Atheism tells us that evil is not a real thing. It tells us that there is really no right or wrong, that there is really no way we ought to live, that all of it in one fell swoop is nothing more than relative notions and ideas and are simply matters of personal preference. But, how would we object to a man who would rob us, hurt us, or do something as simple as lie to us? Do we not expect the truth? Do we not expect others to more or less coalesce to this common ideal that we intrinsically expect everyone to know about. What notion then of personal preference being our guide? The truth is there is such a thing as “evil” and a source of evil. The reality is that there is an objective transcendent ideal, and it must be outside the mind of man. What, after all, can be deemed to be antithetical to how things ought to be if we reject the notion that things ought to be a certain way.Christians have popularly ascribed the root of evil to Satan. But since Satan is a rebellious angel, and thus a created being himself, though he may be the very essence and its prime advertiser, he can not be the ultimate source of evil. The source must, therefore, be something not of a material essence, but something that transcends all natural things. This leaves us in somewhat of a quandary because all we’re left with as options are an immaterial yet powerful God or concepts or realities birthed by this God.
Now, since God is known to be all goodness and the ultimate guide to how things ought to be, goodness is necessarily required to be real throughout the known reality. Some argue that since goodness is real, then so too must evil be real. But, what’s interesting is that evil is not necessarily an intrinsic reality, that is unless there is some manner in which how things ought to be are in some way averted. In other words, while goodness is necessary since it provides us with a direction (i.e. oughtness), evil is not, that is unless there is freedom of choice to choose to move in the opposite of the intended direction.
This then provides a way to understand the ultimate root of evil. Evil did not arise in and of Satan. Evil was made possible by the gift of freedom given by God. It was a gift given by God and it was given to all volitional creatures for the purpose that they may choose to seek Him. Freedom is the gift that was corrupted and used as a means to escape the truth for pleasure, to avoid happiness for comfort and to dismember the soul for the illusion of our betterment. It is true that Satan tempted and that he tempts still, but He chose to disobey God and chose to tempt to lead humanity astray.
Thus, the gift of freedom aimed to create genuine love between man and God, has instead generated strife between man’s will for his autonomy and the perfect knowledge of man’s fulfillment in God’s precise direction. The intended freedom of choice was for all of creation with a conscience to love and honor God. Evil, therefore, finds its ultimate source in the freedom to be indifferent, to despise and dishonor God. So, what God has intended for good, has been abused by the volition of the creatures He created.
Arthur is an author, a former agnostic, and current ambassador of Jesus of Nazareth who loves to share the best of reasons for God's ultimate reality. His love and passion are helping skeptics and Christians grow in their faith and knowledge of God through accessible materials.