Part II: For Goodness Sake: Evil, the Interloper

Deep in our hearts we all long for goodness – goodness that is everywhere – in both motivation and result. Everything should be good, sensible, resilient, fair, kind, loving, beneficial. . . . Where does this longing for utopian happiness and justice originate? We know the answer. It originates in the heart of our Creator.  Thus, it is good for us to consider that word, “creator.”

A creator is one who creates. To create carries multiple related ideas: to bring something into existence, to make, to shape, to form, to design, to build, to construct.  The creative process involves a range of activities from thinking to choosing and from designing to building.

In the beginning, according to the book of Genesis, God created the heavens and the earth and everything therein within a six day span and then rested. God said to Himself, “Let Us make man in Our image. . . ” (Gen. 1:26).  These plural, first person pronouns allow for more than an expression of majesty but also of plurality within the Godhead as revealed in the New Testament. The Son was a part of that original creative activity (John 1:3, Heb. 1: 2; Col. 1: 17) as was the Spirit (Gen. 1:2; Job 26:13). Creativity is core to God’s identity (mingled with His eternality, majesty, omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience, holiness, love, goodness. . .).  God described everything he made as being good or very good (Gen. 1).

So where did evil come from?  Since the Scriptures claim that “without Him was not anything made that was made” and that He created everything that is both visible and invisible, then it appears that evil must be a part of what God has made. How can a good God design evil?  The problem we have set up here is based upon an assumption that evil is a created force.  But it is not a created reality or force.  To find any sense in this, we must first define what evil is.

The root idea of evil is to spoil, to break in pieces, to make worthless.[1] The Greek scholar, Dr. Spiros Zodhiates defines evil as brokenness, offense, injustice, crime, harm, violation of law, irreverence toward God, injurious treatment, slander, abuse.[2]  He also defines evil as attributing to others the worst imaginable motive, an evil nature that makes one suspicious of evil in others.  Evil is corruption. Evil lacks any creative ability. Evil lacks goodness.

Thus, we can see that God is good and the product of His creative work is good.  However, evil is the absence of goodness (God’s nature).  An absence of light is darkness.  Good and evil are not equals, though we think of them as opposites: good versus bad. Actually, bad cannot exist on its own. Good must exist for bad or evil to leach on it in order to spoil, ruin, or break.  Good came first;  evil is not an equal to it.

Good is eternal as an attribute of God. Evil is temporary, existing only as long as a fallen, broken world exists. In another world – another kingdom, another economy, another culture – evil will be banished to outer darkness, that is, hell.[3]

Evil is the work of the devil, the Evil One, Satan. But did not God create Satan? Yes, God created Satan as the most beautiful of all the angels. Satan was thoroughly good. But at some point, Satan’s heart changed from reverence toward God to competition with God for His position.  Through such pride, Satan ruined himself: denying God’s goodness, he became evil, like a thief, motivated then to “kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10).   Thus begins a tale filled with much woe.

Many do not believe the biblical stories are true, but the more that evil pervades our society, the less we can deny the messages contained in these stories.  How did evil enter the human race? How can evil exist within the human heart?

Evil does not need to totally blindside us. There is hope. There is good news. Because the Savior came (can we finally admit that we are in need of being saved?), the best is yet to come. The Evil Interloper will be vanquished. All the tales of good and evil from Homer’s The Illiad and The Odyssey to Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables voice the human cry for good to win over evil. Could there be eternal truths embedded in all such narratives?

Trust in God. Look to Him.

“But in all these things, we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities,

 nor things present, nor things to come . . .

 shall be able to separate us from the love of God,

 which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

We’ll continue this saga in our next post.  Any comments?

[1] The New Bible Dictionary, 3rd Edition.

[2] The Complete Word Study Dictionary,  Spiros Zodhiates.

[3] Revelations chapters 20-22.

Categories: Joy & Suffering -- Good & Evil, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Part II: For Goodness Sake: Evil, the Interloper

  1. amanda

    This is a really helpful viewpoint/explanation. I appreciated this! I have heard the idea before (evil’s effective non-existence, it’s parasitic nature) – most likely from you! – but it is so good to hear again.

    • kltolsen

      Looking back at your comment, Amanda, causes me to want to reply to your reply. Thank you for appreciating my processing of this heavy issue of evil in God’s creation. While I’ve asserted that evil is the absence of goodness, not a created force, parasitic in nature (to kill, steal, and destroy what God has created as good), this does not mean that evil is effectively non-existent. Evil most startlingly and painfully exists, but 1) it is not a work or creation of God; 2) it exists only as a negation (spoilage) of God’s work; 3) it exists in this world only temporarily, while goodness is as eternal as God Himself as part of who He is, expressed in all He does. The comforting, good news is that God can do no ill, that His goodness will prevail over evil and banish it to hell, and that an all-pervasively good New Heavens and Earth is the foretold future (Rev. 20-22). Much cannot be understood, but what can be provides hope. What cannot be understood does not need to lead to despair, because we know God is good, sovereign, compassionate, wise, and loving. Through His cross Christ in His pain-filled love absorbs all our sin and pain — if we offer it all to Him. Thus, we walk in a faith grounded in revelatory understanding while surrounded by mystery. We see through a glass darkly. In the hidden details, we walk by faith in our Good Shepherd. But we never walk alone.

  2. debra

    thanks karen. i really appreciate your writing.

  3. Marty Zuidervaart

    Your gift with syntax, Karen, has massaged a subject that even wearies the best of our evangelical
    apologists. Reading this blog does not weary me; it energizes! Mysterious, still, to me is the truth that Satan had the ability to rebel (sin) where God dwells, yet we humans won’t possess that same risk factor when we enter that same place. Will we, as redeemed creatures on the new earth, possess wills (power of choice) that are less free than what Satan and the other rebellious angels (demons) expressed? Realizing that such questions do nothing for the transformation of my heart, I continue to enjoy the dynamic of sanctified speculation about theological mysteries. All of what we are writing can remain simple for all of us: “We keep messing up, but God keeps taking us back.” God has solved the problem of evil, pain, and suffering with the cross: my good God punished himself so I can live unpunished. What love! What grace! What mercy! How I want to love and trust such a good God! Also, Karen, committing as one of your support persons during the writing of your doctoral dissertation will be an honor and a privilege. Add my name to your list! Love you in the Lord, Marty.

    • kltolsen

      Thank you, Marty, for your wise contribution to the conversation!! This is so meaningful. Yes, “We keep messing up, but God keeps taking us back.” Yes, “God has solved the problem of evil, pain, and suffering with the cross: my good God punished himself so I can live unpunished. What love!…” This is the happy heart of the matter!!
      And thank you for being willing to join a small support band of people to pray and hold me up while I work on my final doctoral project! Belonging to the Body of Christ makes life rich indeed. So grateful!

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