One of my former professors, Dr. Clay Jones, recently released a book titled Why Does God Allow Evil? One of the classes I took from Dr. Jones also went by the same title, and it was arguably the most important class I have taken so far. What I realized is that even though we can’t know the exact reason God allows evil, we can still have good answers when asked.
It is also a good reason I took this class because this question comes up more than any other when I am speaking to students. Here is a recent message I received on Twitter.
Ryan, help! Why does God allow evil? Perhaps a bigger question is why Satan? If God created Satan, does evil & sin come from God?
This question is very similar to another common one that is asked. Some people ask, “If God created everything, and evil/sin is a thing, then didn’t God create evil?” The first step in answering this question is to first define evil.
What is evil?
Evil is usually thought of as something that is morally wrong, causes harm to someone, or a sinful behavior. In Understanding The Culture, evil or sin is defined as any action or inaction that violates the will of God. When we look at evil in this way we see that evil is not a thing. Since it is not a thing, it is not something that comes from God.
Instead, evil is the absence good. We can have good without evil, but we cannot have evil without good. Dr. Frank Turek explains it by saying that if you take all the rust out of a car you have a better car, but if you take all the car out of the rust you have nothing. In the same way, evil is the privation of good. It is the mistake in something, and if gone, if you have something better.
So, why Satan?
God did not create Satan evil. Satan began as an angelic-like creature who chose to rebel against God. This rebellion was only made possible by free will. Why does God allow evil? One reason is that God allows evil in order to keep our free will intact. Free will is the perfect good that God desires for his creatures. It is free will that allows us to freely love or reject God. This is what is required to have a loving relationship with someone since you cannot force someone to love you.
In response to the original question
God allows evil in order to keep our free will intact. Satan was created as a good creature with free will to choose to love or reject God. It was Satan’s rebellion against God that brought evil into the world and led to the fall. Therefore, evil and sin did not come from God.
Is free will really worth the pain and evil it causes? Read my previous article on the value of free will.