What is truly wonderful is that Scripture not only teaches us that God has attributes, but it also tells us where to begin. The very first thing that God wants us to understand about Himself is that He is the Creator of heaven and earth. Thus the very first attribute is that God is the Creator.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).
The early Church understood this in a deeply profound way. They faced a pagan world that believed the universe was eternal and whatever gods existed were only finite parts of this world. Thus, according to the early Church, the first essential difference between the Christian God and the gods of the pagans was that He was the “Maker of Heaven and Earth.”
In the theology, hymns, and creeds of the early Church, the doctrine of creation was viewed as the beginning point of all theology. All of the other attributes of God made sense only in the context of a God who existed prior to, independent of, and apart from the space-time universe that He created out of nothing for His own glory. If God is not the Creator, then He is not GOD. If someone accepts this fact, he will not have any problem with accepting anything else in Scripture.
The early Church was right in starting with the doctrine of creation, for it is the most mysterious and incomprehensible doctrine contained in the Bible. After all, what human mind can possibly fathom the act of Creation? Who can fully understand how God “spoke” the worlds into being? How did He bring everything out of nothing? How did He make life from nonlife? Why did He create angels and men, knowing that they would sin? Who can give a “coherent” explanation of Creation? Who can know the mind of the Creator and tell us the hows, whys, and wherefores of Creation?
We must bow in humility and awe before the God who is there in the very first sentence of His revelation. We must confess that creation out of nothing is beyond human reason and experience. This is why the author of Hebrews stated, “Faith is the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
This is why the world focuses its main attack on the Biblical doctrine of creation. They revived the old Greek idea of evolution in order to cut the main taproot of Christianity. Once God is no longer viewed as the Creator of heaven and earth, then He is no longer the God who gives the world its existence. He becomes just one of many gods, all of whom derive their existence from the world!
The doctrine of creation is always the starting point throughout Scripture in any discussion of the “Gordian knots” of theology. Thus when Paul dealt with the issue of Divine sovereignty and man’s moral accountability in Romans 9, he immediately turned the discussion to the doctrine of creation (vv. 20-21). When dealing with why wives are to submit to their husbands, he appealed to creation (1 Corinthians 11:7-9; 1 Timothy 2:12-13).
Is God the Author of Evil?
When dealing with the “problem of evil,” the first step taken by Scripture is to affirm that “evil” is not eternal and thus it did not coexist with God as a rival god. The Zoroastrian idea of an eternal conflict between good and evil is refuted by the doctrine of creation. Evil is a finite part of the world God made.
But does this mean that God is the “author” of evil? If by “author” one asks if God is the “agent” of evil, the Biblical answer is no. When we sin, we do the sinning, not God. He does not force or tempt anyone into evil according to James 1:13-17. We sin because we choose to do so.
If by “author” one asks if God is “responsible” for evil, the answer is still no. The wordresponsible means accountability to a higher power to whom something is owed and who can demand payment of it. But there is no “higher power” to whom God is accountable. God is not accountable to anyone or anything outside Himself. God has no “Day of Judgment.” Whatever God does or says is always consistent with His own immutable nature.
If by the word evil, one means “an accident of chance or luck,” the answer is no. There is no such thing as “luck” or “chance.” Sin is not an “accident” that we can blame on God, the stars, the cards, or on Lady Luck. The concept of chance totally removes any human responsibility.
But while the Bible clearly teaches that God is not the “author of evil,” at the same time, dozens of passages speak of God creating, sending, planning, and foreordaining evil! These passages are enough to show that while God is not the “author of evil” in the sense of being the agent ,of it, or of being accountable for it, yet, in some sense God “creates evil,” “sends evil,” “means it for good,” etc. Surely these passages mean something and not nothing! (See: Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6; Job 2:10; Genesis 50:20; Deuteronomy 29:21; Joshua 23:15; Judges 2:15; Judges 9:23-24; 1 Samuel 18:10, 11; 1 Kings 9:9; 1 Kings 21:21, 29; 2 Kings 6:33; Exodus 4:11; 1 Samuel 2:6-7; Proverbs 16:4; Romans 11:36.)
Some theologians have tried to avoid the force of these and many other like passages by arguing that the “evil” spoken of is only “nonmoral evil.” It is assumed that nonmoral evil is not real evil and hence not part of the issue of the problem of evil per se.
Several serious problems are found with this approach. First of all, the concept of nonmoral evil cannot be found anywhere in the text of Scripture. The Bible uses the same Hebrew and Greek words for “evil” whether speaking of sin or sickness. No exegetical basis for the distinction between moral and non-moral evil exists. The distinction between moral and nonmoral evil was a refinement of medieval theology and should not be arbitrarily read back into the text of Scripture.
