Does God create evil? The theological implications for evolution and otherwise

(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

Whilst in Christian theology (excluding Irenaean theology) evil is a perversion against God’s good plan. In Jewish (and as I argue here) Old Testament theology, evil and chaos are creations of God.

There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.

According to Psalm 104:26, God formed the primordial dragon which represents chaos, in other words, chaos and evil are his creation.

I am a Christian, and have mixed feelings about the theological implications of this. On one hand it may contradict passages in the New Testament which speak of war in heaven, but on the other hand it may have positive effects for Evolutionary Creationism, if God, can cause such evil and disorder, why can’t he use a system such as evolution, why requires death?

(Laura) #2

I see it more as free will. God does not have to have directly created chaos in order for it to have resulted from the freedom of creatures and organisms to choose their own path.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #3

That’s not what Psalm 104:26 or Genesis 1:21 say. They imply that God made the forces of chaos.

My main source here is Creation and the Persistence of Evil by Jon D. Levenson, which is by the way an excellent book for anyone wishing to learn about Jewish perspectives on evil.

(Mitchell W McKain) #4

Does God create evil?

In an absolute sense? No. But there are many senses in which God did create evil.

  1. God certainly created the possibility of evil when He made things with free will, sharing the responsibility for the way things happen. This is unavoidable when you choose love and freedom over power and control.
  2. One of the consequences of the fall was the creation of Satan the adversary. The snake of the garden of Eden story is believed to be an angel and one of the consequences of the fall is that this angel became the personification of evil known as the devil. The ultimate responsibility for this lies with Adam and Eve, because Eve blamed the snake for what they did, and for this reason God thought this reassignment of the angel was needed for human redemption.
  3. One of the greatest evils of history is war, and there are many ways in which God can be considered responsible for a lot of this deriving from the story in Genesis 11. In this story God confused human languages and scattered us over the earth in a multiplicity of cultures. To be sure this is the cause for a lot of war. But again, God thought this was necessary for our redemption, because war is not the greatest evil. A singularity of human civilization entrenched in habits of abuse which allows for no possibility of improvement is a greater evil than war. Thus in some sense war is a check upon this greater evil.

I think this is an issue of language and human thought where the discernment between evil and suffering has altered. In other words, it depends on how you define “evil.” If referring to anything “bad” which can include things which are in any way harmful, then clearly God is responsible for a lot of evil in that sense. This is the problem I have always had with the common attribution of “omnibenificent” to God. It is very unclear to me what this means. God is quite often in the same situation as the surgeon where He must cut and shed blood in order to cure what is wrong. Thus to be more clear, I assert that God is solely motivated by love. This does not mean he is this namby pamby being who is only smiles and candy. On the contrary, He is the wielder of evolution in which death and suffering are instruments by which He must create living things.

Sounds like a reference to number 2 above, which I have also explained. But it can also to refer to the very large number of very destructive forces in the universe which makes life rather fragile. God is certainly responsible for these as the creator of the laws of nature. But then this goes back to the inconsistency of thinking that God’s omnipotence means God can do anything by whatever means one cares to dictate, which I refute. The laws of nature are an absolute necessity for the existence of life.

(Laura) #5

All the Genesis verse says is that God made birds and sea creatures. The Psalms can be very poetic, and this one doesn’t seem to be speaking of chaos at all. The very next verse says, “All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.”

(RiderOnTheClouds) #6

Leviathan, and Tanninim (sea creatures) are names of chaotic sea monsters from the Ancient Near East. Yes it is poetic and figurative. But it is a poetic and figurative way of saying that God created chaos.

(Laura) #7

Do you think “chaos” and “evil” are synonymous?

(RiderOnTheClouds) #8

No, but it would still suggest that everything is under God’s control, if he made both order and chaos.

(Mitchell W McKain) #9

Are you guys implying that order and chaos are some kind of animate force or being? It seems to me that they are nothing more than necessary relative attributes like light and dark, or soft and hard – and these particular ones are a little vague. To make the universe sufficiently complex for the development of life required that there would have to be a full range of both chaos (disorder?, randomness?) and order (structure?, simplicity?, organization?, purposefulness?).

(RiderOnTheClouds) #10

Not at all, I don’t even know where you see that.

(Mitchell W McKain) #11

It is suggested by this treatment as a separate thing that God can either create or not create. The explanation followed in the comparison with light and dark as well as soft and hard. How can one exist without the other. Now I don’t think this applies to good and evil, for I do not agree that evil must exist in order for there to be good – though I probably would say this of things like pleasure and pain, joy and suffering, and especially life and death. The possibilities for good and evil go hand in hand with life or free will, but not the actualities.

(Randy) #12

@Reggie_O_Donoghue, I think you treat the “chaos” at more length elsewhere (tohu wa-bohu)–do you have a link for that?

I remember Lamoureux saying it’s sort of like the sea all around them, I think (not sure now)–fearful. thanks.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #13

Here is my attempt to reconcile this with orthodox christian theology.

God creating evil/chaos means that God deliberately made humans and angels with the ability to do evil, in order to give them free will. It does not mean that God causes all evil in the world.

(Laura) #14

That sounds similar to Ken Miller’s view in Finding Darwin’s God. He argued (if my memory serves me correctly) that that level of free will was required if we could ever choose God. (*cue Calvinism/Arminianism debate :stuck_out_tongue: *)

(RiderOnTheClouds) #15

Natural evil is also part of God’s plan, in order to stimulate human progress, as Irenaeus and Hick argued.

(Paul Allen) #16

God never does evil Himself. He stands behind it indirectly, but He directly stands behind good. The Lord can never be blamed for evil, but evil does not take place apart from His decree. We cannot finally explain how this can be, but the Lord’s ability to ordain evil without being morally responsible for it shows His greatness. He can ordain evil without compromising His character; that is impossible for us to do. Surely, His ways are past finding out. Let us therefore worship Him.

(Randy) #17

Would that be similar to Lamoureux’ “horrid natural realities”? --so this is not really evil, but something for which we have extreme natural (survival) distaste?


Chaos and evil are not synonymous or the same at all. In fact, chaos is part of the dichotomy of order versus chaos. If you were familiar with the work of Jordan Peterson, you’d know what this means mythologically – order is that which is familiar, what you understand, strict, defined, regulated, etc, whereas chaos is the unknown, creative, that which you confront, etc. Some chaos is in fact evil (like the archetypal devouring mother), but some is good (fertility is mythologically depicted in the realm of chaos, creativity also belongs to this category, etc) and order is not only good – order can just as easily be evil. Concentration camps are ‘order’, the archetype of the tyrannical king in the tower is ‘order’.

Neither order nor chaos are ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and in fact, mythologically speaking, you set out to live the life that has balances the two ‘forces’ (don’t misinterpret that) throughout your life, without either one overtaking the other.

(Randy) #19

@Paul_Allen1, Thank you for your comment. I am curious what you would define as evil? Thank you.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #20

You are correct, but I still say that the Israelites believed evil was normal part of the ordered cosmos, which God intended to be. Psalm 78:48-49 states that God uses his angels to send pestilence and war, 1 Samuel 16:14 says that God sends an ‘evil’ spirit to torment Saul, Isaiah 45:7 claims God creates evil.