to the eye’) when everything else must have been equally appealing since they were in ‘paradise’ is hard to fathom.
But the idea that the knowledge of ‘good AND evil’ somehow equated with an opportunity for them to gain some new form of enlightenment (‘desirable for gaining wisdom’), must have been what motivated them. They ate, first the woman, then the man.
Their selfish desire trumped the will of God, opening a door to EVIL
This is my personal conviction, based on what the sequence of events reveals. I believe that if the woman had been the only one to eat the forbidden fruit, Adam could have remedied the ignorant act. Had he taken the authority that God had given him (man was placed in the garden first and given dominion over it), instead of also yielding to temptation, things may have been different.
If Adam had gone to God, instead of favoring the gift (woman) over the Giver, life could well have been without the curse that entered into this world when he too disregarded God’s instruction. Perhaps evil would have remained with Eve alone, and been eliminated completely with her demise or immediately remedied by Adam’s sincere and authoritative intercession for her.
But alas, Adam ate the forbidden fruit too, thereby surrendering his dominion over earth to the deceiver; evil became part of life.
Most likely at that very instant, (when Adam ate the fruit), evil entered into man’s personal experience. We only need to read what happened immediately after, to begin to see some very substantial evidence in support of this idea.
“She gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked” – Gen. 3: 6, 7.
Prior to this, there was no shame, because everything was GOOD; there was no guilt, because there was nothing done that would conclude one guilty; no one had done anything wrong (evil); because Evil had not yet entered in.
Earlier, before they encountered the serpent, we read:
“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” – Gen. 2:25.
However, immediately after eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their ‘eyes were opened’ and they suddenly were ashamed of their nakedness. Why?
Was it because they had become ‘enlightened‘? Having absolutely no former knowledge of anything but GOOD, suddenly their understanding now also included knowledge of EVIL, having permitted its entrance by the execution of their free will choice.
Knowing only GOOD, nakedness was merely natural and innocent. Climate conditions in Eden were probably perfect, which is what would be expected of any environment in which everything was only GOOD.
They had no need for clothing to keep sheltered or warm, because the climate was also absolutely GOOD. There was no desire to be clothed, because nothing around them required covering.
But, immediately after consuming that which they were told would introduce detrimental change to their experience, they suddenly became aware of a need to cover their nakedness. Why?
Was it because innocence was lost? They had just committed the first offense against absolute GOOD (purity). Exchanging innocence for corruption, they felt shame and guilt, the immediate consequence of their wrong free-will choice – – – for the first time in their lives. It was quite an ‘eye opening’.
Something else very significant, occurred simultaneously.
They discovered that the serpent’s claim was invalid, and that what God said would happen, did. The serpent had challenged God’s word arguing, “You will not certainly die,” but now they realized that death had indeed been introduced by partaking of the forbidden fruit.
Although physical death was not immediate in terms of the absolute end of life, their innocence died; paradise for them died; right standing before God died; and ultimately, they would (did) physically die
Understand that prior to their eating the fruit, there was no death.
Everything was GOOD. They could have no conceptual understanding of what death was, nor the thing called ‘EVIL’. They could not have known the full ramifications of their actions, and as far as we have information, the serpent was the first being with any intellectual ability that they had ever encountered, other than God.
Up until that point, there was no influence, opinion, controversy, debate, or question about whether God knew what He was talking about. God’s Word had never been challenged – – – on EARTH.
But there had been a challenge against God prior to this, elsewhere.
Remember, Isaiah had been given revelation about what had occurred in Heaven, when Lucifer had attempted to usurp God’s authority there, and was cast down to Earth. How long a time before or after God rested from Creation, this happened, we don’t know.
However, WHY this happened, indeed, more importantly – – – Why Evil Exists – – – is revealed only one place in the universe, and I believe this to be the answer.
“For God knows that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” – Gen. 3:5.
