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Is God the Cause of Evil in the World?

Imagine for a moment that you are standing at the edge of a vast forest. The forest represents all the good and bad things in the world. As you walk through it, you encounter beautiful flowers and dangerous beasts, serene streams and treacherous ravines. You might wonder, "Who made this forest? And why are there both lovely and dreadful things within it?"


Some skeptics point to a verse in the Bible, Isaiah 45:7, to claim that God is the author of all evil in the world. The verse says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” At first glance, it seems to suggest that God is responsible for everything, both good and bad. But let's dive deeper to understand what this truly means.


First, we need to examine the word "evil" in this context. In our everyday language, "evil" usually refers to something morally wrong, like wickedness or sin. However, the original Hebrew word used here is "rah," which has a broader meaning. It can refer to distress, misery, injury, calamity, and adversity, not just moral wickedness.


To grasp this better, let’s consider how "rah" is used in other parts of the Bible. For example, Amos 6:3 says, “Woe to you who put far off the day of doom” (NKJV). Here, "doom" or "calamity" is translated from "rah." Similarly, Jeremiah 42:6 states, “Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God.” The word "bad" is "rah," referring to something displeasing or undesirable, not inherently wicked.


When the Israelites complained to Moses in Numbers 20:5 about being brought to a "terrible place," they used "rah" to describe the harshness of the desert, not its morality. In Job 31:29, Job speaks of "evil" befalling his enemies, meaning misfortune or trouble, not moral corruption.


Now, let’s return to Isaiah 45:7. In Hebrew poetry, parallelism is a key feature, where the second part of a verse mirrors or contrasts the first part to clarify its meaning. The verse reads, “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity.” Here, "calamity" is paired with "peace" in contrast, suggesting that "rah" refers to physical or situational adversity, not moral evil.


So, does this mean God is the cause of all misfortunes? No, but He allows circumstances that can lead to distress or adversity. But intrinsic evil—moral wrongness—is not from God. According to 1 John 3:4, sin is a violation of God's will, and humans sin when they choose to go against God's laws. This free will means we are the source of moral evil in the world, not God.


Think about a parent-child relationship. A loving parent might allow a child to face challenges, like studying for a difficult test or learning to ride a bike; knowing these experiences builds character and resilience. However, the parent does not cause the child's willful disobedience or harmful actions. Similarly, God permits adversity, but He does not cause moral evil.


Understanding this helps us see God not as a tyrant who creates wickedness but as a sovereign who allows free will and the natural consequences of a fallen world. Adversity can serve a purpose: teaching, testing our faith, and drawing us closer to Him. Romans 8:28 assures us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”


So, next time you walk through the forest of life, remember that while it contains beauty and peril, it is crafted by a wise Creator who allows challenges to shape us but never authors the moral evil that leads us away from Him.

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