Who is responsible for evil? Does God know what He is going to do before He does it?
Who or what is responsible for evil? Consider Isaiah 45:7, Amos 3:6, and Lamentations 3:38. Does God have a free will? This is important because of the problem of evil.
If God knows the future with infallible certainty, it would seem that he is powerless to change it. If he does not know it, does he know what he is going to do before he does it? How did the creation of Satan come to pass?
I do not see evil merely as the "lack of goodness," as many do. I believe that God created everything, including evil (Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6; Lamentations 3:38). Evil (including disasters, calamities, pain, suffering, and death) merely is one of many tools that God uses to attain His eventual goals. I believe that the verses you have included support the idea that God has created evil. After He is completely done with that "tool," it will be eliminated and He will discard it, just as He will discard death and Hades (Revelation 20:14), at the end of the Millennium.
I also believe that God has the Power to change anything, including the future. However, I do not believe that He has changed, or will change, anything from the predetermined way He originally intended for all things to occur, ever since the time He created this universe and everything in it and the earth and everything on it. Furthermore, He is the one who planted the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). It is similar to how multiple sequences of dominoes are set up to fall in a certain, predictible, pre-established order, and then the first domino is pushed over.
I believe that before God created the universe, He predestined all things to happen in a specific, infinitely complex sequence of events. He will not deviate from that pattern until, ultimately, He obtains what He wants. During the six "days" of Creation God, in effect, "set up" countless sequences of "dominoes"—including a series for every star and galaxy to shine, for every planet to form, for every angelic being to exist, and for every person ever to live. This was part of His creative work. Once the time of creating was over, God rested—but only from creating, not from interacting with all of the creatures He had made.
In another sense, God created a "Script" for this Creation; and on "day" #6, the "theatrical production" of human history began. It is the greatest "reality play" ever, in which God Himself participates as the Leading Character, but during which nothing more is created. He has ceased from His creative tasks until this ragged, depleted Creation ends and His pristine, new Creation begins (see old and new Creations).
Because He predetermined everything to happen a certain way, and wrote everything into the Script, as it were, then He knows the future and all that happens, long before it actually takes place. All of it is part of His Grand Design. I believe that predestination and foreknowledge go hand-in-hand. Mathematically speaking, this is an "if and only if" relationship. That is, there is a "one-to-one correspondence" between the two, and one cannot exist without the other.
At the same time, people (and angels) absolutely do have free choice. However, I embrace the principle that God has "programmed" that free choice into His creatures (see free will). I feel it is an incomprehensibly ingenious process by which God allows us to believe that the choices we make are solely our own (some attribute their choices to the nonexistent "god" within them), when in reality He planned out everything, including all of our thoughts and decisions, prior to the Creation of the universe. (I realize that most people in the world would utterly reject such a premise.)
Many people believe that God created Satan as purely and exclusively a "good" angel of light (Lucifer), and that it was not the will of God for Satan to chose to disobey, turn away from, and rebel against God. Certainly, God knew that this was going to happen before He created Satan, since God knows everything. In addition, though, I believe that the idea to rebel against God was implanted (by God) into Satan's mind when He created Satan. Indeed, since Satan is a being created by a perfect God, how could it be possible that Satan would have been able to "invent" the evil concept of rebellion toward God, all by himself, had God not placed that "seed" within Satan's mind in the first place?
If God created Satan as capable of disobedience and rebellion, that means that God had a divine reason for these qualities to be found in Satan. Otherwise, God could have been charged with incompetence and ineptitude—false accusations, because God is perfect and never makes mistakes. Thus, God must have instilled the ability to sin and to perform evil acts into Satan, knowing that it was inevitable for him to transgress God's precepts of goodness and justness—all part of God's vast and inexplicable plan.
It may be very difficult for most people to believe in a God who created a world in which there is great suffering, pain, and heartache for all people, knowing that such unpleasant and tragic occurrences (all of which, I believe, He also produced) would take place. On the contrary, I have no problem believing in, accepting, and embracing such a God. In fact, I find comfort in knowing that this Creator has absolute control over all things, including every detail of the future.
