Thursday, April 28, 2011

Did God create evil?

Preamble: For this article, I ask that readers do NOT put any of their comments on this blog. Instead, please email to me. The reasons are these: 1. This is a highly controversial topic. 2. It can be very confusing too. 3. There are various assumptions and definitions that people adopt to argue their cases, even though the short answer is either a “Yes” or a “No” 4. A “Yes” may be a correct answer, even as “No” can possibly be a right answer, too, depending on how you arrived at your conclusion; the Lord knows, and He shall weigh your thought processes.

Another point is that the view expressed in this article, does NOT represent the view of any body, church or otherwise, which the author is part of, or is affiliated to; it is solely a personal view of the author.

Article’s key verses – Isaiah 45:7 & Eze 28:15
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things (Isaiah 45:7, KJV).

Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee (Eze 28:15, KJV).

Contexts of verses
The context of Isaiah 45:7 is this: This was a prophecy whereby God spoke, through prophet Isaiah, concerning His faithfulness that He would, in the exile to come (Judeans would be exiled to Babylon), He would be using King Cyrus of Persia as His shepherd (Isa 44:28), His anointed vessel (Isa 45:1) to capture Babylon and to allow the exiled Judeans to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple of God (subsequently to be destroyed by the Babylonians). This was despite Cyrus did NOT acknowledge Him, and God said He would be using Cyrus still, to free his people, and in the process, enabling him (Cyrus) to receive honors; it was all because His faithfulness towards corporate Israel, His servant, His chosen nation. In this foretelling, Isaiah spoke about how God was making revelation about Himself to Cyrus, and verse 45:7 was one such verse.

The context of Eze 28:15 is this: From Eze 28:11-12a, we know that it was to be a lament concerning the king of Tyre:

“The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says:”” (Eze 28:11-12a)

Of course, here, the words were given by the LORD Himself. But immediately, from verses 12b-14, the narration was definitely NOT referring to a man:

'You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you:
ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. 14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones (Eze 28:12b-14).

He was a model of perfection, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. He was in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned him, ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. He was an anointed guardian (chief) angel ordained by God; he was on the holy mount of God; he walked among the fiery stones. Surely, he was NOT a man.

There are people who argue that the passage was a figurative description of King Tyre, but you can see for yourselves that even if one uses the beauty of a butterfly (just an example) as the metaphor for a man (ok, maybe a woman), the butterfly, in the first place must be, as described (with beautiful colored and patterned wings, and most elegant in its form, etc). Just as the butterfly was NOT imaginary or a fake, the creature of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty, who was in the garden of Eden of God; most beautifully adorned with previous stones, anointed and ordained of God as a guardian angel, and walked on the holy mount of God, was NOT imaginary or a fake; I believe Lucifer (aka Satan) was being described.

Without going at length, the “fallen-ness” predicament, that all of men are facing, started with Lucifer; he set the precedent, and all fallen men are reckoned or counted with him, the fallen Lucifer or Satan. Lucifer fell first, and from that incidence, a precedent, demanded by holiness, kicked in. So, here, in this Ezekiel passage, King Tyre was reckoned with Satan, and so, in the lamentation by God, God spoke of the fall of Lucifer, first, before He connected it back to King Tyre (in vv 18 & 19; v20 onwards was about Sidon).

Expounding Isaiah 45:7
The phrase, “God created evil” can be seen in Isaiah 45:7.

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and CREATE EVIL: I the LORD do all these things (Isaiah 45:7, KJV).

First, I believe people should NOT read too much into the present tense used. There are those who argue, because they see the tense used was in the present form, they conclude that God did, does and continue to do evil. If we apply it to “evil” then we must apply it to “light”, “darkness” and “peace” as well. We all know that light was already created. God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light (Gen 1:3-5). Are we to think that God is making more “light” every now and then?