The second problem with the idea of nonmoral evil is that this does not lessen the reality or gravity of the evils in view. Since the Bible calls all these things “evil,” how these things are not really evil has yet to be explained.
We cannot imagine trying to comfort someone whose child was born blind by claiming that this was not a real evil, or, that the pain and suffering caused by a hurricane or an earthquake are not really evil.
While all evil is not sin per se, all evil comes from sin. For example, while sickness and death are not sins, they are “evils” that come from the Fall of man into sin (Romans 5:12).
Third, when the problem of evil is discussed, the kinds of evils that are raised as objections to God’s foreknowledge, power, goodness, and existence are the exact evils mentioned in the texts. Anything that causes pain and suffering is assumed to be an “evil.” Such things as disease, birth defects, blindness, lameness, ignorance, poverty, deception, war, and death are all considered as “evils.”
The obvious solution is that what the Bible means by the word “evil” is not what pagan philosophers such as Epicurus meant. This never seems to occur to modern theologians. They assume the humanistic definitions of all the key terms used in the “problem of evil.” Like Pavlov’s dogs, whenever they see the word “evil” in the Bible, they yelp that it means “chance-produced evil.” They never bother to exegete the text to see what the Bible means by such words.
Thus when they see the word evil in the above texts, this throws them into a state of confusion because God is pictured as sending evil upon people. In fact the Bible states many times that God predestines and predetermines evil. Evil is apart of His plan, called “His-story.” Thus evil is not “chance-produced.” It is planned by God Almighty!
Biblical Meaning of Evil
In the Bible, the different words for evil (Hebrew ra; Greek kakos, poneros) are used in the following ways:
1. The word evil is used as a description of the nature of man after the Adam’s Fall. In Luke 11:13, Jesus describes man as “being evil.” The present participle of the verb can be translated, “being and remaining evil.”
2. Because man by nature is evil, all his thoughts, words, and deeds are called “evil” (Genesis 6:5; Mark 7:21-22; Romans 3:10-18).
3. The act of sin is “evil” (1 Kings 11:6).
4. Evil is not only the act of sin but also its resulting pain, suffering, or death. Thus evil can be the result of sin on one’s self or the harm that one can do to others (2 Kings 22:16-17; Jonah 1:7).
5. God uses evil for His own purposes. (Genesis 50:20; Psalm 119:67-71).
The fourth problem with the idea of nonmoral evil is the fact that such a concept does not solve the problem of evil. It is assumed that it is all right to say that God “creates,” “plans,” or “sends” nonmoral evil. Otherwise how can we explain the judgment of God on sinners? The plagues of Egypt are a good example of God’s causing pain, suffering, and death. Hell, of course, is the greatest evil God ever created.
But when it comes to moral evil, it is claimed that we must never say that God “creates,” “plans,” or “sends” moral evil, for this would make God the “author” of evil.
The problem with this line of reasoning is that the Bible clearly speaks of evils that cannot be viewed as anything other than moral evils, and that God not only foresaw but alsoplanned from all eternity! The greatest evil ever perpetrated in human history was the murder of the Son of God. Here we have a real moral evil. Does the Bible tell us that this evil was foreknown and foreordained by God, or does it say that God did not know that Christ would die on the cross for our sins?
In terms of man’s responsibility in the whole affair, Peter laid the entire evil on the shoulders of those who did it.
You have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain (Acts 2:23).
The early Church agreed with this and saw Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews as the “author” of this, the greatest of all evils (Acts 4:27).
Yet, while man was “accountable” for this evil because he was the “agent” who did it freely and not under any external constraints, Peter and the early Church believed that this evil was foreknown, predestined, preordained, decreed, predetermined, and planned by God. Thus Peter said that Christ was:
… delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23).
To this the Church agreed saying,
For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy Servant Jesus … both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentile and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur (Acts 4:27-28).
How can we explain this seeming contradiction? Herod was responsible for doing something not only foreknown but also predetermined by Almighty God! The text cannot be any clearer.
There are only two possible ways of handling this. One way is to pretend that these passages do not exist. The tension is “solved” but at the expense of God’s Word. This is what processian and moral government teachers do.
The second way is the historic Christian response, which is to bow before the mysteries of Revelation. When humanistic thinkers demand, “But how does God do this?” we respond that we don’t know. All we know is what we have been told in Scripture. And Scripture tells us that God is “working all things together for our good” (Romans 8:28). This we believe although we cannot explain it.
Biblical Christians believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and that everything that exists is part of the Creator’s plan that will bring Him glory and honor both in this world and in the next.
This is an excerpt of Exploring the Attributes of God by Robert Morey
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