Problem of Evil

How did Lucifer get the evil idea to be like God, and how did the angels that fell with him choose to do evil also? And if Adam was created in the image of God (perfectly, with no sin to obscure it), why was he disobedient to God?
Religious folks try to fix that problem in a variety of ways.

First, there is the free-will answer: Man/Satan chose by his own free will to be evil. Evil exists, but God had nothing to do with it. Satan is the author of evil, not God. The problem with that is there is no sufficient cause for the effect. If Satan was perfect, then a suitable cause for the effect of evil could not come from him. Having a free will doesn't create motivations or causes where there are none.

Second, you have the honorable St. Augustine who said that evil is not a thing, but the absence of a thing. It is the absence of good we see when we sense evil. So, God didn't create evil — neither did man. It does not exist. Problem: Evil sure does seem real. It may not exist like I do, like beings do, it's not on the same level as the number 12 or the color "white". Its effects are far too obvious to not exist in some form. Plus, Augustine said in other places that moral good is absent from all sorts of soulless objects like chairs or neckties, but that absence of good does not instantly make them evil. God pronounced creation good, but Augustine's solution seems to leave any thing that is absent of moral good as evil. Though I really don't like neckties and have a sneaky suspicion they are evil. So Augustine was only mostly wrong.

Modern Charismatics have a solution: God is good all the time! God only gives, the devil takes, suffering and evil do not come from God, but from the devil. Problem: I don't mean to be uncharitable towards our charismatic friends, but that's not in the Bible. The Scriptures say the opposite, that those who live godly lives will necessarily find suffering and persecution as part of their daily bread. God gives a painful promise to his people when Paul says to Timothy, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."(2TI 3:12 ) So that solution is just not possible.

The "normal" Reformed answer is that we don't have a problem of evil, but a problem of good. The mystery isn't that God could allow evil to begin and continue to exist in the world — the mystery is that God would allow any good to happen to bad people like us. True enough, but that's no help. It's an answer to a question, but not the question of why do we have evil in this world. But it is true — it's just not the answer to "Why is there evil in the world?"

I believe the reason why Satan could be created perfect, and yet fall, is that while he was perfect, he was still a creature, not a creator. He was not a deity — he was lower than God. Only God is immutable (1 Samuel 15:29; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). Thus, Satan could "naturally" degrade without God forcing him to sin or inject him with unbelief. God allowed it to happen for his greater glory, but he did not force it upon Satan or mankind.

This is how "perfect" beings could sin — they were created perfect, but were vulnerable to the impact of time upon those who are not God.

Answer by Rev. Robert Barnes

Rev. Robert Barnes is a minister in the PCA and the Managing Editor for Bright Media.