|Volume 17 Number 12 December 2015||
Did God Create Evil?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Sir, I still have one more question and this one is tearing my congregation apart right now. DOES GOD CREATE EVIL? My preacher taught my congregation that God is the one who create EVIL and he back up his teaching with Isaiah 45:7 and Genesis 2:17… Oyeye Stanley
In Isaiah 45:7, the word “evil” does not refer to sin, but in the context, “evil” refers to the war that God through the Persian ruler Cyrus would bring upon the Babylonian kingdom as a penalty for conquering the kingdom of Judah and taking the Israelites into captivity. The word “evil” in Isaiah 45:7 stands in opposition to the word “peace” in the same verse; the opposite of peace in the context is war. Elsewhere in the Old Testament, the same Hebrew word translated in Isaiah 45:7 as “evil” is translated as “adversity,” “affliction,” “calamity” and “distress,” among additional translations as well.
The same Hebrew word is translated as “evil” in Genesis 2:17. In the context there, the Tree of the Knowledge between good and evil is discussed. Having “knowledge,” which is what Genesis 2:17 notes, is neither wicked nor sinful. Instead, Christians are required to know the difference between good and evil, which today comes through study of God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15). “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).
It is a serious misunderstanding of Scripture to accuse God of being responsible for moral evil or wickedness. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:13 NKJV). God is all holiness and wholly apart from sin. The sinlessness attributed to Jesus Christ in Scripture (1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5) extends to each member of the Godhead (Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9). Only “light,” which stands for righteousness, characterizes God, and no “darkness,” which stands for evil or sinfulness, characterizes God. “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). God is completely holy! “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
What Is the Origin of Evil?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
The question of “What is the origin of evil?” expands upon the question posed, “Did God create evil?” That question arose from a serious misunderstanding of Genesis 2:17 and Isaiah 45:7. This article goes beyond misrepresentations of Genesis 2:17 and Isaiah 45:7 to address the origin of evil initially and the ongoing presence of evil (i.e., sinfulness).
The three persons of the Godhead (Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9) are eternal (Genesis 21:13; Psalm 90:2; Romans 16:26; 1 Timothy 1:17) as well as eternally and completely holy (Leviticus 19:2).
The Godhead subsequently created everything that was created (Genesis 1-2; Colossians 1:16; John 1:1-3). This included the creation of angels (Nehemiah 9:6). As He did with mankind (Deuteronomy 30:15-16, 19; Joshua 24:15; 2 Samuel 24:12), God created angels with freewill, the ability to make decisions for themselves. Unfortunately, some of those angels chose to rebel against Almighty God (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). The ringleader of the angelic rebellion is called the Devil or Satan (Revelation 12:9); he and his fellow rebellious angels were consigned to hell (Matthew 25:41).
Satan himself introduced evil and sin into the world among humanity by successfully tempting Eve, as well as Adam, to disobey God (Genesis 3) – to sin (1 John 3:4). Mankind amply demonstrated afterward his tendency to commit sin – from the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, to the rampant evil leading up to the universal flood of Noah’s day and to present times. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15 NKJV). There are three ways in which temptation to sin appeals to people (1 John 2:16). Furthermore, sometimes sin offers pleasures (Hebrews 11:25). Regrettably, the majority of the people who have ever lived are or will be lost in sin eternally, whereas comparatively speaking, few will be saved (Matthew 7:13-14). Happily, though, still the number of saved persons in heaven will be more numerous than humans can count (Revelation 7:9).
In conclusion, God did not create evil or sinfulness. However, He did create angels and humans with the ability to make choices for themselves – what we call freewill. Some angels exercised their freewill by rebelling against God. Likewise, humans, with the encouragement of Satan, have likewise rebelled against God. Consequently, all humans who are mature enough to make decisions for themselves have committed sins (Romans 3:10, 23).
The good news is that the Gospel informs us that Jesus Christ through His sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross, His resurrection and His Ascension to heaven has provided the remedy for mankind’s sins. Our Lord summarized the solution to man’s sin problem in Mark 16:16, which reads, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
May Christians Observe Christmas?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
It’s that time of year! May Christians observe Christmas? Most certainly, they can, but may they observe Christmas?
