Is God the Source of Evil? - A question from a friend

My friend asks:

“The latest probe from a friend...did God create evil? If He created humans with the ability to sin, than He created sin. We're all born with tendencies to what we will do/ become. While I use the Bible as my standard of truth, this non believer relies on 'intellect' and the brain God has given us. Feedback appreciated.”

Hey Friend,

Sorry for the delay. Good question.

Ever since the great theologian, Augustine, the Church, by-in-large, has adopted his view of evil. Augustine said that evil is not a “thing” at all because everything God created is good. Since evil isn’t good, it can’t really exist. Therefore, evil is the absence of good -- like a shadow is the absence of light or cold is the absence of heat. If someone asked you the status of a shadow’s existence, the average person (and certainly any philosopher) would say, “It doesn’t really exist. It’s just what happens when light is blocked.”

Evil is what happens when good is perverted. Evil is the absence of good. Evil is when a good thing is twisted or corrupted.

And the source of any evil act is the free will of a creature. Evil occurs--and thus its source--is when a free will decides not to do the good.

Thus, it is logically and, by definition, not God’s fault that a person sins. Yes, humans have “the ability to sin,” as you say, but that is because they have free will. Having a free will is a “good” -- (1) it allows for morality to exist (= morality can’t exist without the freedom to do good or evil) and (2) it allows for genuine virtues and feelings (= e.g., I can’t love without freedom to do so, since love can’t be forced or coerced).

It’s kind of like blaming Smith and Wesson for murderers. I can kill an animal to feed a starving person; I can murder a person in rage. How nonsensical is it to blame the designers of that gun for “the tendency of person to commit murders?” And, if I handed out a million guns to a million people, knowing full well that many would use it for hunting, feeding themselves and others, while others would use the guns to murder, am I morally culpable for handing out the guns?

You might wonder, Is it better to have never handed out the guns in the first place? What if, like God, I knew that after a number of years, the amount of good that would come out my handing out the guns would far outweigh the amount of bad? God knows the whole show - and to the person who is shot, it is impossible to see or care about the “greater good” God is accomplishing. I fully understand that on an emotional level. No one likes evil; yet, everyone loves free will.

And a “tendency” to sin is a human predicament, not part of God’s design (remember, God designed moral agents with free will, not the tendency to sin). The Bible never explains the source of this tendency; instead, it just says that this tendency began not long after the first humans were created. That is, humans have been sinning (in general) since soon after their creation.

Did God know we'd sin and keep on sinning? Yes. He knew that because He has perfect knowledge of all true propositions. He knew that creating free-willed moral agents ran the risk of doing evil, but (apparently) thought that the risk of having a genuinely free love relationship with his creatures was an indescribable good for the humans. It is an act of love just to give us the opportunity of existing, and of loving and being loved by God.

And concerning using the “brain” vs. the Bible, I say, embrace them both! There’s a reason why Jesus said to love God (the Father) with our “minds.”

Here’s an article you mind find helpful by a brilliant scholar who has spent an enormous amount of time reflecting on the problem of evil: