Where does evil come from?

Where does evil come from?

Nov 01
Where does evil come from?

I’ve recently been involved in many discussions regarding the origin of evil, the implications of Hell, how a loving God could send someone to Hell, etc.  This is my attempt to explain evil.

Let’s start with the Beginning. Genesis 1.  The way this is written, there was nothing until God created it.  There was an absence of creation.  A void.  And then God Created light.  He did not create darkness.  His Creation, light, was good and so He separated it from what was not His creation: darkness.  Everything that God Creates He calls good.  His Creation is His handiwork, His artwork, His design, His thoughts made real.  Anything else is an absence of Creation, just like the void in the Beginning.  Everything God Created was good.  He said so Himself.  He did not create evil.

Then God Created His masterpiece, His crowning achievement, the greatest thing He had ever made: man.  God made man in His image.  Man is also a creator.  God also gave man the ability to choose for himself and make his own decisions.  This means that man had to be able to choose between what is of God and what is not of God.  Otherwise it isn’t really choice.  Our choices would be, “Do I pick this good thing or this other good thing?”  For us to have true choice, we have to be able to choose what is NOT good — the absence of God.  However, in the beginning man didn’t know what wasn’t of God.  All he knew was what was OF God.  He did not know there were things that didn’t contain God.  However, God created a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Without the ability to choose to know what is evil, what is not of God, man still wouldn’t be a creature of “free will.”

Eventually, man chose to know the difference.  Man wanted to understand evil, what is not of God, so that he could be more “like” God.  I can see many of us making a similar argument.  We’d say, “Eating the fruit of this Tree and knowing good and evil will make us more like God, which is our goal.  It would be wrong to NOT eat it!”  In that choosing, man’s innocence died.  He knew evil.  Now he could choose between God and not God.  However, by it’s very nature, the choice to know what is not of God is a choice not of God.  If I were to say “I want to know what it’s like to be with someone else” what am I saying about my current relationship?  I’m not saying “I WANT to be with someone else” — I’m just saying “I want to know what it would be LIKE.”  In the end, it’s the same thing — a choice that is absent of your current relationship, even if it’s just the knowledge of what that absence would be like.

For the first time, man saw the world through his own eyes rather than through the eyes of the One who Made it.  He saw himself — naked, unprotected, vulnerable.  He saw all the things that could hurt him.  He saw this because he was seeing what life would be like without God.  He understood “evil.”  So man chose to create — he made clothing.  His reason to create clothing was from seeing a world absent of God.  The choice to create clothing was a statement that God might not provide and protect, it was a choice not of God.  It was evil.

With the Ten Commandments and the Law that followed, God taught His people how to choose what is of Him.  Similar to how He separated light from darkness, He showed His people how to separate themselves from what is not of Him.  He was explaining the choices.  Think of it as the first of the “Do This, Not That” book series (if you’re familiar with those books, such as “Eat This, Not That”).  He explained that choosing these other things were not of Him and choosing things not of Him “missed the mark.”  He explained the consequences ahead of time for missing the mark so that there would be no surprises.  He wanted them to understand what it means to choose what is not of Him.

Later, God would come in the flesh to make all things right.  As Jesus, He tried to turn it all around and model what it is like to choose God and what is good.  Jesus said that He didn’t want to go to the cross and endure that suffering, but He also said that if it was what God wanted then He would.  He made a point of surrendering His own will to that of God.  He made it clear that He could have chosen differently, but that He was deliberately choosing God and placing Himself into God’s hands.  He died unclothed, vulnerable, unprotected.  He brought everything back full circle, effectively “undoing” the original choice by man.

We explain many things be the absence of something else.  Darkness is the absence of light.  Cold is the absence of heat.  Hunger is the absence of food.

Evil is the absence of God.

Hell would be a state where God is completely absent from our lives.  If God is the source of everything good, then Hell is the absence of anything good.  It is a hopeless, helpless state that never ends — it will never get better because we have completely removed ourselves from God’s presence.

The worst part, what I think really makes Hell HELL, is knowing that it was our choice.  There won’t be anyone in Hell that didn’t do it to themselves.  It isn’t so much a punishment from God as it is God giving people exactly what they said they wanted in life — a life without Him.


  1. WOW. I had never recognized the fact that the darkness was not created by God. Separated by Him, yes. But your point about it being a “void” — a non-creation — is a big “ah ha!” moment to me.

    I like the Amplified version of the account…

    “1 In the beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good (suitable, pleasant) and He approved it; and God separated the light from the darkness.”

    • Thanks, Noel! Isn’t it great that God can still surprise us with new thoughts that had never occurred to us?

  2. dan

    So if God acts is the result or product of his action good for all mankind or just believers?

    • Excellent question, Dan. Unfortunately, I have only a puny answer. I believe that God is good and that what He does is good. The Bible tells us that God makes the rain and that it blesses both the believer and the unbeliever.

      Personally, I think that while we’re still “mixed” in this world (until God separates those who have chosen Him from those who have chosen not-Him), that we will all sometimes receive good (blessings for His people) and bad (consequences of choosing what is not of Him).

      To be a little more “scientific” about it — we lack a control group to make a more informed analysis. ;)

  3. dan

    I guess the real question I struggle with is the concept of a loving God who is the same today and yesterday, but yesterday in the old testament he had the Israelites destroy whole tribes of humans including the women and children in order to take their lands. This immediately followed the delivery of the Ten Commandments and the subsequent law designed to teach what is good and how to choose him. So I guess the question is how is that action by God–having his chosen people kill all those men, women and children–an act of love that is good?
    I appreciate your thoughts and I write only because you seem mature enough in Christ to discuss these ideas but I’m not sure everyone should read my ‘wonderings’. I leave it up to you whether or not to post .

    • Another GREAT question, Dan! Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s one I can answer in just a few sentences. This merits a full post.

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