The serpent, told this to Eve; but not forgetting that he was wrong about whether or not they would die, this reference to his statement may deservedly come under suspicion and be counted as unreliable. Except for this:
“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” – Gen.3:22.
This implies KNOWLEDGE of good and evil was in existence prior to creation of the garden. But before further explanation, note the emphasis placed upon KNOWLEDGE.
To have knowledge of a thing is not the same as having an experience with something.
Knowledge is merely a mental awareness, not a personal familiarity with, or experiential understanding of something.
In this case, the term ‘knowledge of good and evil’ infers that such knowledge was available somewhere, but had not been given to man. It was however, apparently common knowledge to the beings who inhabited heaven with God (prior to, during, and after the creation of the worlds as we know them).
The phrase ‘the man is become as one of us’, offers some insight into who possessed such knowledge, although there remains much speculation about precisely to whom the ‘us’ God was referring. To begin to offer an exhaustive explanation about this here, would take us in a direction that is beyond the scope of the topic about EVIL. So, a simple explanation must suffice for now.
There are two possible and equally plausible answers.
One is that ‘us’ refers to the ‘heavenly host’, meaning all inhabitants of the heavenly realm. But a thorough explanation of this, too, is for another document. As it relates to this essay, these would be spiritual beings in existence prior to creation of the physical universe we presently inhabit, who transcend, and are also capable of infiltrating, this time and space, and who have been referred to as the immortals or ‘gods’ (emphasis on lower-case ‘g’). Basically, they are ‘other-world’ spirit beings, most commonly referred to as, ‘angels’.
The other explanation is that ‘us’ is a reference to GOD, specifically the ‘Triune’ GODHEAD. God has revealed Himself in three distinct, yet equal, manifestations, of ONE TRUE GOD. Scripture proclaims these three manifestations as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Again, a more detailed explanation is beyond the topic of this particular essay. Suffice it to say, that whether or not either, or both, of these adequately explains who ‘us’ is that God was referring to in the passage, it is at least a plausible answer. In either case, the inference is that knowledge of good and evil was formerly already in existence somewhere, and whoever ‘us’ is, they had such knowledge.
Again, we must be very careful not to equate KNOWLEDGE with EXPERIENCE. Also, pertaining to this idea, understand that use of the term EXPERIENCE is in its relationship to common reality, not individual reality (which may or may not differ from person to person).
Common Reality is fixed, and is therefore consistently the same for all within a specific phenomenological realm. Everyone standing on the east side of the pier gazing out to sea is exposed to the same potential view.
Individual Reality is different; individuals have personal experiences that are not always common to everyone else. For example, even though everyone standing on the east side of the pier is exposed to the same potential view, each individual may focus on a different spot within that view, or experience obstructions from the common view (i.e. due to a taller person standing right in front of a shorter person).
Therefore, the sky and distant horizon are common reality, while the seagull diving into the water is an individual reality to the few people who were focused on an unobstructed view of the specific place the gull dove into the sea.
At the exact moment Man had eaten the fruit, the knowledge of good and evil had entered into man’s personal realm of experience. Since Adam was the first man, and dominion over the planet had been given to him, when it became Adam’s individual personal experience, it became part of this world’s common experience as well because all subsequent humanity are his offspring.
Adam’s Individual Reality became humanity’s Common Reality.
The scriptural evidence regarding that moment in time supports the fact that EVIL entered into our Common Reality then, and has remained ever since.
Notice, I did not make the same declaration regarding the fall of Lucifer, his becoming known as Satan, and his appearance on the planet, as the point at which evil entered the world. The ‘evil one’ may have entered, but scripture does not reveal how long he was on earth before he tempted Adam and Eve.
This is because until the ‘forbidden fruit’ was consumed by Man, evil was apparently an Individual Reality of the ‘serpent’, not a Common Reality of humanity.
Apart from this explanation, to determine the precise time of evil’s entrance into the human experience, unless given some divine revelation yet to be universally shared, is probably an impossible feat, regardless of your personal belief (or lack thereof).
