Theologian Speaks: Article 3 in IVN’s Exclusive 6 Week Series
Upland, CA—For the next several weeks, we at the Inland Valley News, are excited to feature a local theologian, and ask them to share their perspective and ideas. This week’s featured columnist is noted author Rev. O. L. Johnson. This is the 3rd article in a 6 week series.
I was shocked and confused to read that God creates evil! What’s your reaction? Unbelief? Surely (you’re probably thinking) scripture does not say that. I hate to burst your bubble, but it does say just that! God himself said it, and Isaiah the prophet reported it in chapter 45, verse 7, where he quotes God, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” My confusion was heightened when, in keeping with the biblical mandate, I found a second witness in Amos, chapter 3, verse 6, where he quoted God on this same issue, “shall there be evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?” This verse seems to add fuel to fire and confirm what Isaiah reported. I suspect that atheists, agnostics and skeptics of the world are having a field day with this one! All the sins of the world are God’s fault! They’re all probably jumping for joy at the thought. But we believers know better. There’s no way that a holy God can be in a conspiracy with the enemy to rain sin down on mankind, and especially on his people. So there must be an explanation for this apparent misconception of the nature of God. Our goal from this point forward is to find that explanation.
Let’s start with an observation: no one will ever know the meaning of the Word without knowing the meaning of the words that make up the Word. There is a difference between knowing what a verse “says” and knowing what that same verse “means.” With just one brief reading of the verses we’re considering we know what God “said”, but finding out what he “meant” by what he said takes a bit more work. So that’s our goal: to find out what God meant through discovering the meaning of “evil”, found in both verses; and, by determining the context of the verse in Isaiah.
Let’s talk about context first. God’s quote in Isaiah is a direct reference to the creation account found in Genesis. It was there that he formed the light, created darkness, made peace among his creations, and in a sense, created evil. We’ll talk about the nature of that evil when we define the word. At this point, we can see that the verse in Isaiah has no reference to human behavior throughout human history. When God says “I create evil” he is not confessing responsibility for all the evil acts of men throughout all of time. What, then, did he mean by the statement? The answer is found in the meaning of the word “evil.”
All serious Bible readers know that our Old Testament was translated into English from ancient manuscripts written in the Hebrew language. The Hebrew word translated “evil” in both verses we’re concerned about has a variety of additional meanings, including; adversity, affliction, calamity, distress, harm, hurtful, among others. Absent from the list of meanings is the word “sin.” So the word evil is not a reference to the sinful acts of mankind, but rather a reference to some kind of calamitous event that causes affliction, distress, harm or hurt to mankind in general.
We usually call these events “natural disasters” or “acts of God.” But how do they happen? How does God “create” them, as he said he does in Isaiah? Our answer lies in the words of God to Adam after he ate from that tree in disobedience to God: “cursed is the ground for thy sake” (Genesis 3:17). Paul teaches that the curse extends to all of creation: “for we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8: 22). The curse and the resulting pain are manifested in all the disasters that have plagued mankind since the fall; hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, tornados in the plain states, earthquakes in California and elsewhere. All these events are direct results of God’s curse placed on his creation after the original sin in the garden. We will continue to experience them until the curse is removed.
In his Word, God gives us no clue as to when the curse will be removed. But, we have been given assurance that it won’t last forever. At some unknown time in the future, the earth as we know it will cease to exist (2Peter 3: 10), and a new earth will replace the old (2Peter 3: 13). The scripture tells us that righteousness will dwell in this new earth (2Peter3: 13) which implies that the new earth will then be the perfect place that the Garden of Eden was before Adam and Eve spoiled it for all of us. So, take heart, hang in there, be patient; a better day is coming for the people of God. God always takes care of his own!
Love, Peace and Blessings, until we talk again.