I’ve heard many secular statements explaining ‘evil’, but I will use a biblical source for the Christian definition. A Bible dictionary states that evil is “the presence of corruption, malevolence and depravity in the world, opposed to God’s nature and will. Scripture stresses that evil is a force in its own right, rather than the mere absence of good, and describes its origins and the manner in which God deals with its continuing presence and power in his world.”1
Ever since pre-Christian times, philosophers have wrestled with the coexistence of a completely good sovereign God and the reality of evil and suffering. But because of insufficient reasoning, many philosophers (and some theologians) discarded any beliefs in God’s goodness, or even his very existence. Some of these educators continue to believe in God, and some start as believers then slowly become disbelievers.2
As an example, consider English naturalist and biologist Charles Darwin. He was baptized in the Angelican Church and influenced by his Unitarian mother, but struggled in believing in God because of his observations of pain and suffering in the world. But despite his leaning toward atheism, he could not abandon the belief in a universe created by an intelligent force.3 Although the Holy Bible presents no true philosophical discussions of evil, it does provide adequate answers by simply teaching that God has good reasons for allowing it.
Academics like to label their theories, so you may have heard the term ‘conflict theology’ (not to be confused with Karl Marx’s ‘conflict theory4). Conflict theology has to do with God’s ongoing war with Satan and demons to explain the phenomenon of evil. The good and evil aspects of life (or fortunate and unfortunate ones) are to be interpreted largely as the result of friendly or hostile invisible spirits warring against each other and against us.5
Many people believe the fall of humankind in the Garden of Eden is hard to understand. After all, how could good people develop evil desires, so they describe this first couple as not fully good, or just immature, or more of in a neutral condition. But theologians generally describe Adam as a good person, because God stated that fact. They are referring to this verse in Genesis: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good,” (Genesis 1:31, NRSV).6 But notice, creation was ‘good’, not ‘perfect’.
Humans were part of that creation process and one author feels, as well as I do myself, this verse isn’t pointing out that Adam was created perfect, but that all that God created turned out to be just what he had in mind. Even so, sin was not part of Adam’s created nature,7 but God would allow him to discover it. I feel the Bible is a historical record of humankind’s schooling, which will ultimately lead to perfection.
Why does God allow evil?
Evil is the opposite of goodness8 and is considered as antagonistic to goodness.9 It has its seat in the free-will of the intelligent creature, so you will not only find evil in humankind, but also in some spiritual creatures in the heavenly realm and in the demons created here on earth. They choose evil, just as humans do.10 For more information concerning demons and their creation, see the article titled “What are Demons and the Nephilim? — and that Mayhem before the Flood of Noah?” which is listed in References & Notes at the end of this study.11
There are many theories about why God allows evil. One explains that there are two kinds of evil: natural evil and moral evil, both are caused by creatures through misuse of their free-will. Natural evils (e.g., huge hurricanes, disastrous earthquakes, widespread disease) are caused by angelic creatures; “Satan and his cohorts are responsible for the deep-seated disorder found in nature and the resultant natural evil.”12
Humans, however, are responsible for the moral evils (e.g., murder, rape, torture). An increasing human population requires a challenging environment and a dangerous world for character development. It is a necessary aspect “of the present stage of the process through which God is gradually creating perfected finite persons.”13 And Satan and his workers are quick to lend a hand in enticing humans to take the wrong path. The current evil world is a cooperative alliance of evil spirits and evil people.
Discerning moral evil is no simple task. Moral evil has its origins in disobedience to the revealed will of God, and as such, becomes associated with sin or wickedness. The origins of evil activities are of Satan (1 John 3:8) which lead to human sin, such as the fall (Romans 5:12-14) and banishment from Eden and from the tree of life (Genesis 3).14
Goodness is the opposite of evil. It is the conformity of a thing to the will, especially to the divine will. And the highest degree of the good is the perfect. A being is said to be perfect when it has attained its end in all of good’s abundance.15 Jesus Christ is the epitome for perfection.
