A man came into the my office the other day and asked me a serious question: “Why did God create evil?“ I love it when people ask me questions because it allows my responses might be relevant to at least someone. I’d like to share my response here because I suspect that other people might have the same question— especially at Josephine where a lot of people are probably experiencing life right now, not as they might have originally dreamed of, and might very easily refer to it as “evil” as well.
I think the question is an interesting one. Behind it has with it the assumption that God created everything. Although I certainly fully believe that premise, I added a nuance to my conversation with the man. You see, I don’t see God as being just out there and one day just saying, “I’m going to create good today” and then the next day saying, “I’m going to create evil today.” Instead, I think evil comes to us in a different way.
Could it be that evil comes to us as a necessary consequence of the way that humans were created? Think about it. God created humans out of love and with the ability to love— and part of the definition/consequence of love is that it needs to include freedom. Love that is forced is not really love, right? So, might we see “evil” as a necessary consequence of the freedom of love? In other words, if God is not going to make humans as puppets and control every move that we make and every word that we say and instead give us the freedom to love, evil needs to exist. We can either be puppets living in a world with no evil or free-willed humans with evil as a consequence of that freedom—it’s impossible to have both. God chose humans to be beings who are free to love.
Having said that though, I also don’t believe in a God that is completely about free will. Maybe a more fruitful way to ask this question: “Are good and evil equal in God’s eyes?” No. In our creation story, after everything that God created, God said: “It is good!“ Jesus was always healing and restoring life to those who were rejected by their communities. Jesus said: “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.” The cross was a symbol of torture and death for some but God had the last word and reclaimed the cross in resurrection and for life. I might even say that the God that we believe in sides with life over death so much that the God that we have is totally and completely a God of life and not a god of death at all!
If I go back to the opening question that was asked of me, I would say that the gist of the question is totally off. Not only does God not create evil but God has nothing to do with evil at all! God is totally and completely a God of goodness and life.
And what of death? And what of evil? If evil is more of a consequence of our free will, then maybe evil has more to do with humans than with God. If the God that we have is a God of life and not a God of death at all, then maybe death is simply a consequence of our being human. Can God bring goodness and life out of evil and death? Sure! However that doesn’t mean that any part of evil and death has to do with God. One of my favorite passages is this: “God is light in whom there is no darkness at all.” God is always one who is seeking life and goodness.
If this is true, maybe the blame for evil should never be on God— but on humans. If God is always the one who is seeking life and goodness, maybe at the same time as we never blame God for evil, we should always be looking for life and goodness to come out of it on account of God. As we face the hardships in our lives, our times of suffering, and even our own mortality, maybe none of that should be blamed on God who created us humans but maybe we should use those times to discover the God who always sides with goodness and life— even though we die. When the great Cardinal Bernadine opened up about his dying of cancer, he saw it as an opportunity to grow closer with God. As you face the hardship of living life, may you also grow closer with God and find life!