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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Is God the Cause or Creator of Evil? (Part One)

Lately, for whatever strange reason, I have been involved in several lengthy discussions with various people about the issue of God and evil. Now, when I say lately I mean in the last year or so. The root of most of these discussions grows out of someone actually declaring or implying that God in fact is the author/creator of evil. That being the case, I have, in my own meager way, tried to help the person/s gain a better understanding of the issue so they can either respond to the individuals who are making the claim, or to help clear up any confusion that might be in their thinking.

Before I move into my brief discussion here of the issue, let me state that I am not an expert on this issue. Moreover, there has been so much material written on this one issue over the years that I am not trying to add to any of the material out there, as if I have something new to say about the issue. My aim here is to merely bring forth, in as simplistic a way as possible, the issue at hand and how I usually respond. If you have any remarks or comments feel free to make your ‘complaints or praises’ in the comments.

To the question, Is God the cause or creator of evil, my simple answer is. . . NO!
As Christians we believe and confess that God is the creator of everything, either primarily (meaning directly) or secondarily (meaning indirectly). In the creation account, God in fact is described as creating the heavens and the earth (the entire universe and everything in it). However, most fail to take into account that after God created He declared what he had created good. So according to the Genesis account, everything God created is good. Well, obviously this begs the question, whence then comes evil?

(Nota Bene: the question, “Whence then comes evil?” seems to spark a whole host of other questions such as “If humans were created good then why do we sin?” etc. This is not a post about the human condition. I have actually touched on that issue a little in my two part post titled Are People Basically Good? You can see both parts here and here. I want to maintain focus on the single question, “Did God create evil?”)

My first response to the question, ‘where does evil come from’ lies in the ontology of evil itself. And with regard to the ontology of evil, I believe Saint Augustine has provided the most thorough and precise answer of all the thinkers I have read on the issue.

In his treatise De libero arbitrio voluntatis Augustine, in startling detail, discusses the issue of evil as it relates to God (whether God created it) and as it relates to humans (why are we guilty of it and why do we perform evil acts). The treatise is actually written in dialogue. Augustine is carrying on a conversation with Evodius regarding the issues and questions surrounding evil. In this treatise Augustine’s main thrust is to demonstrate that God did not create evil, nor did God cause men to perform evil acts.

I believe Augustine has the most satisfying answer to the ‘problem of evil.’ Therefore, in an upcoming post (for reasons of space) I will provide my response, which is predominately based on Augustine’s treatise De libero arbitrio voluntatis, to the question did God create or cause evil.


Blogger Why ask? said...

My name is Lana Nimmons, I just sarteda blog here and I think you might be interested in what I posted today: Women in Genesis: Sinners or Devine?

5:03 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger nelmezzo said...

Looking forward to the rest of the series, TB. John Piper's church had a conference on suffering and the sovereignty of God this year. One of the speakers, Mark Talbot, a Wheaton philosophy prof, addressed the question of God's involvement with evil in a riveting presentation. Here's a link to the audio.

6:12 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Strictly playing devil's advocate (pun intended), Todd, but I always like to throw out Isa 45:7 in these discussions. How would you interpret God claiming to create both שָׁל֖וֹם(peace) and רָ֑ע (evil/chaos)? I have my thoughts, of course, but I want to hear yours first :)

11:46 PM, December 28, 2005  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

R. mansfield,
Yes, I knew this was going to come up, along with a few other verses. Another way רָ֑ע can be interpreted is 'calamity.' My immediate response, w/o detail, is that this is God using His justice to cause calamity upon a group of people/nations. Is it "evil" relative to God, no. Relative to us, we would call it "evil" in the same sense we call earthquakes, plagues, and other disasters evil. Does this type of "evil" fit into the design of God, yes.

Is it morally evil, no. God's justice is never morally evil no matter how He chooses to exercise it.

Amos 3:6 is another example similar to Isa. 45:7. So my response is that these 'calamaties' (otherwise called "evil") are perhaps God's justice being poured forth.

Did that at least get at what you were asking? I would certainly love to hear your own answer to you own question.


I think my sister actually went to that conference (she is a member of Piper's church) and she told me about it.

12:10 AM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger R. Mansfield said...

I don't necessarily disagree with anything you've said on the subject. I like to look at Isa 45:7 in the context of the verses that immediately precede it. Note that there are strong monotheistic declarations in these verses. Perhaps there's even a bit of hyperbole in play in v. 7 regarding shalom and ra to say that there is only ONE God. There is no god of good and another god of evil as many of the pagan religions suggested. Everything that is, everything that exists comes from God. Also, there may be a play on רָ֑ע (evil/chaos/calamity) with the Egyptian god of essentially the same name (I've never thought that was a coincidence).

12:53 AM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

r. mansfield,

I like your response to the verse. I've never actually caught that in the text but see where that could be the case.

Giving a bit more detail for my response to your question . . . I looked at the one verse (7) in light of the whole chapter (45). God is using Cyrus, whom God calls His anointed, to 1) subdue nations; 2) loose the loins of kings; 3) shatter doors and cut through iron bars, etc. So Isaiah is describing the things God is doing through Cyrus, and then he gets to verse 7 and suddenly God is forming light, creating darkness, and causing "calamity."

Then Isaiah sums up this section of the chapter with the words of God, "I am the Lord who performs all these things." That was my overall interpretation of the verse in light of the chapter.

Thanks for your feedback.

9:26 AM, December 29, 2005  

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