Why the Devil?
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Did you ever wonder why God allowed the devil to enter the Garden of Eden? Obviously, God knew what would happen, and He knew it would be bad, so why not keep that old snake out in the first place? Over at Jon Brisbin's blog he's writing about that excellent question, and inspiring me to write about it, too.
I believe the answer begins in Isaiah, where we read God created evil (ra in the Hebrew). This is Biblical confirmation of something syllogistic reasoning also dictates: God created everything. Evil is part of everything. Therefore God created evil. This is inescapable. So we know God did not allow evil (or the devil) to enter creation (or the garden), rather, God created evil as part of all creation all along. In some ways, this is even more confusing. It certainly means we have to adjust the question. So let's think of it like this:
Why did God create evil in the first place?
The answer begins with a definition of "evil". Evil in its purest form is not a thing; it is merely a possibility, an idea, or a choice, if you will. We can define evil is "any potential which is not morally neutral or good." In this sense, evil and God can coexist (as we see in Job) because holiness coexists with all ideas, including bad ones. Ideas, in and of themselves, are not sin. Sin, like love, is action, and it is the form of action that separates what is holy from what is not. So, since evil alone was not enough to inject the profane into a holy, or perfect creation, Satan required the addition of action. This means he needed free will as a catalyst. Maybe it would help to think about it this way:
Evil + freely choosing evil = sin.
Just as you don't have chocolate milk until both the milk and the chocolate are actually in the glass, so evil alone does not cause sin to corrupt the universe. Without human freewill, the universe would still be perfect, even though God created evil in it, because there would be nothing to convert the possibility of evil into an actual event, a thing that has been done.
Now, again, why would God allow evil, knowing human freewill would convert it into sin and corrupt all creation? The answer, I believe, begins with 1 John 4:8 & 16, where we read, "God is love."
Every exploration of God's motives must always begin with love.
We are told in John 3:16 that God "gave" Jesus to "the world" for the sake of love. So when we read in Col 1:16 that "all things were created by him and for him," we should understand this in terms of love. All things were created by the Source of all love, for the sake of love.
Love, then, must explain evil. And it does.
Consider how we love. Can love be taken from a person by brute force? Can it be purchased? Can it be imposed? Of course not. Love, by its nature, must be a free choice, or it is not love. It cannot be compelled, not even by God. (See Hab 1:13 and 2 Tim 2:13 for Biblical proof that there are things even God cannot do.) Bear in mind that the purest form of love (agape) is not an emotion, but rather a conscious choice to act. Love must be freely chosen. And what must we have before we can freely choose? At least two things we can choose between, of course. In this case, that means good, or evil.
So we need evil if we are to truly love God, because if only good existed we would have no real choice to make in the matter. We would not be lovers; we would be robots. Remembering our earlier equation for sin (evil + freely choosing evil = sin) consider this:
Good + freely choosing good = love.
One equation makes no sense without the other. The free choice of good exists only if the other equation also exists as a real possibility, only if we can also choose the possibility we call "evil," and thus convert it into sin instead of converting the possibility we call "good" into love. Now at last we return to our original question and find we have an answer:
God created evil (and Satan) for the sake of love.
Consider how this must frustrate the devil! Doesn't it make you smile to think of it? And while you're thinking, ponder the connections between our two equations and these famous words from James: "faith by itself...is dead." Christianity is about faith and belief for sure, just as morality is about the possibility of good or evil. But Christianity is also about taking action, about what God has done for us, and what we do in response.
So the next time you are face to face with evil, remember why it's there. Evil exists so you can "do love" to your neighbor and "do love" to your Heavenly Father, by freely choosing good instead. The devil exists to be denied. It is his only function. When I remember this, I find it easier to live with the horrors of this fallen world. I hope you also find it helpful.
Posted byAthol Dickson at 6:17 PM
Labels: The Jesus Way