However, approximate time is all we need to satisfy the bigger question of WHY evil exists. If we can determine approximately when, where, and how evil came to exist, we can also formulate an adequate idea of why.
We don’t have to know exactly when the wiring was placed in the wall, nor where the electrical current is produced, or even how a light bulb works, to flip the switch and illuminate our space. We can deduce however, that there is an answer to all those things, because the light is glowing.
In other words, by virtue of the same exercise in logical deduction, we can reach a reasonable conclusion based on other relative information. Hopefully, by accepting scripture’s declarations, we now understand when, and where, and how evil came to become common reality in our realm of experience. Based upon those answers, we can now also reach an equally reasonable explanation of WHY.
Please give the following prayerful consideration . . .
WHY EVIL EXISTS
Earlier, it was explained that the ‘Big Bang’ theory concludes that life is the result of mere random chance. If evil came into being the same way, and at the same time, then so did good, like cause and effect; and the answer then, as to WHY, is merely a matter of inconsequential random chance.
But that contradicts the unilateral identification of evil as objects of volition: awry, bad, ill, immorality, iniquity, sin, trouble, villainy, and wrong. EVIL doesn’t exist apart from definitions that are the direct opposite of GOOD. Such is NOT a result of random chance, but specific design.
Humanity’s concept of evil is as it relates to free moral agency, not random chance. It is a result of willful choice, and as such requires an intelligent source. Therefore, any manifestation of evil likewise requires a source in a being capable of intellectual opinion and selective choice, not mere spontaneous random chance.
Within our present phenomenological realm, (this physical, three dimensional universe), intellect is understood to be a superior function peculiar to the human brain. Human beings are the only animal species on earth capable of free moral choice.
When an animal kills and eats another animal, it is not evil, because it is an action that is a result of instinctive behavior, not free moral agency. Never are such actions considered matters of right or wrong, good or evil. Animals don’t murder one another, because there is no malice (evil intent) associated with the kill. It is merely survival instincts – a natural reaction to hunger or an immediate threat to life.
However, when a human being kills another human being, judgment is required to determine the moral choice related to the killing. It is determined to be right or wrong (good or evil) based upon the actual circumstances surrounding the killing and the intent (motive) of the perpetrator.
A premeditated willful choice to kill in malice is considered murder, and murder is wrong and therefore, evil. Although similar killing during war is often unpunished, it is due to the fact that it is considered self-defense (of person or country), and therefore not murder. However, war itself, is often considered evil, and has been protested globally for centuries as wrong.
In simplest terms, evil is to good what cold is to heat. Heat is a form of energy. Lack heat, experience cold. Similarly, evil is a privation of good. Evil exists wherever good has been compromised.
Several points support this in the Genesis account.
Prior to Man (Adam & Eve) partaking of the fruit of the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’, life in Eden was all GOOD. Apparently, nakedness was good, and shame about it came as a result of the knowledge of EVIL entering into their individual reality.
Remember that one of the stated temptations to ignore God’s warning about eating from the tree was that, “when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – Gen. 3:4
The phrase, ‘your eyes will be opened’, demands serious scrutiny. Only a proper understanding can reveal important information key to unlocking the mystery of WHY evil exists.
First of all, considering the serpent is the source of the statement, the reliability of its contents is suspect. Since the only introduction given is, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.” – Gen. 3:1, the immediate problem becomes one of reason.
The serpent’s salutation, “Did God really say . . .?” – Gen. 3:2, is the first evidence of any question about what God says. Until this point in the narrative, everything is GOOD, no questions about it, no doubt or dispute, no reason to contend over anything.
But suddenly, God’s goodness, ability, sovereignty, and motivation are all called into deliberation. For the first time, life under God’s authority is challenged.
I find it personally amusing that this first challenge has been perpetuated throughout mankind’s existence. At the center of all rebellion lies this same challenge to God’s authority. Every man since, has had to give an answer to the question, “Did God really say?”
Whether believer, agnostic, or atheist, each must decide if God truly said — anything.
