A Question About the Origin of Sin and Evil
August 17, 2023, 5:41 PM

Question: What is the origin of sin and evil?

Answer: This is one of those questions that gets asked every so often. The reason being if God created everything good (pronouncing things as “good” six times before calling the whole of creation “very good”), how and from where did evil come? How could a God, who is not only all-good, but the very source of goodness (Exodus 34:6; Psalm 25:8; 86:5; 145:7; Matthew 19:17; Romans 11:22), create anything that is evil? Since God is the Sovereign Creator of all things, the fact of sin and evil in the world makes Him the author of evil, doesn’t it? These are some of the questions that rise when we consider the so-called “problem of evil.”

First, we want to emphasize that God is indeed all-good and the source of goodness. Aside from the Scriptures referenced above, our confessional standards state this categorically. The Belgic Confession of Faith (1561) states in article 1: “We all believe with the heart and confess with the mouth that there is one only simple and spiritual Being, which we call God; and that He is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing foundation of all good” (emphasis added). Furthermore, in article 13, the Confession say (in part), “We  believe that this same good God, after He had created all things, did not forsake them or give them up to fortune or chance, but that He rules and governs them according to His holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without His appointment; nevertheless, God neither is the Author of nor can be charged with the sins which are committed.”

People read that (or hear that) and say, “How does that make sense? If God is in control of all things and evil exists, He must be responsible for that evil and ultimately its Creator.” Here is where we must say, with all honesty, that how these two articles of faith (God is all-good and all-powerful, and yet not the Author of evil) can both be true is a source of mystery. I do not say this as a cop out, but as an admission of humility and finitude. I am not God. I am limited, finite, and temporal. God is unlimited, infinite, and eternal. There are simply going to be things that you and I cannot (and will never) fully understand but can be reconciled in the mind of God. If you’re not ultimately okay with this answer, then there are going to be many other things in which Christianity will disappoint you.

Now having invoked the word “mystery,” I’m not going to hide behind it completely. I do believe there are things we can profitably say that can help us to a better, though incomplete, understanding of this issue. If God is the Creator of all things yet not the Author of evil, from where did evil come? The only other answer we can provide is that evil arises from the creatures God has made, namely men and angels. Angels are spiritual beings that have minds, emotions, and wills. The Belgic Confession, in article 12, says (in part): “[God] also created the angels good, to be His messengers and to serve His elect; some of whom are fallen from that excellency in which God created them into everlasting perdition, and others have by the grace of God remained steadfast and continued in their first state.” We know from Scripture that the angelic rebellion must have occurred before the record of the fall in Genesis 3, since Satan is already the tempter and father of lies (as Jesus says in John 8:44, “He was a murderer from the beginning”).

In other words, sin and evil come from the hearts of angels and men. If we consider what The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) says in chapter 4, section 2, “[God] created man, male and female, … having the law of God written on their hearts, and power to fulfill it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change.” The will of man in creation was able to obey God and able to disobey God. If this is the case with man, it must have also been the case with the angels.

What was that first sin that got the ball rolling? More than likely, it was pride. Paul, in giving the qualities of bishop (“overseer”), says, “[An overseer should] not [be] a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6). In addition to this, many see in Isaiah 14:12-15 a recounting of the fall of Satan, and in that passage, Satan is quoted as saying “I will” five times in reference to wanting to be like God Himself. It is this same pride that Satan then used to tempt Adam and Eve when he told Eve that in eating the forbidden fruit they will be “like God.”

How that pride originated in the heart of Satan and the other fallen angels, or how Satan was able to stir up pride in the human heart, we are not told. We’re only told that it happened, not how it happened, and we must content ourselves with this mystery. Article 13 of The Belgic Confession continues: “For [God’s] power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that He orders and executes His work in the most excellent and just manner, even then when devils and wicked men act unjustly. And as to what He does surpassing human understanding, we will not curiously inquire into farther than our capacity will admit of; but with great humility and reverence adore the righteous judgments of God, which are hid from us, contenting ourselves that we are pupils of Christ, to learn only those things which He has revealed to us in His word, without transgressing these limits.” This goes back to what we said earlier, we are not God. There are things we will never understand and there are things that God has chosen not to reveal to us. He is God, we are not. We answer to Him, and not Him to us. In the Book of Deuteronomy, as God renews the covenant with the people on the plains of Moab, we read at the end of that chapter, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

If any of this has you wondering about the goodness of God, just consider Jesus Christ. God loved us when we were enemies by sending His Son into the world that we would believe on Him and not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). These are the things upon which God wants us to dwell.

I hope this helps.

~ Pastor Carl

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