Where Did Evil Come From?

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Prior to God’s creation of other things, nothing existed except for the eternal God. Only God “inhabits eternity” (Psalms 41:13; 90:2; Isaiah 57:15). And God, Who defines goodness by His very nature, would never bring evil into being. After He created the universe, His evaluation of it was that it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

This situation raises an obvious question: If, at some time, God alone existed, where did evil come from? If we cannot identify a source for evil in the world, then by default it would be attributed to God.

Fortunately, the Bible does identify the source of evil: It arose in the heart of created beings (angels and humans) precisely when they used something good that God created—their freedom—to oppose God. Freedom itself is a gift from God to humanity, and yet freedom logically carries with it the real possibility of wrongdoing. (One is not truly free to serve God if it is impossible for him not to serve God.) Consider an important passage on this subject:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:13-15).

This passage teaches that God is not responsible for evil. The word for God’s perfect goodness is “holiness.” The adjective “holy” refers to being separate from evil, and worthy of honor. The holiness of God is taught in a wide array of biblical passages, including these:

  • Exodus 15:11. “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (emp. added).
  • Romans 1:4. [Jesus] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (emp. added).
  • Ephesians 4:24. [P]ut on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (emp. added).
  • 1 Peter 1:15. [A]s he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct (emp. added).

The responsibility for evil is borne by those who fail to exercise their freedom properly. Amazingly, our holy God offers us forgiveness through Christ when we misuse our freedom.

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