By Elias Ayala (MDiv & M.A.T.)
In a recent debate I had with a YouTube skeptic, a very interesting argument was brought up in an attempt to show a logical inconsistency within the concept of God’s inherent goodness. The skeptic argued that since God can only create what is consistent with his nature, and God “created” evil as per (Isaiah 45:7), that therefore it seems to follow that God is evil. But, since the Christian conception of God is that he is all good, then this seems to demonstrate a logical inconsistency within the concept of the Christian God. However, this argument fails on multiple accounts.
First, there is a problem with the assertion that God can only create that which is consistent with his nature. Where did the skeptic get this idea? For instance, Christians believe that God created “all things”. God created the heavens and the earth, and of course, all of the creatures which populate the earth. For instance, as Christians we would affirm that God created horses. However, the fact that God created horses does not entail that the horse necessarily reflects the nature of God. It is indeed within God’s nature to create, however, that which he creates need not necessarily reflect his own nature. What is consistent with God’s nature is that he can create in the way that only God can, however, this does not entail that anything created must reflect his own nature.
In regards to Isaiah 45:7, which reads in the King James Version: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all things.” Again, the mistaken assumption is to think that Christians believe that “evil” is a “thing” which God creates. Evil philosophically speaking does not have a positive ontological status, in the sense that we can say: “Look at that evil over there” as though it is this thing which can be seen, held, touched, taste, etc. Rather, evil is a privation. Evil is not a thing that God literally creates. One will not find evil growing in a field or a garden. In essence, if we look at dirt on the ground, and dig a hole, the dirt is not analogous to evil in the sense that it is this positive thing, i.e dirt. Rather, the hole is the proper analogy. The hole is privation of dirt. It is the empty space resulting from the digging of the hole. Again, this is just an analogy but I think the point is clear.
Considering the above line of reasoning, it is then inappropriate to treat evil as having a positive ontological status. Evil can be akin to the privation of good. This is why acts of evil are acts that are contrary to the nature and will of God which within the Christian worldview is good. God is the very standard of good and is that by which which all things are judged “good” or “evil”. One cannot know the evil unless they had an ultimate standard of good. However, one could have the good without evil. Indeed, this is true given the Christian worldview since apart from the existence of creation, and beings which eventually sinned and committed evil, only God existed. If God’s nature is good, and there was a context in which only God existed, then it seems to follow that there was a context in which only good existed, and this existence was independent from the existence of any evils. Hence goodness does not require evil, however, evil, in order to be evil necessarily needs an ultimate standard of good.
All this to say, the line of reasoning put forth by my skeptic opponent was invalid at this point, and I think such a mistake in reasoning provided the occasion for some moments of clarification and teaching.