Second, there are those who argue that we are NOT talking about “light” as in the “light” bulb or the “light” of the sun, nor “darkness” was referring to “darkness” as in pitch black dark room with no light. Arguably, they were saying, “light” means, just to quote a catch-all word, “goodness” or “good”. If it were the case, “darkness” must mean, all the “badness”, isn’t it? The issue with this argument is this, “Whatever that is good, pure, praiseworthy, they argued, it is covered in the “good” or “light”, but moral evil, sin or wrong are argued to be NOT in the “bad” or “darkness”. Extending it to “peace” or “prosperity” or “well-being” and the many other words one can chuck into the Hebrew word, “Shalom” (H7965), and “evil” or “disaster” or “calamity” or “distress” and again the many other words one can fit into the Hebrew word, “Ra” (H7451), the proponents argued moral evil, sin or wrong CANNOT be part of what we are talking about. Not many people can stomach this, arguing that, the proponents, without support, were simply insisting God could NOT do bad things, particularly morally wrong things and sins, and so, are simply substituting less offensive or mild words into the verse while insisting that the verse was in present tense (active particle). The point is that if one insists on interpreting the verse on the basis that God cannot do bad things, then one has to back it up with scriptures to show that indeed God cannot do bad things, in other words, letting scriptures to interpret scripture.

As I have said above, the context was, God was making a revelation of Himself to Cyrus, and verses 5 & 6, before this verse 7, both have this - “there is no other (God)”. In other words, God was stressing to Cyrus, despite he did NOT acknowledge Him, there was really no other (God).

I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, (v5) so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other (v6).

So, what God wanted to say to the Persian King, Cyrus, was that he shouldn’t be believing there was another (god). It is believed that, in those days, some, in Persia, believed, the “good” was controlled by one god, and the “bad”, another. God was saying, no, there were no separate gods. The LORD was and is the only God, author of the creation; and after that, He was and still is in charge, and so, He then said verse 7 –

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things (Isaiah 45:7, KJV).

So, we have now fully understood the intent of verse 7; the question still remain as to whether or not, verse 7 was pointing to “evil” was created by God, or God was, is and will be creating “evil”.

Now, it is one thing to say that God is an author of creation, and after that, He was and still is in charge, it is another to say that God is still forming (those arguing for active participle) the light, and creating darkness, making peace, and creating evil.

As a “statement of fact” about Himself, the latter (active participle), sure did NOT fit in, as least in my understanding of God. It is like now, here we are, in the sanctuary of my church, and I pray for a sick to be healed by God, and He heals him, and, for another person nearby, God just inflicts him with a sickness; or God grants one with wisdom, and zap another’s mind and made him stupid. Similarly, God grants shalom to one, and for another, torments him with distress or disaster (all are His people or children)? Also, this interpretation makes the verse sounded like saying, “I kill people, you-know!” without qualifying that you are the death-convict executioner; you will frighten the hell out of people! I do NOT think God intended it to mean he is habitually doing all of that.

I submit to you that it was because God was saying, after creation, He was and is still in charge, and was/is the only one in charge, that the present tense was used. This means that one can simply read the verse in the past tense. One can just go a little further in the same Isaiah passage to verse 18, and find that for the same Hebrew words, such as yatsar (form), bara' (create), `asah (make, do), even with same tense guidelines given in the Strong’s Lexicon, Bible translators simply translated them in the past tense. Why? Just because they saw the presence of the words, “heavens” and “earth”!

For this is what the LORD says — he who created (bara') the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned (yatsar) and made (`asah) the earth, he founded it; he did not create (bara') it to be empty, but formed (yatsar) it to be inhabited — he says: (Isaiah 45:18).

What is my point? My point is that Isaiah 45:7 should be interpreted literally, to mean God was saying He formed the day (light), and created the night (darkness); He made peace, which was that which was agreeable to Him (divine peace means that), and created that which was NOT agreeable to Him (evil); He, the LORD, did all those things, and He was and still is in charge. It is only in the sense that all of creation is still sustained by God, that, at all, active participle tense can be said to be applying to Isaiah 45:7, but it is NOT in the sense that God is forming more light every now and then.

Yes, by the above paragraph, I have ascribed my meanings to the various key words: light, darkness, peace and evil. I have chosen the physical darkness meaning, instead of the metaphorical meaning (“bad”), for “darkness” (choshek, H2822). Accordingly, the light was also the physical light, and NOT “good”; the opposite of “light” is “darkness”.

