Published: 28 February 2022

Is God Responsible For Evil?

God Responsible For Evil

There is a statement in Genesis 22 which is related to the assertion that God is responsible for evil. Before I share with you what that statement in Genesis 22 is (in the next post), allow me to tell you a little story of one of the most puzzling theological challenges I have ever wrestled with.

Many years ago a friend presented me with a problem in logic and theology that took me months to sort out. A fellow soldier in the US Army posed a challenge that I was ill prepared for. My friend’s name was Demetrios. We worked together and we were also roommates in the barracks. This provided us with many hours of time to talk. 

Demetrios did not believe in God and presented points of view I had never been exposed to before. We spent a great deal of time debating science, philosophy, the Bible, you name it. We were soldiers with time to kill and we made the most of our conversations. I truly enjoyed his company and our debates.

Stumped

One day while discussing the origins of sin and evil he made the startling claim that God is responsible for evil. Demetrios was a very smart young man and he always had a reason for his opinions. I could not fathom how he had reached this conclusion, so I asked him to explain. 

Demetrios started by asking me if God knows everything to which I answered, “yes.” He then asked if God created Adam and Eve knowing in advance they would sin. Again, I answered “yes.” Demetrios then said, “God knew ahead of time that Adam and Eve would sin and created them anyway. Therefore God is responsible for evil. It was God who unleashed evil into the world.” This argument stunned me. I offered some lame rebuttals, but even as I voiced them I knew they didn’t refute his argument.  

Demetrios’s syllogism

The argument that Demetrios made was in the form of a syllogism. A syllogism is a logical argument based on a major premise and a minor premise and a conclusion. If the major and minor premises are true, and the conclusion is logically derived from the premises, the argument is valid. Here is an example:

Major premise: All dogs are animals.
Minor premise: All collies are dogs.
Conclusion: Therefore, all collies are animals.

As you can see, both the major and minor premises are true and the conclusion is not in error. Therefore the argument is valid. Here is Demetrios’s argument formatted as a syllogism.

Major premise: God knows everything including all future events.
Minor premise: God created humans who sinned.
Conclusion: Therefore, God is responsible for introducing sin into the world.

Is the argument valid? We’d have to show that either the major or minor premise is false, or that the conclusion is not logically derived in order to invalidate the argument. The conclusion forces us to accept that God is responsible for all of the evil and sin in the world unless we can invalidate the argument. If this is the case, it is hardly right or fair for Him to hold us responsible for our actions. Why punish us with hell and eternal death if God is the ultimate cause of evil?

Then as now, I could not conclude that the God we read about in the Bible could be the source of evil. God is the very definition of purity and goodness, so how can bad come from good? The conclusion was unacceptable, but did not appear to be false. The major premise and the minor premise appeared to be factual. I could not accept this argument. Yet, if God created us knowing ahead of time we’d sin, I couldn’t deny that He was responsible for evil.

Is there a flaw in the argument?

How would you attempt to refute this argument? I have told this story to several people over the years and the responses are similar. Some say that it wasn’t God’s fault that Adam sinned. It was Adam and Eve’s decision, not God’s. However, God created humans knowing they would sin so the responsibility would still be God’s. Others say evil originated with the serpent in the garden and therefore the devil was the source of evil. Who created the serpent? God created the angels who rebelled including the devil, so again, the responsibility lies with God. 

To make a long story short, I don’t recall a single Christian that I’ve shared this proposition with ever resolving it. Their attempts to resolve this problem were pretty much like my own in the beginning. When I share my conclusion with them, I think they are usually as troubled by my answer as they are the problem. This is because they have the same basic assumption that I did. This assumption seems like an unquestionable truth, but the Bible itself undermines that assumption. 

Is God Responsible For Evil?

There is a flaw in the syllogism. A fundamental assumption (that nearly all Christians have) blinded me. Because of this, it took me months to uncover the problem in this argument. Do you see the flaw? If you don’t, wrestle with it a while before you read the next post to see what you come up with.