Depending upon one’s worldview, the explanation of the origin of “evil” will vary from person to person. In this article, we will delve into several questions. However, we must first begin with the most fundamental question about evil: Does evil exist?
DOES EVIL EVEN EXIST?
When you hear the word “evil,” what comes to your mind? What does evil even mean? The English word “evil” means anything that is “morally reprehensible.” There are several Greek and Hebrew words in the Bible that are translated as evil and they also carry the same idea of something that is morally wrong or contrary to that which is right.
The belief in evil necessitates a belief in an objective and universal standard of right and wrong. If “wrong” exists, then “right” exists. Ironically, those who claim they don’t believe in God because of evil are, unintentionally, making a case for a creator of right and wrong. Otherwise, the argument makes no sense.
Evil exists. For one to argue that there is no moral law is to argue that anything and everything is acceptable. If a moral law does not exist, then there is no such thing as right or wrong. Hitler would have been perfectly within his right to do what he did. Rapist, murderers and child molesters are no better (or worse) than you and me. However, the fact of the matter is that evil exists. Wrong exists. Therefore, right also must exist. If moral law exist (of any kind), then a moral law giver must exist.
MORALS WITH NO OBJECTIVE BASIS
Everyone accepts the fact that there is a general sense of moral law. Just because someone doesn’t believe in a moral lawgiver doesn’t mean they don’t have morals. Some non-believers I know live a more ethical or moral life than some self-proclaiming Christians. The problem is not that atheists don’t have morals, rather, the problem is that they have no objective basis in which they can point to establish their morals.
I once heard an atheist attempt to explain morals through societal living. He reasoned that the society and culture in which you live dictates all moral law. With this understanding, rape may be cultural and even necessary in thousands or millions of years. He argued that what is wrong today may have not been wrong “millions of years ago,” and what was wrong millions of years ago may not be wrong in a million years from now. This argument falls flat in several ways.
First, what objective gauge is he using to come to his conclusion about society and culture? His argument presupposes itself without any evidence or reason. While it is a theory, it is a theory without any evidence.
Second, what moral law teaches that one must abide in societal norms and cultural of the day? Why would a murderer or a rapist care about society or cultural norms? Check that. Why SHOULD they care?
Third, if something makes someone happy, then who is to say that society or culture should stop them?
Fourth, this argument denies a universal and objective standard of right and wrong. This means if culture and society approve of said action(s), then it would be acceptable—no matter what the action is. In other words, this would mean that no action or lack of action is intrinsically wrong.
The bottom line is simple. One can throw out as many theories as they would like in attempts to explain morals. However, if an objective lawgiver doesn’t exist, then neither can an objective moral law. This doesn’t mean one can’t have morals without a belief in an objective lawgiver, but it does mean they can have no logical basis for their moral beliefs.
WHERE DID EVIL COME FROM?
As a Christian, I believe the Bible is from the eternal Jehovah-God. The Bible teaches that God created all things (Gen.1-2), and that He created all things good (Gen. 1:31). James 1:13-15 says:
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
Simply put, according to James 1:13-15, evil first occurred when the first created being was drawn away by and acted upon their own desires which were contrary to God’s will.
WHO WAS THE FIRST TO SIN?
Genesis 3:1-7 records Adam and Eve being the first humans to sin. However, at this point, we assume evil already existed because Satan, being in the form of a serpent, tempted Eve in the garden of Eden (1 Jn. 3:12; Gen. 3:4; Rev. 20:2). The tree of knowledge of good and evil also implies evil had already entered into creation at this point (Gen. 2:9). This means that humans were not the first to sin. Therefore, this forces us to conclude that angelic beings were the first to sin. Let me explain why.
God created all things, including angelic beings (Jn. 1:3; Neh. 9:6; Rev. 4:11; etc.):
“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16)
“O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth” (Isa. 37:16)
In Genesis 1:1, the Hebrew word for heavens is plural. The word itself means “heaven, heavens, sky, visible heavens, abode of stars, universe, atmosphere,” and “the [current] abode of God.” “Heavens” therefore is properly plural, and many Bible scholars and translators have rightly translated it as such. Therefore, it seems safe to assume that the “heaven of heavens” and the host of heaven (i.e., angelic beings) were created along with the physical heavens. In fact, consider Nehemiah 9:6:
“You alone are the Lord; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and everything on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You.”
