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Is God the Author of Evil?

Does the Bible contradict itself? Did God create evil?Among the so-called discrepancies that skeptics claim to have found in the Bible is the question of whether or not God is the author of evil. 

Verses such as 1 Corinthians 14:33, Deuteronomy 32:4, and James 1:13 teach that God does not originate sin. Skeptics maintain that such verses contradict passages including Lamentations 3:38, Jeremiah 18:11, Isaiah 45:7, Amos 3:6, and Ezekiel 20:25 which, they claim, teach God is the author of evil. Let us examine the evidence.

The answer lies in the fact that the concept of evil can have more than one definition. First, the word can refer to sin and wickedness. This meaning in no way describes the nature of God. Not only does God have no sin, neither does God attempt to cause man to sin. James 1: 14 (the very context of one of the disputed verses) shows that, when man sins, it is the result of his own lust. God is holy in every aspect, and to consider Him as having any evil whatsoever is contrary to all Bible concepts, a fact that is sustained by the verses used to show that God is not the author of evil.

What then is the meaning of the words used in those verses that seem to indicate God is the author of evil? In many of the verses (Lamentations 3:38, Jeremiah 18:11, and Amos 3:6), the word denotes the punishments that God sent upon man because of man's wicked deeds. God inflicts tragedy ("evil") on those who fail to keep His laws. Isaiah 45:7 shows this meaning by its own context. The evil spoken of is opposite to peace and prosperity, and so would refer to natural catastrophes such as trials, disappointments, plagues, wars, etc. These adversities God controls and sends upon man as a consequence of sin.

Probably the most disputed passage involved is Ezekiel 20:25. At least three possible explanations are offered. Clarke says that the "statutes," which were "not good" though God gave them to the people, were the rules of idolatry and heathen practices into which God allowed the people to fall because they would not obey His laws. Clarke argues that here, as in many Old Testament passages, God is figuratively spoken of as doing that which He only permits to be done. Haley's view of the wording is that God gave the Jews laws that were intended for good, but which became harmful or "not good" in result because the people failed to keep them. A parallel scripture to this interpretation is found in Romans 7:7-13. A third possibility is that the laws given were good, relatively speaking. However, they were not the best possible laws because the people, having hardened hearts, would not accept better laws. That this was done in the case of some laws is shown by Christ's references to divorce in Matthew 19.

Although there might be doubt as to what some of the scriptures involved do mean, logical possibilities can be presented; so it can safely be said that it is known what the passages do not mean. God does not possess sin or wickedness in any form, nor does He cause man to do so. The contradictions that doubters claim to find in the Word of God can be disproved by an honest study of the scriptures. The Bible, then, despite the attacks of critics, stands unified and firm — the inspired Word of God.

Bibliography (List of works studied)

Barnes, Albert. Notes on the Old Testament. Edited by Robert Frew. Isaiah, Vol. II. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1950.

Clarke, Adam. Holy Bible with Commentary and Critical Notes. Vol. IV. Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1826.

DeHoff, George W. Alleged Bible Contradictions Explained. Murfreesboro. Tennessee: DeHoff Publications, 1950.

Haley, John W. An Examination of the Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible. Nashville: B.C. Goodpasture, 1958.

(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 1964, 2015

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