If there is no God, then the question of evil remains a human tragedy without probable universal remedy. The question of WHY is lost in redundancy, because there’s no concrete evidence for WHY NOT.
If there is a God, but He has long since moved away and is no longer concerned with the affairs of humanity (the agnostic view), then evil entering our realm may have been the reason that He left. A remedy is however, just as implausible in such a scenario.
But if you believe in a personal. caring God, and accept the Biblical account, then you can take this information and unwrap the understanding of WHY evil exists. What God really did say becomes the only foundation block that must be laid upon which to build a credible answer.
This is both easy and difficult to ascertain, because many things may obscure one’s acceptance of the text and hinder their complete understanding. Issues related to interpretation, reliability, and symbolism will continue to cause division and skepticism for many who continue to hold fast to a peculiar doctrine.
Therefore, what follows is based on an assumption that the text is reliable and that God does exist and continues to be a willing and enthusiastic participant in human affairs, and that He desires man to know truth and has provided the Scriptures to communicate it to us through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. From this perspective, and with God’s enabling, it should be easy to arrive at a thoroughly adequate understanding.
So, what did God say?
“And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” – Gen. 2:16, 17.
What God said was basically,or in other words, ‘do whatever you want, but if you choose to consume the fruit of this particular tree, life as it now is, will end’.
Obviously, they did not experience immediate physical death, nor were their eyes literally opened (as if they’d been literally closed). Death entered not only as a result of inviting a knowledge of evil, but also as a merciful remedy, for Scripture reveals to us the following.
“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’ So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” – Gen. 3:21-24.
God’s immediate response to Man’s transgression was remedial.
He provided a covering, because only God can cover sin. Sin is separation from God, and only God can bridge the gap. Also, now that Man has knowledge of good and EVIL, God’s mercy prevents Man’s access to the Tree of Life, lest Man ‘eat and live forever’. God does not want to perpetuate Man’s existence in a realm where EVIL exists.
In order to create a world that would allow humanity the freedom to choose between good and evil, God allows the consequences of evil to temporarily ensue.
Man was created to inhabit a world that was called paradise. But his existence there was apparently void of a complete appreciation for it, because the lure for something more caused him to exchange what was for what might be. God only knows, that what was would be fully appreciated only after experiential knowledge of paradise lost. Man sadly rarely values what he has, until it’s gone.
We all share a common desire to know everything and yet, we do not like to be told what to do, even when it’s in our best interest. This is part of our DNA, and it existed apparently before we gained the knowledge of good and evil.
The assumption that if God is truly benevolent, God could have created a world free of evil requires omniscience, and God alone is omniscient.
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ – Ex. 33:19.
Justice does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ – Ro. 9:17.
Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom he wants to harden. Since evil was tolerated by the first man, just as every person’s eye, hair, and skin color is determined by the free will choice of their parents to produce offspring, evil is also ‘inherited’.
Some of you may question: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will”? But who are we, as human beings, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this”?
“Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes, some for common use”? – Isa. 29:16
What if God, although choosing to show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience the objects of His wrath—prepared for destruction? What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory—even us, whom He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As He says in Hosea:
“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” Ro. 9:14-25.
Now consider another reason for the existence of evil. Satan has become a universal testimony of how rejecting the love of our Almighty Creator results in perpetual misery. Apart from God there is no peace.
No God = No Peace; Know God = Know Peace.
Opposite sides of the same coin? Life is filled with endless opposites. Good & Evil; Right & Wrong; Up & Down; In & Out. Although the subject of this commentary addresses the seeming contradiction between a Sovereign God who is infinitely GOOD allowing EVIL to exist, are we really capable of comprehending the answer?
Can we envision life without evil? What would it be?