When discussing the problem of evil, a distinction must be made between natural evil and evil in human nature. Evil in humans is the reverse of the divine and that is what we need be most concerned about.16 Modern philosophers teach that from the human standpoint, good and evil are discernible through experience. But even if morality of our actions is known from experience, the moral rule is constantly changing as our society and culture changes. Some few things that were considered good or bad at one time may not seem so discernible in another. So for such ‘things’ over time, we need God’s guidance.17
Some philosophers believe God created ‘evil’; others believe its creation was by Satan. Either way, it would require the coexistence of both good and evil in the Universe, but that would rob God of his sovereignty. The conundrum is that if neither God nor Satan created evil, where did it come from?18
Logically, then evil must have been implanted within intelligent entities from some other source, one that had an eternal beginning and was designed by God for his own purpose, so that his thinking creatures could be ‘free moral agents’. This other source is ‘free will’ — the ability to make a choice. The ability of choosing one path or another was within God’s design, the right to obey his wishes, or not to do so.
Long before humans were created, all angels chose the will of God and there was no evil, but the moment Satan chose to follow his own will, he fell from his lofty position. And then he persuaded other angels to follow him, and then did the same with humans. So evil (the root of sin) is selfishness. “For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God”,’ (Isaiah 14:12b-13a, NKJV).
Is Satan Imprisoned in Hell?
Satan and his angel army visit earth to deceive and confuse us humans. A 19th century Baptist author, Clarence Larkin, stated, “The common notion is that Satan and his angels are imprisoned in Hell. This is not true. The angels described in 2 Peter. 2:4, and Jude 6, as having left their first estate, and being ‘reserved in everlasting chains under darkness’, are not Satan’s angels.”19
Many theologians believe those are of a special class of angels (called ‘Watchers’),20 some of whom sinned by mating with human females, causing God to send the Great Flood. They are the ‘spirits in prison’ (along with the demons) of whom Peter speaks in 1 Peter 3:18–20.21 Those verses in 1 Peter 3 state why Jesus went to Hell after his death and before his resurrection, as highlighted in the Apostle’s Creed:22 “He descended into Hell.”
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water” (1 Peter 3:18-20, NRSV).
But, Satan and his angels are currently at liberty in the universe. We read in the first and second chapters of Job that it was the custom in Job’s day for the “Sons of God” (angels), to appear at stated times in the presence of God to give an account of their stewardship, and that Satan always appeared with them.23
Satan and his Associates Deceive Us, then Reward Us
These evil beings are actively gathering human helpers through deceit. They lie and tell us what we want to hear, or try to scare us in a certain direction through their trickery. They deceive us into believing we will get a better deal, or be protected in some way. They lie to us and manipulate us, promising increased control or wealth or both. And they make sure those deceived are rewarded in some way — either economically or mentally.24
If you think most worldly governments are here to help us, than you haven’t learned the truth, yet. Some may have been designed to help, but over time, they no longer do so. Their politicians take away the freedoms and liberties from the population, as well as purposely harm its citizens to the advantage of just a few.
But it isn’t just the government, it is also large financial and corporate organizations worldwide. These business leaders circumvent the law and do what they please, without any compassion for the people they manipulate; it has always been the leaders that benefit most, not people like you and me. And don’t think religious organizations are immune to Satan’s influences. Megachurches (and some not so large) are businesses, too, with many of them structured to bring in as much money as possible. Teaching and preaching the word of God is not their priority.25
Satan and his fallen angel followers, as well as the demons they created on earth,26 are so crafty that they can even snare the best of Christians, so knowing how they operate can actually save your life. Don’t be fooled by what others may call just a myth, because Satan is a very real creature and very active in our world today.
There are many complicated lists and charts describing Satan’s ways of taking control of us, even entire books devoted to describing his methods of operation. Although they are fine for detailing his attributes, I believe a few simple points will help you understand when you are under attack. I generally break down Satan’s methods into four main categories: deception, temptation, accusation, and destruction. For an in depth study of these methods, see “Satan’s Strategies of Attack — How to Protect Yourself” listed in References and Notes.27
Once we understand evil and know how Satan operates, we have a better handle on the methods we can use to protect ourselves from his influences. The more we understand, the less we will fear Satan. Jesus gave his own life to redeem us, so as we grow in faith though our Christian education, we will be assured of our ability to deflect Satan’s evil advances.
