Did God create evil? Does God have two wills?


Question: Is the will of God different than the intent or counsel of God? It would seem so. “God accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11)” and yet, we see evil, and in Isaiah God says, “I create… evil.” (Isaiah 45:7)

Response: You’re definitely tackling a huge topic. I think I have a rather unique way of looking at this… which may not be all that unique and is in some ways rather ancient. I talk about it in my book “The History of Time and the Genesis of You.” http://www.amazon.com/The-History-Time…/dp/1508741778

I suppose it’s two ideas together:

The first is the idea that we are still being created, existing in the 6th day of creation on the edge of the 7th (The 7th day in which all is finished, and everything is good). This was an idea among the early church fathers which was defended with the notion that a “day is as a thousand years.” Of course, that would fall by the wayside and be abandoned with enlightenment thinking. I do believe it’s the view of Scripture and now it can be defended with modern notions of time dilation, relativity etc… BUT this is the important point. We are witnessing creation–creation of something from nothing.

The second idea is that evil is most truly nothing. Of course, this is an idea very prevalent among philosophers and theologians down through the ages. So, when Isaiah writes that God creates evil, he is literally writing that God creates “nothing.” Which is what Genesis seems to record. God “created” the void. In other words, “I am” created “I am not” in which “I am” would be revealed. We are witnesses to the revelation of “I am” in the void of “I am not,” which includes ourselves. We are witnessing the creation of ourselves, which is to say we are witnessing the revelation of God’s Will, which is to say we are witnessing the revelation of Jesus.

The revelation of Jesus (God’s Will and Word) is the revelation of Light in darkness, Way in no way, Truth in lies, Life in death, I am in I am not, creation in the void, Eternity (as in beyond time) in temporality. I Am will fill all of the Void. Good will fill evil.

We are coming to know the Good in the midst of evil, so we will choose the Good in freedom, which is Life. We are witnessing the revelation of God’s will in that which is not God’s will.

So asking, “how could God will what he does not will?” is like asking “how could light make a shadow (the absence of light)?” In one sense, Light cannot make a shadow, and yet, in another sense, it can. The Sun cannot cast a shadow, and yet the Sun could theoretically (maybe actually) create or produce an earth, and that earth could cast a shadow.

I think evil is like that shadow. Currently (day six) that shadow infects all of creation–it is the absence of “the Good” (“God alone is Good,” said Jesus.) The End of space and time, as we experience it (the dawn of the 7th day) is when God’s Will, (which is God’s Word, which is manifest in Jesus, the ultimate man) fills all things.

So God wills that we would encounter the absence of His Will, so that we would forever choose the Good in freedom. “God accomplishes all things according to the counsel (purpose, plan, decision) of his Will.” He is currently accomplishing us and all things with us.

No matter how we parse that, there will be an inherent mystery that we cannot fully comprehend while we are stuck in space and time. I feel uncomfortable saying that God’s counsel is different than His Will, and more comfortable saying that God’s Decision is God’s Will (the will of “I am”) being revealed in space and time (the void or “I am not”). We see the Light (God’s Will and Word) shining in the darkness (the manifest absence of the Light).

If you want to read some great stuff about evil as nothingness, I’d suggest Karl Barth. I’ll paste in some quotes I pulled out of Helmut Gollwitzer’s selection from Barth’s Dogmatics:

On this shadow side the creature is contiguous to nothingness, for this “not” is at once the expression and frontier of the positive will, election and activity of God. When the creature crosses the frontier from the one side, and it is invaded from the other, nothingness achieves actuality in the creaturely world. . .
Nothingness is that which God does not will. . .
This being which is alien and adverse to grace and therefore without it, is that of nothingness. . . And this is evil in the Christian sense, namely, what is alien and adverse to grace, and therefore with it. . . The grace of God is the basis and norm of all being, the source and criterion of all good. Measured by this standard, as the negation of God’s grace, nothingness is intrinsically evil. . .
He knows nothingness. He knows that which He did not elect or will as the Creator. He knows chaos and its terror. He knows its advantage over His creature. He knows how inevitably it imperils His creature. Yet He is Lord over that which imperils His creature. Against Him, nothingness has no power of its own. And He has sworn fidelity to His threatened creature. In creating it He has covenanted and identified Himself with it. . . And therefore it is He as the first and true and indeed the only man, as the Helper who really takes the creature’s place, lifting from it all its need and labour and problem and placing them upon Himself, as the Warrior who assumes the full responsibility of a substitute and suffers and does everything on its behalf. In the light of this merciful action of God, the arrogant delusion of the creature that it is called and qualified to help and save and maintain itself in its infinite peril is shown to be evil as well as foolish and unnecessary. . .
As God takes action on its behalf, the creature itself is summoned and empowered. It has no arrogant illusion as to it own authority or competence. It really trusts in God, perseveres in His covenant and chooses His help as the only effective good. But if it does this it can and will take action in the conflict with nothingness.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics (A Selection with Introduction by Helmut Gollwitzer), p. 137-138, 140-141, 143, 145-146

PS Is. 45:7 is pretty cool. “I form the light and create darkness… I create evil.” He forms the light and He is light. He says, “Let there be me in the void; let there be I Am in I Am not.” He creates darkness, that is, the Light creates darkness. I Am is The Light and I Am not is darkness, which is evil.

All Questions