Eastern mysticism espouses a concept widely known as the ‘Yin & Yang’. It reasons that there exists in every good a little evil; and conversely, in every evil there is a little good. Interestingly, this is precisely the image most people have of life; basically good, with just a little evil in it. This completely contradicts and is incompatible with Scripture which declares,
“A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit” – Mt.7:20,18,
The importance of the theme of opposites is profound. One look at the symbol used to represent this errant mystical concept and it can easily illustrate what the result would be if one side or the other were eliminated. Balance vanishes. The two opposing sides become absolutely black or absolutely white. Remove the light and darkness is completely overwhelming. Eliminate the dark and the light remains absolutely dominant.
Secular humanity teaches that man is basically good, and we can work together, in and of ourselves, to resolve the problem of evil within our midst. Scripture disagrees,
“For all have sinned (been evil), and come short of the glory of God”. – Ro. 3:23
But if there truly were a little good in every evil, and vice versa, eventually one would overthrow the other. And this is what satan’s plan is; to recruit a large enough army of like-minded rebels, that he will ultimately overtake the minions of heaven and God Himself.
Evil wants to eliminate good; God will eventually eliminate evil.
If all existing opposites of good were removed; if all that existed was good, would free- will remain? If there were nothing but good choices, would that be free-will? Obviously, Adam and Eve had free will. They apparently exercised it in an environment that God declared GOOD. How long they enjoyed paradise prior to the serpent’s temptation we do not know. But the absence of evil did NOT negate the exercise of free will.
Is this the ‘mystery of iniquity’, which God has wisely chosen to reveal only at the end of this age? While a complete explanation is not given, Scripture has revealed much about this concept of opposites that is important to consider while there still remains a choice.
God is good; satan is evil. God loves; satan hates. God gives life; satan takes life. God is gracious and bestows unmerited blessings; satan is covetous and steals what is not his. God’s desire is to give life more abundantly [Jo.10:10]. The purpose of satan is to snare and to destroy. God is TRUTH; the devil is a liar. Both are intent on pursuing their goals to an ultimate end. The devil strives to corrupt, but Jesus redeems and saves “to the uttermost”.
“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” – Heb. 7:25.
Many have debated the existence of evil in an attempt to reconcile their lack of faith in the goodness of God. They typically argue that if God is sovereign and omnipotent as Scripture declares, then the existence of evil is a clear contradiction to His infinite goodness.
IF GOD IS GOOD, WHY DOES HE PERMIT EVIL?
Earlier in this treatise it was pointed out that there are some things that God has not yet revealed, but that ALL mysteries shall be revealed at the end of the age. Those who hold faith in God’s Word patiently await this with awe and reverence.
Those who allow what they don’t know to conflict with what can be known, make a strong case for God not interfering with free will. As was formerly explored, like Lucifer, they are placing their will over God’s Word, and have chosen to live in rebellion instead of gratitude. That such behavior is tolerated proves God’s desire to preserve free will at all cost.
To argue that the preservation of free will is not sufficient reason to allow evil to co-exist with goodness, is illogical seeing that it requires a free will to make any such objection, and such arguments question God’s goodness, which makes them intrinsically evil.
Life on this planet has been what it is since man first appeared here. People are born, live, and die. Everywhere on earth, good and evil coexist. There are no exceptions; only the degree to which each is permitted. The only variance is in how each person views this dilemma and chooses to react to it.
The Scriptures offer some explanation, and even a remedy.
Ironically, to reject these is to willingly participate in the very problem that they argue can’t be reconciled. Free will allows choice. There are many opposites that exist in this world. A person can choose one or the other, but not both. If they choose not to be part of the solution, they are by default part of the problem.
WHY GOD ALLOWS EVIL TO CONTINUE
Although we may have Scriptural evidence revealing to us where and how evil came into existence, we’ve yet to explore possible reasons why God allows it to continue.
Certainly in His Omnipotence, He could eliminate it at any time. We’ve seen accounts of His dealing with it in several Scriptural passages. He cursed Satan by casting Him out of Heaven and making him crawl on his belly to ultimately have his head crushed.
But why not immediately; why wait until the end of this present age to forever eradicate evil ?