First, with today’s casual usage of the word “Christian,” it is necessary to define the term under consideration herein. By “Christian,” we do not simply mean some vague so-called Christian heritage or citizenry in what sometimes people at one time referred to as a Christian nation. Neither do we have in mind for the definition of Christian respecting one’s membership in a church nor a religion that had its origin after the first century, that was founded in some city other than Jerusalem, that was established by mere mortals or that may wear a name that cannot be found in the Bible.
“Christian” as it is used in this article refers to baptized believers (Mark 16:16), those who were immersed or buried with Christ in baptism (Romans 6:3-5) for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38) and who were added to the Lord’s church by Jesus Christ Himself (Acts 2:47). Herein we mean by “Christian” all that it means in the strictly biblical sense and not in a secular or a popular denominational way.
So, may a New Testament Christian observe or otherwise participate in Christmas? Well, that depends on some variables, such as what do we mean by “Christmas.” Yes, we are aware of the origin of Christmas regarding it coming about as the institution of the Christ Mass by the Roman Catholic Church and also being combined with tenets of paganism. If that were exactly and only what defined Christmas today, then, of course, faithful Christians could neither conscientiously participate in nor observe it in any way whatsoever. Clearly, the birth of Christ is not celebrated in Scripture as some religious rite to be observed comparable, for instance, to the Lord’s Supper or one of the other four acts of Christian worship.
If, then, one means by “Christmas” a religious observance in the manmade religion of Roman Catholicism or in any of its equally human denominational children or grandchildren, absolutely, “No,” a child of God can have no part in it (Matthew 15:9). At least as reprehensible would be the willing participation in some sort of paganism (Romans 1:18-21).
However, there is another completely different face of Christmas from either its Roman Catholic beginnings or its ancient association with paganism. Aside from any religious connotation, Christmas has been secularized and commercialized in ways that have no relationship among a multitude of contemporary people to anything religious or pagan. The Santa Claus of today, along with Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer herd, the North Pole residence of the plump jolly fellow, all of the little elves and such like bear no correlation to anything either religious or pagan.
The national holiday and the holiday season in many ways offer somewhat of a reprieve from the typical ugliness society demonstrates most of the rest of the year. It is a time of merriment, joy, family, gift-giving and a nicer version for many of us than what we seem to be the balance of the seasons.
The fact that some or even many people may abuse themselves in sinful ways at that time of the year (e.g. drunkenness, etc.), in the first place, doesn’t prove that those sorts of people are better models of the human race the rest of the year (e.g., sober, etc.). Furthermore in the second place, just because someone can abuse something doesn’t necessarily prove the unworthiness of what he abuses (e.g., fire that warms and cooks versus fire that destroys, water that sustains life or water that results in drowning).
Before one blindly jettisons everything labeled “Christmas” and attempts to bind that sentiment on other Christians, too, consistency demands of us some further reflection and a dosage of common sense. The names of the days of the week that we freely use had their origin in paganism. Sunday or the Day of the Sun was dedicated to the worship of the sun. Thursday was Thunder Day, and it was associated with the pagan worship of Jupiter. Saturday was Saturn’s Day. Yet, no one today makes those connections despite their origins, and even Christians with no hesitation refer to the days of the week in a modern-day context, without finding them repulsive.
There are four reasons why a Christian might not observe or participate in Christmas. First, anyone who has personal conscience against Christmas must not partake of it (Romans 14:23). Second, no Christian ought to participate in the religious version or appear to endorse a spiritual observance of Christmas (i.e., special religious service, commemoration of the birth of Jesus on December 25 with nativity scenes, etc.). We cannot add religious tenets to Christianity. Third, especially in some nations noted for their paganism and idolatry (e.g., Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) and where even the trappings of the secular and commercial Christmas are perceived by non-Christians as an association with Christianity, we would do well to avoid any and all of it for their benefit. Fourth, a Christian just may not have any interest in that or other holidays in which typically other people are interested. Therefore, he simply ignores it like he might not treat other national holidays any differently (e.g., Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc.).
Can a New Testament Christian observe or participate in Christmas? Of course, one can, but the real question is may a child of God participate in it. A Christian may participate in or observe Christmas as long as he does not subscribe to the religious aspect of it, and as long as one’s participation in it does not become a stumbling block to those who see you observe it (Romans 14:13-22). Otherwise, the present-day secular Christmas is on the same footing as the names of the days of the week, where their contemporary usage is divorced from their origins.