Did God Create Evil?

JamesMormon 25 Comments

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Isa 45:& I form the light , and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the lord do all the things.
Amo 3:6 Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?
Lam 3:38 Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?
Exo 32:14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
1Sa 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.
1Sa 16:15 And Saul’s servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee.

Did God Create Evil?

Comments 25

  1. Ahh. I heart the problem of evil. Does it matter whether God creates evil? Does it alter His (Mormon) character?

  2. I don’t see God as a creator of concepts. I think he found this stuff as is and just makes choices like everyone else.

  3. I think so. For a contrary opinion, see this Ensign article from President Faust, Jan 2007 (link: http://tinyurl.com/y9g35xh )

    This was the First Presidency message for the month. The first line is: “I feel impressed to sound a warning voice against the devil and his angels—the source and mainspring of all evil.”

    I had to be honest with the families I visited – I told them that I consider the source of evil to be God Himself, due to his insistence on the principle of agency. In my view, the devil seems to be the poster child for bad choices due to God-enabled agency.

  4. Interesting HiJolly – so insistence on agency creates evil…

    Re: the post – I think we first have to define what “evil” is.

    Personally, I don’t think God (read: OUR Heavenly Father) created evil, nor did he create good, although I can see how that would fall in line with the view of God as being TRULY all powerful and etc. If God create ALL things, not just all things in relation to our sphere, then of course, logically, he created evil as well.

  5. I believe God is bound by eternal laws, including agency. Without agency, God would not be God but would be a dictator and we would be robots. Ah, yes, that was another’s plan.

  6. Such a good question, too bad so little interest. All of the “old world” Gods were human in their characteristics. They were angry, jealous, capricious and often petty. Sounding familiar? It is interesting to me that we scoff so much at the old Greek Gods or Roman Gods when the God of the Old Testament has so much in common with them. Why shouldn’t God create evil, or make mischief for Job? Why not be petty? Here is the point to take away: life is arbitrary and unfair. It frequently rewards evil and punishes righteousness. Is a God who creates evil and does mischief really so much poorer an explanation for the human condition? The God of the Old Testament in the Mormon world is not the the one the Jews knew. We try to see him through the lens of Joseph as he tries to look through the lens of Paul. If you just accept that the God of the Old Testament (at least is the Israelites understood him) has more in common with Zeus than with Jesus the puzzle is solved.

  7. I think that God’s hands are “tied” in many ways, whether through necessary obedience to various laws, or whether it is a necessary part of agency. Whether He “creates” evil or else lets it go unchecked doesn’t really matter as far as people are concerned. Whether God “created” Hitler or just let him do his thing doesn’t matter much to the millions of people who died as a result – it’s just semantics at that point.

    The quotes from above are all from the OT. Like many in the ancient world, they were inclined to see everything as coming from a God, even things that we now understand are as the result of natural laws. It is therefore natural for them to see “evil” as coming from God.

    As far as our more modern interpretation, while Lucifer is the “father of evil”, God is Lucifer’s father according to Mormon theology. So perhaps God is the “grandfather of evil”.

  8. In Northern California there is a stand of redwood trees. They live for thousands of years. When one dies, there is no sorrow or grieving among the surviving trees. There is no pettiness, or villainy, or charity, or service among the redwoods. They simply grow up toward the sun, rising hundreds of feet in the air.


    On the ocean floor, three thousand fathoms below the surface, live tube worms in perpetual night. They do not grow up toward the sun; they have never known light of any kind. Rather, they feed of the sulphur from hydrothermal vents. They toil not, neither do they spin. Strangely, although they have no eyes to see, and live where no light of any kind ever reaches, they are a brilliant, neon red.


    We can imagine evil being done against these, God’s creations.
    But do the redwood trees or giant tube worms, know of this “evil” of which you speak?

  9. Deuteronomy 30:15 “…I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil…” which establishes the polarity necessary for agency to have sway. As a very novice student of Hebrew it seems to me that the Hebrew word often translated as ‘evil’ means something more like “bad.” I think it’s easy to accept that God sets/creates/allows “good and bad.”

    I agree with #9 in that the OT writers viewed everything as coming from God and so they would naturally write with the perspective that God created evil.

  10. The word translated evil in Is 45:7 probably should be called disaster. It’s not moral evil but more the opposite of prosperity. Ditto the reference in Amos. The idea is more God’s mastery.

    Of course this doesn’t avoid the problem of evil. If we see a disaster, have the power to stop it and don’t that is generally considered evil. Of course Utilitarianism would say such acts are justified if they lead to more happiness ultimately. They just might be disasters or the like but aren’t properly moral evils. You can make similar sorts of arguments for other forms of meta-Ethics like Kantianism.

    So there is a problem here, but it ends up being a little more complex than the appeal to “evil” in the King James Version of the Bible.

