Wednesday, July 4, 2012

God creates evil. God is good. No problem?

Isaiah 45:7 is an extremely interesting and potentially explosive verse. It reads,

 I form the light, and create darkness:
I make peace, and create evil:
I the Lord do all these things.
(Isaiah 45:7 KJV)

In God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment, author Jim Hamilton comments on this verse:
Isaiah 45:7 teaches that God is absolutely sovereign over all that is. This should not trouble us with questions about God's goodness. We know that he is good. He showed his goodness to Moses when he revealed himself as a saving and judging God (Ex. 33:18-34:7). Rather than being troubling, the teaching of Isaiah 45:7, that Yahweh created evil-that is what the text says-is a comfort, because it tells us, as hymned in "God Moves in a Mysterious Way," that behind the frowning providence of God hides a smiling face. God has good purposes that are not thwarted but accomplished by evil. Apart from this, hope could be challenged. But if God is even sovereign over evil, hope can be affirmed with full-throated, unabashed resolution. God will be glorified by all that is, even if we do not yet understand how everything will come together. (204, emphasis mine)
Though this passage provides numerous interesting ideas to investigate, I want to focus on the material that I emphasized. Dr. Hamilton suggests that this idea about God creating evil should not cause us to question God's goodness. For some, that statement might cause some consternation and leave them feeling as if the good doctor is not being entirely upfront. However, consider what Hamilton does not say.

He does not say that this is not something that requires some serious contemplation. He does not say that there is no mystery here. He does not say that this is really easy to understand.

What he says is this portion of Scripture should not cause us to question God's goodness because we know that he is good. And I concur.

Think of the great mercy extended to us at Christ's expense. Consider God's love in not rejecting humanity outright, but rather his offering redemption and reconciliation to his enemies. Deliberate his patience with us as we worship at the idols of this world. Reflect on all he suffered as our substitute. Speculate on  the great joy he has for us, even now, in him.

Is there any room for questioning God's goodness? We must think over difficult doctrines and reconcile them with what we know to be true; God is good.

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