That is the message by Gospel singer, Joyce Martin Sanders. She has been singing gospel since the late 1980s, and has long been known as a member of ‘The Martins’, a family Gospel Group. This song, ‘I Will Fear No Evil’, was recorded in Nashville with a powerful women’s chorus composed of leading Christian artists. Selected lyrics are below and a link to the music video is listed in References & Notes.28
I will fear no evil
I will dread no pain
Through the blood of Jesus
My suffering’s not in vain
God will get the glory
For all my soul endures
I will fear no evil
My victory is sure
Copyright © 2021, Dr. Ray Hermann
→ Leave comments at the end, after ‘References & Notes’.
Your email address will NOT be published. You can view our basic rules for comments by clicking “The Fine Print” on the top menu bar.
References & Notes
- Manser, Martin H., Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies, (London: Martin Manser, 2009), Theme #8734, ‘Evil’.
- Cabal, Ted, in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Eds.) Brand, Chad, et al., (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), p. 520.
- Farley, Harry, “Charles Darwin: Atheist? Christian? Agnostic?” (Christian Today, 12 February 2016), https://www.christiantoday.com/article/charles-darwin-atheist-christian-agnostic/79478.htm
- conflict theory: purports that due to society’s never-ending competition for finite resources, it will always be in a state of conflict. (Karl Marx is regarded as the father of this theory.)
“What is Conflict Theory?” (Corporate Finance Institute, CFI, retrieved 29 November 2021), https://corporatefinanceinstitute.com/resources/knowledge/economics/conflict-theory/
- Walton, John H. and Walton, J. Harvey, Demons and Spirits in Biblical Theology: Reading the Biblical Text in Its Cultural and Literary Context, (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2019), p. 277.
- Frame, John M., Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006), p. 107.
- Harper, Thomas, The Metaphysics of the School, (London: Macmillan and Co., 1879–1884), vol. 1, p. 527.
- Ibid., p. 530.
- Ibid., p. 525.
- Hermann, Ray, “What are Demons and the Nephilim? — and that Mayhem before the Flood of Noah?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 29 October 2019), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/what-are-demons-and-the-nephilim-and-that-mayhem-before-the-flood-of-noah/
- Dew Jr., James K. and Gould, Paul M., Philosophy: A Christian Introduction, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic: A Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2019), pp. 183-184.
- Williams, William C., in Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, (Ed.) Elwell, Walter A., (Ada, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 1996, p. 222.
- Louis of Poissy, Elementary Course of Christian Philosophy: Based on the Principles of the Best Scholastic Authors, (New York: P. O’Shea, 1893), p. 153.
- Singer, Isidore, (Ed.), The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, (New York and London: Funk & Wagnalls, 12 Volumes, 1901–1906 [now reprinted by KTAV Publishing House]), vol. 3, p. 477.
- Ming, John J., The Data of Modern Ethics Examined, (New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: Benziger Brothers, 1894), p. 116.
- Larkin, Clarence, The Spirit World, (Philadelphia, PA: Clarence Larkin, 1921), pp. 12-14.
- Watchers: a high order of angels sent by God to instruct humans, but started cohabiting with mortal women. Described in the books of Enoch and Julilees.
Davidson, Gustav, A Dictionary of Angels, Including the Fallen Angels, (New York: The Free Press, a division of Macmillan, Inc., 1967), p. 311.
- Larkin, Clarence, The Spirit World, (see above).
- Hermann, Ray, “The Apostles’ Creed — Why does it say Jesus Descended into Hell?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 16 March 2020), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/the-apostles-creed-why-does-it-say-jesus-descended-into-hell/
- Larkin, Clarence, The Spirit World, (see above).
- Hermann, Ray, “Yes, you are being deceived – We all are!” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 12 March 2021), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/yes-you-are-being-deceived-we-all-are/
- Hermann, Ray “Angels from Heaven or Aliens from Outer Space?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 12 November 2020), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/angels-from-heaven-or-aliens-from-outer-space/
- Hermann, Ray, “Satan’s Strategies of Attack — How to Protect Yourself”, (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 20 November 2020), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/satans-strategies-of-attack-how-to-protect-yourself/
- “I Will Fear No Evil”, (recorded at Citation Support Studio, Nashville), Artist: Joyce Martin Sanders; Album: Women of Homecoming, Vol. 1, (Gaither Music Group, 2013), licensed to YouTube, UMG on behalf of GMG, Audiam Publishing, BMI, more, [used under ‘fair use’ copyright for teaching under Section 107 of Copyright Act of 1976]) – MUSIC VIDEO: https://youtu.be/or9ok5RBmww