I think most of us religious or non-religious have wondered at some point why there seems to be so much evil in the world. The “Problem of Evil” argument was something that always lingered during my life as a Christian. I just could not understand why or how a good God could allow such evil. I was taught that we live in a fallen world as a result of our choice. Mankind through Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and this created the fallen world scenario when they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
I learned that the “Doctrine of Depravity” explained our fallen world and that I was born cursed with a sinful DNA. I was born a sinner and had no chance from the beginning. That sinful DNA would activate and I would have a ticket to hell issued as soon as I reached the age of accountability. This is why Jesus came to save us because we were born destined for hell unless we believe on him. Ultimately after hearing it over and over and the confirmation of others around me I accepted this doctrine as a Christian because I never studied counter apologetics or a skeptics rebuttal. I found I could watch a plethora of debates supporting the christian apologetics response to multiple challenges of the faith including the “Problem of Evil”. I never realized my desire to affirm my beliefs would be one of the main reasons I would lose belief.
I continued to watch debates around the “Problem of Evil” as a Christian wanting to better understand this problem and how to defend it against skeptics. I felt like while I understood the “fallen world” stance something still didn’t seem right. If the world fell with Adam and then God flooded the earth to start over again with Noah did the curse remain with Noah? If so, then why even flood the earth because the curse remained? If not, then how did the sin curse re-enter the world. To put it another way how did evil re-enter the picture again?
Fast forward through the years and much study and investigation into my faith and ultimately through to my de-conversion from Christianity the conversations and questions around evil remained. One question I heard posed many times on the Podcast Dogma Debate with David Smalley is around Isaiah 45:7. Did God create evil as stated in Isaiah 45:7?
Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
Now it seems the common response from David’s guests and others that I have asked this question to points out that this is from the King James Version translation and most other translations replace the word “evil” for “calamity”. So let’s look at what “calamity” conveys to us.
Definition of calamity
Those who would say that רע refers to “calamity” are reluctant to say “evil” because they do not associate God with doing evil. But the fact is, many things in this world are evil depending upon one’s perspective. What is good for the butcher is evil to the cow. As Rabbi Benjamin Blech notes in his book, “If God is Good, Why Is The World So Bad?” (Simcha Press, 2003), the greatest good, from God’s point of view, is that His children should make correct choices with their gift of free will, and to achieve that good, God had to introduce evil.