Could God be both good and evil?

We know from the Bible and our experiences that there are two forces in this world: good and evil.   The question is, Do both originate with God?

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You. (Psalm 89:14, NASB)

For both good and evil to have originated with God, they would have to live in harmony.  Otherwise, God wouldn’t be able to make any decisions until one or the other was destroyed.

But could God have good and evil living in harmony in Himself, something like the yen and the yang?

Let me look at this personally first. Do good and evil live in harmony in me?

Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. (Romans 2:14-15)

(God could never have had this conflict to begin with because, if God had ever had this conflict, He would not be able to judge between good and evil without condemning Himself for one or the other.)

People who see no distinction between good and bad are called pathological or, more truthfully, totally evil.

Yet we all begin our lives with a knowledge of good and evil and even a desire to do good.  The vast majority end our lives holding onto this ability, though a few totally suppress it and desire only total evil.

We all, to a degree, suppress the knowledge of good and evil in our lives.  We do this whenever we do something we know is wrong or we don’t do something we know would have been the right thing to do.  For example,

“Yes, I used the money I was planning on giving to the homeless mission this month.  But they probably don’t need the money anyway.  Probably a lot of people will give this month.  Probably there’s a lot of mismanagement of funds anyway.  Probably those homeless people are hucksters.  And I really needed that new outfit.  It will probably be encouraging to other people to see me wearing this new outfit.  In fact, they’ll probably feel better about themselves when they see my new outfit, and that really outweighs any benefit the homeless shelter would have gotten from my money anyway, what with the lack of need and all the people giving and the corruption and charlatans and everything.  Really now, I did the right thing.”

Yes, we have a very clear battle raging inside us.  We can smother it sometimes, but does it not very often come back to our minds?  Something like this:

Oh, what was I thinking?  I feel so bad wearing this outfit it’s not even worth it.  I keep thinking about that homeless shelter.  I saw that commercial for the shelter again, and I just felt so bad . .

Good and evil aren’t in harmony in us.  Either good wins out, or evil.  They are less at peace with each other than a lion and a bear in the same cage.

So good and evil can’t be in harmony in God, either.  We know God wouldn’t be able to make a decision if good and evil were equal within Him.  And if He was at war with Himself, not only would everything be in catastrophe, such as the earth would vanish and appear every split second (because He might want it to one minute, and then not want it to the next), but values would be in catastrophe, like helping the poor might be good one minute and bad the next.

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Jesus, quoted in Mark 3:35)

If everything we had in our power to do we could do, wouldn’t this world be in a mess?  One minute we’d create a huge house for our family and the next minute we’d kill them.  It’s the harsh reality of our thought life.

But the God of the Bible doesn’t have any internal conflict.  There is never an argument, because God is perfectly good.  He never acts selfishly; He never enjoys cruelty; He never rules unjustly.

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (Deuteronomy 32:4, NIV)

The evil in us, then, has to come from another source.  And it does: Satan.

God reigns from the Kingdom of Heaven.  Satan is the ruler of our earth, meaning that he tries to ruin everyone’s lives by the power of sin.  Why does he do it?  Surely because he hates God!

But what do we have to do with Satan’s hate for God?  Why target us?

Because Satan knows he can’t destroy God directly and he knows God loves us.

That we would even ask the question, Can God be both good and evil? reflects the handiwork of Satan.  Satan is like Golum, luring us into Shelob’s lair.  Since he cannot win against God, Satan wants nothing more than to see you and I in Hell.  But how could he possibly convince anyone to run from the Creator and Redeemer of Eden to run into the mouth of Hell?

By questioning the goodness of God.

Over and over, all of your life, Satan will try to cause you to question God’s goodness.  Satan has only two ways to destroy your soul: doubting God’s goodness and longing for evil.  In Eden, Satan tricked Eve into abandoning God’s goodness and longing for the forbidden fruit.  Ever since then, Satan plays the same trick over and over.  Question the goodness of God.  Long for the pandemic of evil.  Question the goodness of God.  Long for the pandemic of evil.  Over and over.

Logic (created by God) will tell you God is only good.  God’s Word will tell you God is only good.  The life of Jesus will tell you God is only good.  The only one who will call God’s goodness into question is Satan.  And he is not someone we should be listening to.

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:15b, NIV)



Can good come out of evil?

If this was true, then evil could somehow be justified by the good that came after.    Evil could actually be commendable.  For example, if my jealousy could cause someone to be more content, or if my anger could cause someone to be more patient, then it would seem I was actually doing them a favor!

But we know this isn’t so.  The Bible calls sin as what it is: sin.  Sin is rebellion against God and separation from God.

Since nothing good comes out of sin, good can’t come out of evil.

But doesn’t God use evil for His will?

No.  If I use something, it is in some way mine.  If I use a cell phone or a pencil or a dish, I am, for some small moment anyway, claiming ownership over it.  Does God own evil?  No.

But if this is so, then why does the Bible say,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV)

II think God does give us clues to what this might look like.

I still remember when, at about eleven years old, a best friend had to move away.  I was totally distraught and basically thought life was over except for when we would visit each other.  I remember sobbing hysterically one night until my mom driving me to our Hallmark store, where she bought me a duck with a raincoat and a seal Beanie Baby.  Things didn’t seem near so bad after that (at least for a few hours).

This is a silly example, I know, but the point is that my mom wasn’t responsible for my friend moving.  But she worked through the difficult circumstances and brought about kindness for me.  But her kindness actually wasn’t contingent on the sad at all.  She still could have taken me to the Hallmark store.  So whether the sad event happened or not, my mother could have demonstrated her love.

Even though this is a simple and feeble story, it helps illustrate a truth about God.  God does not cause evil to happen.  But He does plan for what He will do about evil.  The Bible tells us that God had a rescue plan for us from before the foundations of the earth (e.g., Romans 16:25-27, Ephesians 1:4, 2 Timothy 1:8-10, 1 Peter 1:20).

But God did not bring about the evil.  In fact, He could have demonstrated His love without there ever having been evil in the world, but Adam and Eve didn’t choose to go that route.  Instead, they chose to sin, costing God more than anyone except God would be willing to pay.  But God chose to pay . . . and He sent His Son to die.

I wasn’t sure for many years whether or not God wanted us to sin so He could rescue us.  What a beyond stupid thought, reminding me something like what the apostle Paul talks about (Romans 3:7-8).

God’s sacrifice of Christ was totally genuine and totally necessary.  If there had been any other way to save humanity, God would have brought it about (e.g., Matthew 26:39, Matthew 26:42, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42).

I remember the day God in His grace revealed to me something I’d never seen, that changed my perspective about the cross:

There was a great deal more distress at the plan for the cross than we recognize, picturing God only as a master planner and not a father.

God knows what will happen, and He plans for it, but He does not bring all things about.  God has no part in evil (e.g., Daniel 9:14, Psalm 116:5, Psalm 119:137, Ephesians 4:22-24, 1 John 1:5, 1 John 4:8,1 John 4:16,  James 1:17) and He never will.

(This is not the same as saying God has no part in punishing evil.  Punishing evil is not evil, rather, the Bible tells us it is righteous.  See, for example, Daniel 9:7 and 9:14.)

Out of a mercy deeper than I will ever totally understand, God chooses to come along behind the wreckage of sin and His teaching and gifts bring about His incredible promise:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV)

Why can’t this work for everyone?  Why is it that God only promises His goodness to

those who are called according to his purpose


Without God’s good preceding and following the wreckage of sin we leave . . . all we have is that wreckage.  And we are condemned forever to face it.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5, NIV)