Remember that not all of God’s secrets are revealed in this present reality, though they will be at His chosen time. For now, we are given understanding of some of these mysteries by way of the parables that Jesus shared.
“Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. This fulfilled the prophet’s saying: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” – Mt.13:34, 35.
Perhaps the parable of the Good Seed & the Tares will shed some light on why evil has not yet been eliminated.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” – Mt.13:24-30.
Later His disciples came and asked him to explain this parable.
He answered them, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels” – Mt.13:37-39.
Satan works against God, hence he is called the enemy. He does everything while everyone is sleeping, in other words he works in secrecy, concealing his purpose, so that he might more effectively accomplish his objective. His ways too are mysterious and strange; yet he presents himself as the angel of light.
“Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” – 2Cor. 11:14.
Earlier it was also shown that Lucifer, while still in his position as the anointed cherub, was perfect in beauty, until he became vain and pride started to develop in him. When he grew so full of himself that his will usurped God’s, deceit was conceived and he started to circulate his lies around heaven. He recruited a third of the angels to his side, poisoning them with his lies, and there were then rebellious angels among the loyal ones. This is symbolized by the good seed, and tares being found in the same field. “An enemy has done this.”
Scripture reveals that rebellion was quenched and satan and his cohorts were cast down to earth. There in this world they repeated their scheme, but this time God allowed their co-existence with “the people of the kingdom”. He let both “grow together until the harvest”, which is coming at the end of this age.
As seeds begin to sprout, it isn’t immediately obvious what kind of plants they are. As the spirit of vanity began to take root in Lucifer’s heart, the other angels couldn’t discern any change at first. None of the angels could fully discern his character or see where his plan was leading. He was not immediately degraded from his exalted position when he first indulged the spirit of pride, although God knew exactly what was going on.
God in His wisdom permitted Lucifer to carry out his plan, until his pride ripened into active revolt. This is why God allowed evil to develop. It was necessary for Lucifer’s plans to be fully developed, so the devil’s true nature and tendency might be seen by all. The true character of the usurper, and his objective, must be observed and understood by all.
So, he must have time to manifest himself by his wicked deeds. His own actions must condemn him.
Modern law operates according to this principle. Even when the authorities are fully aware of a criminal’s intent, they cannot make an arrest until the plans have actually been put into action. Intent and motive can be introduced as evidence to convict, but they are not sufficient reason to restrain a suspect in order to prevent a crime until caught in the act.
Time was needed for the growth of evil now reigning in the heart of Lucifer.
“Wherefore by their fruit ye shall know them. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit” – Mt. 7:20, 18.
Jesus did not say that roots or branches reveal the type of tree, but rather its fruit. As Lucifer was given time to carry out his intent, evil was manifested and witnessed by the entire heavenly host. Had the servants in this parable been allowed to pluck out the tares, they might have mistakenly plucked out some of the wheat or damaged it in the process. For this reason, they had to “let both grow together until the harvest.”
Until fully developed, evil would not appear to be the obvious abomination that it certainly is. Actions speak louder than words; actions are the resulting fruit of one’s real intent.
Some may reason that rather than allowing evil to manifest, God should have cut it off when Lucifer first began to grow vain. God should not have permitted its growth, and there would be no evil. After all, God is the ultimate authority and could have prevented it.
It has already been shown that God preserves free will. To have interfered with Lucifer’s free will would have violated God’s own principle. Lucifer’s free will led to the conception of evil within him. Every created being has the same potential to choose of their own free will to entertain evil or embrace and glorify good.
“No one is good—except God alone” – Lk. 18:19.
In conclusion, perhaps the best answer to the existence of evil can only be found in one’s personal experience. Obviously, evil continues to invade human experience, invited or not. Perhaps the degree to which it frustrates good depends more on personal resistance than universal restraint. It may be that evil continues because mankind has not yet determined to completely eliminate it, not by a global confrontation, but by an individual’s personal rejection of it. You be the judge; what is your solution?