How Can God Create Evil?
“To men, some things are good and some are bad. But to God, all things are good and beautiful and just.” – Heraclitus (c. 500 BC)
This is such a difficult concept to grasp. Many protest that an all-loving God would not allow for bad things to happen. In addition to this passive observance of malice there is a direct claim that it is precisely God who creates evil. “I form light and I create darkness; I make peace and I create evil; I am Yahweh; I do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7, LEB). While many have asserted that this makes for a malevolent God perhaps there is more to this concept than first appears. In studying religions of the world I notice that our modern understanding of evil is very narrow in comparison to the historical understanding. For example, the Chinese have an ancient insight of Yin and Yang where in order to have good there must be bad but even further into this perception is that within good exists bad and within bad exists good. To my understanding this is saying that in even the bad things of the world God sees good. In order to see the good inside of bad indicates that God must have a greater purpose for the bad and that in this purpose he sees justice. I recognize this in Heraclitus’ writing and can aptly surmise that good is brought about by the just purpose of God. It is an amazing concept to accept that, to God all things are good, beautiful, and just but makes complete sense when understood that it is because it is God’s creation and all things are toward his purpose. Just as it can be understood that in creating the light God too has created the ability for darkness (an absence of light) to exist, it can also be seen that God creates the evil, not by doing evil but by creating the propensity for evil to exist. Without the existence of evil we could never know of good. Without the existence of justice we could never know of mercy. This is the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang.
Written in the third century AD, the Hermetic writings contain a passage that states, “Who is more evident than God? That is why he made all things, so that through all things you can see him” (Mitchell 34). At first glance this seems to have the typical meaning expected which is that the existence of a transcendent entity, God, is evident in the universe and is revealed in all of creation. This is similar reasoning to the apostle Paul’s statement, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19–20, ESV). Both of these writings claim that it is clear to us, the creation, that a creator exists. However the deeper meaning when compared to the writing of Heraclitus is that not only in all created things but also in all events of life God is made visible. This underlines the understanding that God sees all things as good, beautiful, and just. God creates evil in order to show goodness, beauty and justice. Without the opposite side we cannot know the other. In knowing both sides of the Yin and Yang we can see how both sides include each other and work in balance. In seeing this balance we can see a transcendent controlling force that keeps all things in harmony and just. This transcendent controlling force we see as God. All of what God is doing is good, beautiful and just and all of this is for the purpose of us recognizing and seeking to know him. As Jesus declared judgment on this world he also provided mercy for those who seek him, in doing so all things can be seen as good, beautiful and just.
Now is the judgment of this world! Now the ruler of this world will be thrown out! And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (John 12:31–32, LEB)
Mitchell, Stephen. The Enlightened Mind: An Anthology of Sacred Prose. New York, NY: HarperPerennial, 1993. Print.