It is written:
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)
Creation and Scripture reveal that God is perfect in goodness, and can do nothing morally evil (Acts 14:7; Matthew 5:44-45; James 1:13; Psalm 18:10). Why, then, does the Bible claim that God is the One Who will “create evil?”
Often, those of atheistic philosophies will try to use this passage to suggest either that the Bible is contradictory in its’ teaching regarding God, or will try to suggest that the Christian God actually claims responsibility for moral evil.
Neither of these is true, yet sadly many through the years have bought into these lies.
For example, the famous reformer John Calvin (a student of the church father Augustine who came from a pagan background) made the following claim about the sin in the Garden of Eden:
“Nor ought it to seem absurd when I say, that God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his posterity; but also at his own pleasure arranged it.’” (John Calvin, Institutes., 4.16.6, p. 532).
Is God the Creator of moral evil?
No, He is not.
Then what does this passage in Isaiah mean?
First, look at how this verse is rendered in other translations of Scripture.
Isaiah 45:7 (NKJV)-I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.‘
Isaiah 45:7 (ERV)-I made the light and the darkness. I bring peace, and I cause trouble. I, the LORD, do all these things.
Isaiah 45:7 (Amplified)-I form the light and create darkness, I make peace [national well-being] and I create [physical] evil (calamity); I am the Lord, Who does all these things.
Notice how these translations are translating the KJV’s “evil” with words like “calamity,” “sorrow,” and “physical evil.” These translations are picking up on an important fact about the Hebrew word being used here. The word ra’ had a very large range of meaning, depending on the context.
“However, the Hebrew word for evil ( rā ) used here does not always mean moral evil. Indeed, the context indicates that it should be translated, as the NKJV and other modern translations do, as “calamity.” Thus, God is properly said to be the
author of “evil” in this sense, but not in the moral sense—at least not directly. Further, there is an indirect sense in which God is the author of moral evil. God
created moral beings with free choice, and free choice is the origin of moral evil in the universe. So, ultimately God is responsible for making moral creatures who are responsible for moral evil. God made evil possible by creating free creatures, but the free creatures made evil actual. Of course, the possibility of evil (i.e., free choice) is itself a good thing. So, God created only good things, one of which was the power of free choice, and moral creatures produced the evil. However, God is the author of a moral universe and in this indirect and ultimate sense is the author of the possibility of evil. Of course, God only permitted evil, but does not promote it, and He will ultimately produce a greater good through it (cf. Gen. 50:20 ; Rev. 21–22 ).” (Norman Geisler & Thomas Rowe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook On Bible Difficulties, 4059-4064 (Kindle Edition): Wheaton, Illinois; Victor Books)
Please notice that the context of Isaiah 45 clearly favors a translation where God is speaking of calamity and not moral evil. The whole context is how God will punish those who trouble His people, including those who follow the false gods of the world.
Finally, notice that this form of parallelism is used throughout Isaiah.
Isaiah 47:11-Therefore evil shall come upon you; You shall not know from where it arises. And trouble shall fall upon you; You will not be able to put it off. And desolation shall come upon you suddenly, Which you shall not know.
Notice how the “evil” in the first part of the verse is identified in the second part of the verse as “trouble” and “desolation.”
Clearly, God is not the creator of moral evil.
In our next studies, we will see exactly what evil is-and what it is not.