I am anything but "fatalistic" in thinking that, ultimately, my choices in life are predetermined. Rather, I rejoice that such a good God exists, Who would go to such extremely detailed, fine-tuned measures to get me to understand that righteousness and obedience to His will are best, and that embracing the knowledge of goodness is the only thing that will enable me to spend eternity, in a perfect Creation, with Him.
Unlike what most Christians seem to believe, this universe never was intended to be perfect but, rather, "very good" (Genesis 1:31—see "very good" vs. "perfect"), in the sense that it is necessary and sufficient to get God what He wants the most. I believe His greatest desire is perfect, pure love and uninterrupted communion between Himself and the creatures He has created, especially human beings. Eventually, this imperfect universe (see an imperfect Creation), and everything in it, will be discarded like an old, worn-out garment (Psalm 102:25,26; Revelation 20:11b), because it will have served its "very good" purpose in allowing God to obtain His greatest objectives and desires.
Immediately following the Millennium, God—Who has rested from creating on the seventh "day" (which now is transpiring)—will create a brand new universe ("heavens and earth"), which will be perfect from its very inception, and in which no evil or sin ever will be present, for all eternity. God did create and allow evil to exist in this present realm; however, there will be no evil in the realm He eventually will create, after this creation is tossed out because it will have served its grand purpose.
I believe, quite simply, that God's ultimate goal is to transfer, out of this present existence, the people whom He predestined to accept Him and to know that His ways are best. Since these are the only ones who, eventually, will enter into the new and perfect Creation, it may seem "bad" and "evil" of God to have created multitudes of people who will not accept Him, who are preordained for destruction (Romans 9:21,22), and who never will enter that new Creation (Hebrews 3:11).
There will be some who will read what I have just stated and will think, "Then who does God think He is, having created a universe with evil, suffering, pain, and bad things being a part of it? What gives Him the right to choose the hopeless, devastating fate of innumerable members of humankind, including torture, murder and suicide, along with the joyous, blissful eternal life of countless others?"
In a sense, God is "self-centered"—and rightfully so—by having made everything primarily for His own pleasure, satisfaction, and enjoyment. But since God is the only one powerful enough to have created the universe, then only He has the right to do whatever He wants to do, no matter what it is, and to accomplish His goals any way by which He chooses to do so. We, as His creatures, are not entitled to judge His actions by our own fallible, human standards. His thoughts and ways are inifinitely far above ours and are beyond our understanding.
HOWEVER, God will not be getting what He wants at "no cost" to Him. In fact, He has paid the ultimate price to be able to obtain what He desires, any way He wishes to acquire it, even if it involves the pain and suffering of billions of people and animals on the earth.
Perhaps "sin" is more than merely disobedience to God. On some level, it would seem to involve "the causing of pain and suffering to others, for one's own advantage and gain." In a figurative sense, then, might not God Himself fall into this latter category? As it is written, "God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us..." (2 Corinthians 5:21), and "The wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23).
The ultimate price God has paid is death on a cross (see Was Jesus God?). Besides death, God also has paid (and, I believe, continues to pay) the price of inconceivable and unimaginable heartache and pain, due to the eternal loss of untold multitudes of His exquisitely-crafted creatures, created for destruction—wishing that all of them could come to a saving knowledge of Him, followed by repentance (2 Peter 3:9), but knowing that many of them will not.
The bottom line is that God allowed Himself to be humiliated, tortured, and killed, and I believe He continues to endure substantial suffering and pain, at least as long as this "very good" Creation exists. This suffering is not the only thing that God has paid to get what He wants one day. I believe that, on some metaphorical level, it also may be a "penalty" for having created a universe and a world in which there would be real suffering and death of virtually all of His creatures.
I know of no other way for God to get what He wants—an eternity of unwavering love, devotion, praise, and worship from creatures who have chosen to give Him those things—than to have created everything the way He has done it. And for having done this, He Himself was willing to pay the supreme cost—death and suffering—to get it.
Return to Email Questions and Ted’s Responses
Go to Ted’s Bible Commentaries and Other Links
View the New International Version of the Bible
Go to Ted’s Homepage