  11. Is there a way to walk to “creation” of evil the way we think about “creation” of the earth — an organization of existing elements (and principles)? The Plan includes an earth to live on and certain conditions to which we must respond, including evil (as opposition). Does that mean that God explicitly creates evil for that purpose, or does evil exist and he allows it into this earth life, too?

    I suppose the other question is when did evil begin (for us, anyway)? Is it with Lucifer’s choice to rebel in the Council in Heaven or sooner (or later)?

  12. Mike S.: Re #9

    That distinction between God and natural law is possible in the LDS, but is only a possible answer in theologies in which Heavenly Father originated as an un-exalted being. That’s not a theological option for the rest of the Restoration movement, or for Christianity in general.

    We can’t separate the law from the lawgiver. Even less can we separate the natural laws we like from the natural laws we don’t like.

    Defining what evil is, or what role it plays is a complex issue, but when we figure it out, I think we’ll find that God created it in the same sense He created everything else.

  13. I think I agree with Harold.

    Here’s an actual email conversation of a few days ago (names changed to protect the innocent):

    Kirk: “I’ve decided that God is kind of capricious, like Mr. Deity. He’s all powerful, the big kid on the block, can do whatever he pleases, save or let die anyone he wants, and I have to just accept it. I just try to be grateful for anything good that happens and do what I can to make my and others’ lives better. Sounds kind of fatalistic but I’m not sure how else to reconcile it. This Chile thing is a good example. Why wouldn’t he notify the Stake President in Concepcion, where the worst damage was? So he rewarded some mission president’s wife in Santiago for being obedient, extra spiritual, or whatever, and a bunch of greenhorn missionaries in her mission got the benefit. Good for them. Oh, and he loves irony.”

    Spock: “In that case, I kinda like god. something with some gusto, take no crap, my way or the highway. Probably looks like the spaghetti monster too.”

    Kirk: “Yes, and the noodly appendage can either tap you tenderly or whip your you-know-what.”

  14. Perhaps we view it in the wrong light. Perhaps there is no “evil.” Perhaps our view of evil is too colored by our perspective and we are unable to see the truth for what it is. What if everything really does “work for our good”?

  15. #16 – I doubt most children (or anyone else) that might experience molestation would count it as “work for our good.”

    The belief in an all-knowing and all-powerful God it seems requires a belief that God created evil. Or, at the very minimum, he saw all, from beginning to end, and choose a creation path that incorporated evil. Like the Mr. Diety episode, an omniscient creator choose to create a world with the specific evils intact, approved of their existence by knowing the results of the creation from the beginning. To blame it on Satan seems to be a cop-out.

    I think those theologians that supported predestination (Calvin) knew what they were talking about. We might believe we have agency, but if an omniscient and omnipotent being created this planet, saw the end from the beginning and included vast amounts of overwhelming and gratuitous evil in the design – what agency do we really have apart from just walking in a pre-known and pre-designed line? Much of this evil is disproportionately dealt to those least able to overcome or escape it – the poor, the weak, and the children.

  16. This is even more thought-provoking when you consider that the JST version of several of those verses change the wording.

  17. I doubt that God creates evil, but I’m pretty sure the scriptures quoted are good examples of God trying to communicate a message through fallible human beings who unintentionally distort the message with their own notions.

  18. Where does evil exist? Is it in every nook and cranny in the universe? The answer is clearly no,if we use the scripture to guide our thinking.

    Evil does not exist in the Celestial Kingdom. Why, because God is the epitome of good. Does evil exist in the Terrestrial and Telestial Kingdoms, no? Why, because Christ purges evil out of all those who dwell there.

    Does evil exist in fallen words, yes. Do fallen worlds belong to God? Yes. So in that sense God is the author sin.

    Why does evil exist? To create the necessary opposition so that God’s children can have experience and become as He is. Do all His children become good? No, because of agency, a few will choose evil to the point that they can not be redeemed–perdition–outer darkness is their kingdom.

  19. #17. I don’t understand. God doesn’t molest people, people molest people. So if you want to assign responsibility for molestation, why look any further than the molester?

    I think #16 might have gotten it right. I think the question of evil is easier to answer if we define what “evil” is. Earthquakes? Earthquakes are the necessary movement of tectonic plates against each other. The Earth needs geologic activity in order to keep an atmosphere that can support life and shield us from radiation. So are earthquakes “evil?” Not if we need them to support life.

    So what is evil? Human beings hurting other human beings? What does God have to do with that? Do we really want to resign responsibility for our actions to any other being, including God? I don’t. So God didn’t create the evil that I do. I did.

    So what exactly is evil, and what does God have to do with it?

  20. I’ll toss out this working definition: evil is any part of reality that attempts to restrict the potential of another part to experience what the second part can be in order to futilely try to make the first part more than it can be.

    I’ll have to ask someone more familiar with the numbering of the LDS D&C to find the scriptures about “many kingdoms and abiding the laws thereof”.

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