What is shalom? Peace, yes, but when does one truly get shalom? We get shalom when we are in full agreement with God. Just think about it; was there NOT shalom when creation was done (by God); there was shalom, not just for Man but for entire creation, until Satan came along, and successfully tempted Man in the Garden of Eden. If shalom or divine peace comes with full agreement with God, then righteousness was implied. In other words, God made “righteousness” even as we said He made “peace”. What is the opposite of “righteousness”? Yes, it is “unrighteousness”. How would one describe “unrighteousness”? NOT in agreement with God; and what is that? An iniquity or disobedience or sin. When did God first create righteousness and iniquity? Was it in the Garden of Eden? No, I believe it was earlier! This is where Ezekiel 28 must be brought in.

Relevance of Ezekiel 28:15
Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee (Eze 28:15, KJV).

Remember, we have, in the earlier part of this article, established that Lucifer (aka Satan) was being referred to, in this verse 15. Satan was perfect in all his ways from the day he was created, meaning Satan was created righteous.

The Godhead, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, must be in perfect agreement with one another, and therefore, each is righteous relative to one another. Righteousness, apart from that within the Godhead, without created creatures has no meaning, for righteousness is about in agreement with God; when there is no creature, there is none to agree to God. In this way, we can understand that righteousness, apart from that within the Godhead, came into being on creation of creatures by God, and since we know NOT other knowledge other than angels were created before Man, righteousness can be said to come into being with the creation of angels, and if we take the creation of Lucifer (I believe Lucifer was NOT just a chief angel, but THE chief angel) as representing the creation of angels, righteousness with God acquired meaning with the creation of Lucifer.

Now the verse said that Lucifer was perfect in his ways from the day he was created; this means that he was created righteous, and continued to be righteous, and in full agreement with God – there was no unrighteousness or no iniquity or evil ever existed. By the way, evil, ra`(H7451) of Isaiah 45:7, can mean that which is in vicious disposition against God (or God’s holiness); in simple terms, a wrong, iniquity or evil can give rise to that disposition. I am NOT saying that evil is a person or being, in the same way, we do NOT say the holiness (of God) is a person or being, but it is something so much integrated into the nature, that holiness is inseparable from God, and evil, from Satan. This evil or the term used in Ezekiel 28:15, “iniquity” (`evel, H5766; meaning unrighteousness, wrong or injustice), God said, came into being, and become inseparable from Satan, the moment Lucifer turned unrighteous against God. How did it happen, how did Lucifer turn unrighteous? Verse 17 of the same Ezekiel passage gave us the answer; God said this, of Satan:

Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings (Ezekiel 28:17).

With this understanding, righteousness and iniquity (or evil) were NOT created at the same time, although the stage was set at the same time, when free-will was given at creation by God. In a sense, it is NOT wrong to say that evil was created by God; but it did NOT come in the manner that God created the good camp, and God created the evil camp. It is NOT even the case of God created an evil angel, Satan, in the first place; when God created Satan as Lucifer, the latter was created perfect in all his ways, completely righteous. It was Satan turning from agreeing with God (righteousness), and becoming proud before God that evil was born or got created. Alright, it was relative to holiness of God that evil was of meaning, and so, it was also NOT wrong to say that it was the very opposition to God’s very nature that created evil. But was God to be blamed for His very nature, and decision to grant free-will to His creatures? I do NOT blame God for that, do you? Is God morally culpable if a man abuse his choice? Or would you rather be a robot?

Even as God was speaking to Cyrus, who was going to be raised by Him as a redeemer, a kind of shadow Messiah (Isaiah 44:28 – 45:1), God was probably remembering how iniquity entered his creation in the first place, for these verses, subsequent to Isaiah 45:7, were so pointing to the circumstance of how Lucifer fell:

8 “You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the LORD, have created it. 9 “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd {pottery piece (fragment)} among the potsherds {pottery pieces} on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’? (Isaiah 45:8-9).

It was unrighteousness that brought about the creation of iniquity or evil, and it was Lucifer NOT wanting to do as God desired, “quarrelling with his Maker”, that iniquity or evil was given life through Satan. Here, God was expressing his desire even as He was “commissioning” Cyrus to be His redeemer. God was lamenting on those who had gone astray. God’s prescription was righteousness; righteousness to rain down from heavens, righteousness to grow on earth; salvation could only come through that. God’s warning was the same, quarrel NOT with your Maker, God Himself, agree with Him, and agree to His ways. He is God, we are His creation, He is the potter, we are the clay; we do NOT go against His wishes, thinking that we know better. That would be pride and that would corrupt any wisdom that we might have, and we would be guilty of the same that Lucifer was guilty of.

