Did God Create Evil?
Many years ago, I worked the early shift at a Hardees restaurant in the South Carolina low country. One particular morning, a kind Christian gentleman approached the counter to order his biscuit and coffee. I knew him casually. During our previous conversations, I told him I was a follower of Christ. I shared with him that I was working towards entering the ministry. As I was placing the items on his tray, he posed me a question I was totally incapable of answering. It was a question that had been gnawing at him for years. He said, “Billy, how do you explain Isaiah 45:7, where it says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” I had no idea what to say, yet there it was in plain English – God created evil. What gives? At that time in my Christian journey, I was not aware the verse even existed. How could such a thing be in the Bible, let alone be a true statement? It seemingly contradicted everything I knew about the character of God.
This passage carries such enormous implications that it demands a reasonable investigation and a coherent answer. Many unbelievers view this passage as a prime example of biblical disjointedness. It is, therefore, critical to interpret this verse in a manner that’s consistent with an accurate biblical description of God’s nature. If God brought evil into existence a fundamental violation of theology would exist. The doctrine of sin taught in Scripture, and everything we know about the character of God, would crumble. I John 1:15 states, “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness.”
Insight about this alleged discrepancy can be uncovered through a proper understanding of the Hebrew to English translation of the Bible. Please note, the King James Version of the Bible is not infallible. Quite frankly, it adds verses to its text that are not found in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts. The newer and more reliable English translations such as the NASB and ESV render the word “calamity” instead of “evil” in Isaiah 45:7. “Calamity” is the proper translation. The reader should know that any word can have numerous meanings, and generally the context determines which meaning was intended by the writer.
In order to properly interpret the Bible, the reader must be able to exegete the verses being studied. This means that the passage must be interpreted correctly. Notice Isaiah 45:7 speaks about God favoring everyone who is faithful and penalizing those who disobey (Isaiah 45:9, 24). Don’t miss this salient point. God declares that He creates “well-being” and “calamity.” It is God who is responsible for assigning benefits to those who are faithful and “calamity” to those who are rebellious.
God is good. He did not invent evil. Evil is the product of inappropriate choices made by humans who have been given the authority to make decisions. There are times, however, when God exercises His justice and introduces calamity on spiritually noncompliant people. While we subjectively dislike the calamities we sometimes encounter, it is objectively helpful to punish wrongdoing. It is this calamity that frequently brings an unbeliever to the reality of Christ and His forgiveness. Isaiah 45:7 functions as a reminder that God blesses those who honor Him and brings calamity on those who disobey.