If you remember, I decided to continue my series on the problem of evil and pain on Sundays. Here is the next installment:
Where is God?
What is evil?
Pain is not Evil
What is sin? 1
What is sin? 2
Does God tempt? 1
Does God tempt? 2
Why did God create evil?
Thus far we have made two basic claims. The first is that evil in its most meaningful sense is a matter of intention. Evil involves the intent of a thinking agent to do harm or to do wrong. Pain and suffering, in that sense, are not technically evil, no matter how devastating they may be.
The second claim is that God never has an evil intention. Justice is not evil and primarily involves withholding mercy. God's dominant characteristic however is love. God does not generally (and may not ever) direct the evil intentions of others. Because he is in control of everything, he certainly must allow everything that happens in the world. But he does not directly cause evil.
This line of thought leads us to what is perhaps the key question behind the entire debate. Why did God create evil in the first place? If God created everything that exists out of nothing, then every single thing that exists in this realm is also God's creation.
First, it is important to recognize that, as we have been saying, evil is not a thing. Evil is an adjective we give to certain intentions of moral agents like humans. The question technically is not, "Why did God create evil?" but "Why did God create a world where moral agents could have evil intentions?"
Notice the wording: "... where moral agents could have evil intentions." We are saying that, since God created everything, he must have created the possibility of evil. To be consistent, we have to be able to say that a world in which the possibility of evil exists can be a good world.
In our opinion, it does not have to be the best world. The philosopher Leibniz once suggested that God could not create a world that was anything less than the best possible world. We are not arguing that. We are only arguing that a loving and just God could create a world in which the possibility of evil existed.
The most frequently given answer is that a world in which we are free to choose God and the good is a better world than one in which we are forced to. It seems hard to evaluate this statement, since we are in no position to know what other kinds of universes God might create. Nevertheless, this explanation does seem to make some sense in this universe, and this is the universe about which we are speaking.
It does imply a rather high value on allowing human moral choice. We have a tendency as humans to want to intervene, to want to stop evil. It is hard after following this line of thought not to see God as often or more often leaving moral agents to choose, despite the ensuing consequences.
In the end, it is not so important that we can explain how it could be loving to create a world with the possibility of evil. We only need to find it plausible that God, in his knowing of all things, could create the world with good intentions. We do not have to know completely what those intentions were, only that it is plausible that they were good, despite the fact that he created the possibility of evil.
A key question for many Christians at this point is Satan. One way those who have believed in a good God in history have accounted for the existence of evil is to see an evil power co-existing with the good one. The Zoroastrians had their evil Ahriman whose power paralleled the good being Ahura Mazda. The Gnostics saw the origins of evil in the material world that God did not create but that has always been.
These systems are not properly Christian, but have less difficulty accounting for evil. Satan for Christians is not powerful in any meaningful sense when placed next to God. We thus cannot account for evil in the world meaningfully by saying that Satan motivates the evil intentions of humans because God created Satan. The question is still, how could a good and loving God create a world in which the possibility of Satan existed.
And the best answers remain the same. Presumably God did not create Satan evil originally but with the possibility for Satan to make evil moral choices. Presumably it is good for moral agents to be able to make moral choices despite the fact that they may make evil choices.
Next week: Implications for Suffering