1. Can this NIV version of Isaiah 45:7 – “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things,” be allowed to stand? If you subscribe to this (including it being in the present tense), you have to be sure in yourself, that despite God’s creating darkness and disasters against you, He still has your best interest at heart. You have to believe those darkness and disasters (against you) are for a good reason. There are scriptures, and some are scattered all over in this article, that give us assurances of God’s goodness towards His children.

2. In any case, Isaiah 45:7 should NOT be taken to mean God is going round doing good AND bad; granting peace AND creating disaster to His children. Please do NOT use this verse to support good and evil that we are experiencing are ALL coming from God.

3. Isaiah 45:7 was meant to say to Cyrus that there was no other god, beside the LORD; there were no separate gods for the good and the bad (Please, Satan is NOT a god, he is a spiritual being, a fallen angel, but NOT a god). Creation was by the LORD, and He is still in charge. And so, very simply, ONE way of interpreting Isaiah 45:7 was to say that God formed the day (light) and created the night (darkness), and He created with shalom given through righteousness, and He created evil through lapse of righteousness, on exercise of free-will, on the part of His creation.

4. Ezekiel 28:15 clarified that God indeed created Satan righteous (and other angels and Man, too). Evil or Iniquity (I prefer to capitalize the “i” to differentiate it from subsequent mere iniquities or wrongs) was created with Satan refusing to agree with God’s wishes. Pride and the consequent corrupted wisdom became the downfall of Satan (Eze 28:17). Evil was given life in Satan (and in Man, with the Fall of Man). – this is the important thing to take away with this article.

5. The creation of evil by God was NOT a direct one. Evil or Iniquity became found in Satan, on his first going against the desire of God (Eze 28:15, 17). Evil or Iniquity also got “ingrained” into Man when Man similarly, first, went against the wish of God, by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, on the instigation of the fallen Lucifer or Satan.

6. Now, it is true that, just as holiness is the very nature of God, evil had become the very nature of Satan. What Satan had done subsequently was he had replicated the evil nature of his, into Man, at the Garden of Eden. The unregenerate man is therefore counted or reckoned with Satan.

7. Therefore, if at all, God could be said to have created evil, it was when Lucifer fell; even then, I will argue that God did NO evil. God NEVER do evil, NOT so much as the definition of evil is relative to God, but indeed God is good, and is good all the time. What this means is that His thoughts and actions towards us are NEVER evil; the KJV version of Jer 29:11 said it well - For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (Some more scriptures to show indeed God is NOT evil, are given at my sign-off below) We may NOT understand some of the things that happened to us, but that does NOT mean that God intended evil for us, his children. Frankly speaking, many of us do NOT know what is important to us, but the Lord does, and it is NOT even necessarily tied to this earthly life. We often have limited knowledge and understanding of the good intentions of God.

8. Judgments and chastisements of God are NOT evil in the eyes of God. If you cannot accept that, it is most likely that you may think that God can be evil at times. Lam 3:33 said that God does NOT inflict willingly. Please seek to accept that.

9. Can God use evil? Yes, God can use anything under the sun, on earth, above the sky, under the seas or in Heaven. God can use evil spirits, evil or wicked people, even bad things, but for His children, He uses them only according to Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

10.Ultimately, God is holy; this means that evil is opposed to God, and one cannot expect God’s longsuffering to continue for all eternity. A time will come when judgment is made, and those failing to pass the judgment will have to live apart from God, in the burning lake of fire in Hell, where Satan, and all those reckoned or counted with him will go.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – God is holy (Rev 4:8; Isa 6:3); He is NOT evil; there is NO evil whatsoever in Him (Ps 5:4); He cannot think evil or act evil (Job 34:10, Ps 89:14a {NIV},Deu 32:4); He may make use of evil but He uses it for our good, never evil; evil cannot even tempt God (Jas 1:13); He chastises, but it is NOT evil, BUT there is eventually a punishment-in-finality from His righteous judgment, and we have to face that. We are to live our lives to pass that final judgment if we indeed do love our God, in return, for He already first loved us.

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