I did a review on amazon.com of John Noe’s book The Creation of Evil: Casting Light Into The Purposes of Evil. I don’t enjoy bashing books but I do have strong opinions on this subject and disagree with the book’s thesis that God somehow mysteriously is the creator of evil. However we solve the biggest philosophical challenge for the Christian faith – how evil and God’s goodness can co-exist – it seems to me it is morally and biblically indefensible to suggest God orchestrated evil to accomplish good. I have defended the freedom model which suggests God cannot truly love us if He controls us. Evil results from freedom which is necessary for authentic relationships.
John Noe’s books on Jesus’ coming and the end-times are eye-opening and even possibly life-changing. He ably defends Jesus has already come and thus did not misled when advising followers to be ready within their generation (i.e. Mt. 24:34). I respect John’s courage by offering his solutions about the biggest challenge for the Christian faith – how evil and God’s goodness can co-exist. But, I must agree to disagree with John as his solutions seem to create more problems than they solve. I hope in the following comments that I do not quote John out of context.
I believe to suggest God created evil is morally indefensible and unlikely from a biblical exegetical viewpoint. Since all interpretations are possibly fallible, I would suggest when two debatable interpretations can stand up to scrutiny that we must err on the side that portrays God as the most relational and comprehensible to the human mind. Humans are not totally clueless since we are made in our Creator’s image.
John Noe suggests the origin of evil rest with God and is in fact ordained by God (Chapter 3). John says: “… (God) created evil, at least in the form of a tree to start with (83)…Therefore, we must trust God in his sovereignty knew and knows that evil in this world really is ‘good’ and ‘very good’ (Gen. 1:12, 1:31)” [p. 124]. Such doublespeak plays havoc with the human language that God used to communicate to us. We don’t have to explain how God hates evil (Prov. 6:16-19) but then God hates something He is supposedly proud of and says is good (Gen. 1:31). The Bible advises to hate evil (Rm. 12:9), but must we hate God’s supposed good plan?
There are no exegetical reasons to think the very real tree of knowledge actually possesses evil. You can’t see, touch, feel, smell or hear evil. Murderous thoughts surely are evil, but we don’t say such a thought is a created thing. The story tells us where evil originates – within the thoughts of the human heart (Gen. 6:5-6). God doesn’t regret His supposed plan of Evil.
John suggests if we are serious about God’s sovereignty that we must accept: “Therefore, God Himself must be recognized as responsible for creating evil in the first place and thus foreordaining and enabling sin to occur. This was his original intent for us humans in the created world. And He implemented it and sustains it. How can anyone deny this, dare to challenge Him, question his sovereignty, criticize his ways, or be offended thereby?…God is primarily and ultimately responsible for evil, sin, and suffering in our world…”(p. 77, 117). To be fair John argues in others place God isn’t responsible for sin. John seeks to define evil and sin differently (p.109), but I believe most would say evil is sin and sin is evil.
Good luck trying to discuss God and evil with a skeptic with a comment such as above. No offense but God cares more about the one seeking than the ninety-nine who already believe in a Creator. We don’t suggest earthly parents can provoke their children but not be held responsible for their actions. Are the rules different for our Heavenly Parent?
Our understanding of God’s sovereignty as it relates to God’s will influences our biblical interpretations. The word sovereign did not originate with the biblical languages. “Sovereign” doesn’t even appear in the KJV translation. The NIV often replaces God with Sovereign and translate Lord God as Sovereign Lord. I disagree with theologians who wish to protect a definition of God’s sovereignty or control that implies God foreordains or controls evil for some grand purpose. God can still be considered sovereign, even though He gives up control for the sake of freedom. God as sovereign does not require His will always be done, or we must say God wills sin.
I don’t believe that we are doing God a favor by declaring God is a mystery because we can’t explain our theology. To claim God is a mystery does not invite investigation by those who may be seeking God for the first time. John seems to go the “mystery” route when trying to explain how God could ordain evil and call it very good. John says: “But, there is no scriptural reason why God could not have created something that is incompatible with his own character and nature”… (This) doesn’t limit his (God’s) goodness or power, since He is separate from his creation” (p. 83, 117). Scriptures don’t claim that God’s ways are mysterious but only that God’s ways are higher (more moral) than human ways. God’s plan for His Son when sin came into the world will be somewhat of a mystery until after Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. There are reasonable explanations how God’s goodness and evil can coexist.
John does not seem to go into detail of the freedom model. I would suggest the freedom model is still a better alternative though it certainly cannot explain completely for many the confounding confusion of natural evil (Chapter 5). John argues that God could have created Adam and Eve capable of not sinning (p.76). I would counter freedom is necessary for authentic relationships. The truth is not even an all-powerful God can create and guarantee life without death, violence, suffering, and struggle and yet there be free will necessary for genuine relationships. Not even God can force true love.
Freedom is necessary for the highest good in relationships. Without freedom some could accuse God of not creating the “best” world. God’s interference may actually prevent a superior world from developing as a result of the moral improvement of free creatures. Isn’t it much easier for the majority to worship a God who doesn’t control everything as opposed to a God who accepts no resistance?