This is the message that we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
1 John 1:5, 10
Questions like “What is the origin of evil?” are things that the great theologians of the past, present, and most likely future have spun in circles trying to answer. And I’m not going to answer that now, although I could spin in a couple of circles to argue my opinion myself. Instead I want to point out how we should go about thinking about questions like this one. Or how we should not go about it.
To just attempt to answer certain biblical questions, we need to start with truth. As Christians we believe the Bible to be true, right? So, in searching the truth about anything, we must absolutely start with the truths we already know. There are just some things, or actually a lot of things, that the Bible makes crystal clear. When it comes to Scripture, there is no room for questioning what it means in things such as:
- God’s goodness (1 John 1:5, Psalm 136:1, Psalm 107:1, Mark 10:18)
- His character (Isaiah 30:18- Justice, 1 John 4:8- Love, Revelation 4:8- Holy)
- Obviously these are not the only characteristics, they are merely sufficient examples.
- Salvation by faith alone through grace alone (Romans 4:22-25, Ephesians 2:4-9, Acts 16:31)
- Christ’s death and resurrection (Matthew 28:5-6, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5)
And these are just some of the core things that the Bible teaches us without a doubt. There are many more that would take me days to list and hours for you to read.
When there is a doctrinal or theological question that we are trying to answer, as believers we need to start with the Scripture that we know. If we come up with an answer or opinion that in any way contradicts what we already know about who God is and the truth in the Bible, we need to stop and look harder. Because if there is a contradiction in the truth, it isn’t truth anymore. There may be difficult things to understand, but there cannot be a contradiction. We cannot say that God is fully good without darkness in Him, and then claim that He is responsible for orchestrating evil. It does not line up.
Our answers or interpretations must match the truth in the Bible. We do not mold the Bible to fit our opinion, fact, logic, or human understanding. We apply logic, fact, and wisdom to the passages using truth we already know. If you find a contradiction, figure out why, don’t just shrug and move on.
So with this said, I will again emphasize this: never, EVER attribute something to God that would be considered despicable even to a fallen human being. If we can take that attribute, apply it to a person, and say that it is sin or evil, then it cannot be attributed to God, because, as we’ve established, God is holy, pure, just, loving, and GOOD.
Hm, I suppose I did sort of get a little into an argument about the origin of evil… Just didn’t mean to. I’m not saying I know it, I’m just trying to talk about how we should reason, not necessarily all the details of what we should conclude.
Frankly, if something is not explicitly clear to us, we need to give it the backseat to those things that are. If we know that God is good, other things need to line up with that. If we know God is holy, the rest needs to line up with that. We must not put a perfect God on our level in His attributes. He is perfect, we are not. This is not like Greek mythology, in which gods act like people, have petty arguments, are imperfect, sometimes downright evil, but have more power. That is not our God. Our God is holy- set apart. He is perfect.
We sing “He’s a good, good Father,” and “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty,” but do we really mean it? Do our thoughts, arguments, and doctrines match those words? Do we turn to the solid truths of the Bible before getting into arguments about doctrinal details? Know the truth. And then use it to learn. Don’t just chuck it to the sidelines while going off on a tangent.
While I do not agree with him on all points, Augustine said it well when he said:
I now tried to discover other truths, as I had already come to realize that incorruptible is better than corruptible, so that You must be incorruptible, whatever might be Your nature. For no soul ever has been able to conceive or ever will be able to conceive anything better than You, the supreme and perfect Good… But seeing the superiority of the incorruptible, I should have looked for You in that truth… For there is no way in which corruption can affect our God… for He is God, and what He wills is good, and Himself is Goodness, whereas to be corrupted is not good.
(Confessions, Book Seven, IV)
In this Augustine got to the heart of truth-seeking: the character of God. If something we are attributing to God goes against his incorruptible and good character, then the attribute cannot be true. We know God is good, so to say that He is evil is illogical, and a contradiction.
This is how we should go about our study of the Word and God. We need to know the clear truths of the character of God, and when we do the rest will fall into place, as long as we continue to focus on the important truths that are outlined for us.
Trying to figure out the “origin of evil” is not a bad thing, nor is trying to figure out every prophecy in the book of Revelation. But we need to be founded on the core truths of who God is, who Jesus is, and who we are in Him, and then we will be able to “rightly divide the Word of truth.”
If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him;
if we endure, we will also reign with Him;
if we deny Him, He also will deny us;
if we are faithless, He remains faithful-
for He cannot deny Himself.
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
1 Timothy 2:13-15
Let us not get into quarrels about words, but let us rightly handle Scripture.
Let us give grace in every circumstance, whether we agree or not, but let us be firm also in our foundation. When it comes to the truth, we must be immovable. Give grace, but stand strong and know the truth.