Several weeks ago, I taught on the problem of evil and the challenge before every follower of Jesus Christ. The basic premise of the message was that every instance of suffering that comes into our lives is designed to purify our hope in Jesus Christ alone. For that sermon click here.
One issue that I was unable to deal with during the sermon is the origin of evil. Where did evil come from? This question can create a great deal of confusion. Many people can mistakenly think that God has somehow authored evil while others may think that things just went beyond God’s control. Both of these errors are unhelpful. So, where did evil actually come from?
Foundational Issue- Method
How we do theology is often the most important issue we face when dealing with difficult questions. There are at least two options that we must be aware of when approaching these difficult questions.
1. Biblical/Logic Approach- this type of method looks to the Bible first and then logic or reason second. Logic and reason are used to help explain certain tensions that come up in Scripture. No one denies the use of reason and logic in any type of method, but this approach utilizes a good deal of philosophy and reason to fill in gaps. The key assumption in this approach is that we have the ability to deal with many of the tensions Scripture raises.
An example of this approach would be the logical responses to divine soveringty (God’s oversight of the universe) and human freedom such as compatabilism.
2. Biblical/Limited Logic- this type of method focuses on the Bible first and then allows for a limited use of logic. Reason is used to deal with the Bible, but once certain tensions are created from this enterprise, there is a guarded attempt to resolve said tensions. The key assumption here is that human beings do not have the capacity to go beyond the clarity of Scripture.
Using the same example above, this approach would affirm God’s oversight and control of the world and simultaneously affirm human freedom, both being defined in a biblical way. However, this approach would also fight the tendency to reconcile this apparent “contradiction.”
The Answer: The Garden of Eden and the Origin of Evil
I prefer the second model referenced above because of my agreement with the key assumption mentioned- as humans, we do not have the capacity to deal with certain tensions in Scripture. Because of this, I take this approach to the question of the origin of evil- sin began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve freely chose to rebel against God. It is true that God is overall and in control, but the clarity of God’s Word is that man willfully chose to disobey God:
Genesis 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (ESV)
Every act of evil, every atrocity ever committed can trace its origin back to this moment in time. Man fell from a state of innocence, to a state that has every human being on the planet naturally inclined to reject God and his authority in our lives for their own authority. The beautiful part about God’s plan materializes in the next few verses when the Lord lays out his plan for the destruction of evil:
Genesis 3:15 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Jesus, as the coming offspring of the woman, has already defeated evil through his work on the cross and will ultimately destroy evil in his victorious return. Praise God for destruction of evil through the victory of the Cross.