A clear distinction is made between two kinds of heavens—the physical heavens and what is referred to as the heaven of heavens (spiritual). The physical heavens include two parts: (1)The outer space (sun, moon, stars, etc.) and (2) The immediate atmosphere where the birds fly (Psalm 104:12).
The heaven of heavens, on the other hand, is the third heaven and is the created and current residing place of God and of the heavenly host, angels and other angelic creatures. This would also seem to be the third heaven which Paul mentions when writing to the church in Corinth:
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2).
The passage in Nehemiah indicates that God made the heavens, including the heavens of the heavens. This means where God is currently residing with the host of heaven was created and is not infinite like God is. This also means the first angelic being sinned sometime between creation and when Adam and Eve sinned. This brings us to a much debated topic. Was Satan the first angelic being to sin?
WAS SATAN THE FIRST TO SIN?
Let me say at the beginning, we cannot know for sure who the first angelic being was to sin because the Bible does not explicitly say. Many have concluded that the Bible implies Satan was among the first to sin (if not the first one to sin):
“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (Jn. 8:44).
Clearly, the Bible portrays Satan as an evil leader with his own angels (Mt. 25:41). He is viewed as the main “adversary” to God and righteousness (1 Jn. 3:12; Rev. 12:9; 20:2; Mt. 4:3; Job 1-2; Mt. 12:27; 2 Cor. 6:15; 2 Cor. 4:4; Jn. 12:31; etc.). He is mentioned in the beginning of the Bible (Genesis) and the end (Revelation)—and he is constantly found “to and fro” throughout the rest of Scripture (1 Pet. 5:8).
Some believe that Isaiah 14:3-15 and Ezekiel 28:11-19 are references not only to the respective kings in context, but also to Satan falling (i.e., a “dual reference.”). For example, Ezekiel 28 speaks of:
- One who was the seal of perfection (v. 12, 15).
- One who was in the garden of Eden (v. 13).
- One who was an anointed cherub (v. 14).
- One who sinned and was cast down (v. 15-16).
The meaning of these passages are of much debate. However, whether these passages only apply to the respective kings in the context under consideration, or if they do indeed have a dual reference to Satan, it is not essential to our understanding of the origin of evil. What we do know is that the Bible speaks of “angels who sinned” that were cast out of the presence of God (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6).
“For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” (2 Pet. 2:4).
“And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).
Regardless of which angelic being sinned first, sin entered the world whenever the first angelic being decided to disobey God (Ja. 1:12-15). This could have been Satan (see: Luke 10:18), another angelic being or a group of angelic beings. We simply do not know for sure who was the first angelic being to sin, but we can say with confidence that it was an angelic being who was the first to sin.
CREATION & CHOICE
Since God created angelic beings, and angelic beings sinned, does this mean God is the originator of evil? No, it does not. It means God gave angelic beings (like humans) the ability to choose.
Being a creator of something does not mean you create the results that proceed from the thing you created. For example, let’s assume a builder built a wooden cabin and sold it to the buyer. One day, the buyer decides to smoke a cigarette in the cabin and forgets to put it out. That cigarette ends up falling and catches the cabin on fire which ends up burning the cabin to the ground.
The builder was not the one who caused the fire. While one could argue that the builder built a cabin from wood which had the possibility and potential to catch on fire, the builder was not the one who created the fire. The buyer chose to smoke a cigarette and he was the one who let it fall to the ground. Hebrews 3:4 says:
“For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God.”
God created us. Our bodies are “temples” (dwellings) in which God created (1 Cor. 6:19). God created humans and angelic beings with choice. Evil exists, not because God created it, but because we have choice to do that which we want, even if it is contrary to God’s will.
Regardless of if Satan was the first to sin is irrelevant. We know Satan is depicted as the father of lies and is seen as the main adversary to good throughout Scripture. The Bible says God created all things good. This includes angelic beings (Col. 1:6). Somewhere along the way, angelic beings sinned. Adam and Eve also sinned (Gen. 3). Therefore, the origin of sin entering the human world happened in the Garden of Eden. The origin of sin entering the heavens of heaven happened when one or more angelic beings (Satan or others) chose to sin against God.
– Kevin Pendergrass
For any questions or to be added to the newsletter list, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.