For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
~ Colossians 1:16
God’s creation of Satan is one of the most perplexing and counter-intuitive ideas in the Bible. Even if we can somehow manage to acquit God of the charge of creating evil itself, he is still guilty of creating Satan, an entity whom he knew would turn evil. So I’ve gotta ask: what on earth was God thinking?
Jesus: “Hey dad, whatchya doin’?”
God: “Creating an angel who will rebel against me and bring horrible pain and suffering to mankind.”
Jesus: (Spitting out his holy water) “WHAT!? Why!? Why would you do that?”
God: “Well, I want to create some worshipers who will love me and love what is good. In order to have that, I need them to experience both good and evil, so they can freely choose the good.”
Jesus: “Okay… go on.”
God: “Well, if they are truly lovers of good, and they see me doing evil, the won’t love me, will they? Also, I am perfectly good, so I couldn’t do evil even if I wanted to. That’s why I’m creating ‘Satan,’ an angel who can do evil and take all the blame.”
Jesus: “But won’t the humans just blame you for creating this ‘Satan’?”
God: “Na, I’m not going to make them that smart.”
Jesus: “But still… whether you do evil, or you create someone who does, it’s still you instigating it; Satan can’t do evil if you don’t create him. Also, how can a perfect God even make an imperfect thing?”
God: “Son, you are waaaay over-thinking this. All you need to understand is this: God good, Satan bad. Satan will tempt the humans into sinning, do a bunch of evil, and try to steal their souls. That’s when we — and by we, I mean you — swoop down and save the day! Ta da! We’ll be like superheroes! And in the end, I’ll show everyone how good I am by casting Satan into the lake of fire for all the evil he did.”
Jesus: “You mean… all the evil you did. How about you just show everyone how good you are by not creating Satan?”
God: “Son, you don’t understand, I need Satan. If there is no Satan, Adam and Eve will never sin, and –”
Jesus: “Wait, hold on… never? Are you sure?”
God: “Sure I’m sure. I would much rather they sin of their own accord, that way all the responsibility for the fall rests on them, but they’re just not taking the bait.”
Jesus: “So… let me get this straight; you’ve set up this forbidden tree, and they’re not biting, so you think they need a little more… motivation?”
God: “Ya, just a little push in the wrong direction.”
Jesus: “And if you don’t create Satan, the fall will never happen, and everything will remain perfect and good?”
God: “Yes, and that’s a problem.”
Jesus: “So… you are orchestrating the fall?”
God: “No. Yes. Probably. Maybe. Indirectly. But I assure you it’s for a good reason.”
Jesus: “If it’s for a good reason, why not just explain to them that it’s in their best interest to sin?”
God: “Because, I’ve already told them to never eat of the tree, so if I go down there now and try to talk them into it, I’ll look ridiculous. And besides, I don’t tempt people, only Satan does (James 1:13).”
Jesus: “You don’t tempt people!? What do you call that forbidden fruit tree in the middle of the garden?”
God: “Um… ornamentation?”
Jesus: “So you create the temptation, and you create the tempter… but you still deny any wrongdoing?”
God: “Correct. The way I see it, I’m creating a good angel, it’s not my fault if he chooses to do evil.”
Jesus: “But you already know he will! Ugh… let me try to describe the problem in a way I think you’ll understand. There once was a man who hated his brother and wanted to kill him, but he didn’t want to become guilty of sin. When the man heard about a violent slave who had killed his last two masters, the man went and purchased the slave, and gave him to his brother as a gift. Now, if the slave kills his brother, whom will you find guilty of sin?”
God: “That’s easy, I would find them both guilty; the slave for the act of murder, and the man for giving the slave to his brother when he knew full well he was going to… oooohhhh, I see where you’re going with this.”
Jesus: “Good, so you understand that if you create Satan, knowing full well what he will do, then you are every bit as guilty. If you are perfectly good, you cannot create something that will do evil, and if you do — and you are perfectly just — you must cast yourself into the lake of fire for bringing such evil into existence.”
God: “Whoa, hold on there! I’m also a God of mercy! Can’t I just figure out a way to forgive myself? Or cast you into hell in my place?”
Jesus: “It’s always about the loopholes with you, isn’t it?”
All jokes aside, is it reasonable to believe that a perfectly-good, all-knowing God would create anything that would result in the production of evil? Surely a perfectly-good God would have some sort of zero-tolerance policy on evil, and would bring any evil to a quick end… but he doesn’t.
The Christian rebuttals
Believers almost universally maintain God’s innocence when it comes to doing any evil, and they typically defend God’s creation of Satan by making one (or more) of the following claims:
- God created a “good” angel named Lucifer, who turned evil of his own free will.
- God has a good reason for creating Satan, but it’s a mystery.
- God uses the work of Satan to help him “manifest his glory.”
- You can’t have freewill without Satan.
1) God created a good angel named Lucifer, who turned evil of his own free will.
But just because God created Satan, does not mean that He created him as an evil being. Rather, God created him good, and then he chose to become evil.
~ Eric Lyons, M.Min., Has Satan Always Existed?, Apologetics Press, 2005
I’m surprised how often this answer is given without any further explanation, as if God simply didn’t know Satan would turn evil.
How could God consider Satan “good” when he knew he would turn evil? This is like a car manufacturer calling his cars “good” when he knows the engines will blow-up after 50,000 miles. To call them “good” is either a lie or incredibly shortsighted.
If God knew Satan would become evil, and chose to create him anyway (as opposed to skipping him and creating a different angel, or creating him with different desires, or not creating anything at all), God is responsible for the consequences.
Imagine, for example, that you traveled into the future and saw that your future child was responsible for the torture and death of millions of innocent people. Knowing this, would you choose to conceive this child? If you did, knowing what would happen, do you think you are at least somewhat responsible for the outcome?
Knowing the future puts you in a unique position to change it. If you conceive this child knowing what will happen, then you become an accessory to these crimes (morally speaking), because you could’ve easily prevented them. Likewise, if God knew Satan would turn evil, he had the opportunity to prevent evil by simply choosing to forego his creation.
Even if God didn’t know the future, he is all-powerful, and able to stop Satan. In fact, by not stopping him, God gives his approval for everything he does.
Again, imagine you have conceived this child, and that you are also able to stop him by simply asking. If your child turns to you before every evil deed and asks, “Is this murder okay?” “Is this rape okay?” “Is this torture okay?” If you answer “Yes,” “Yes,” and “Yes,” can you still claim to be wholly innocent?
You cannot pull the trigger and blame the bullet for the outcome. Likewise, you cannot be the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of all things and deny responsibility for your own creation.
Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
~ Isaiah 49:5
2) God has an explanation, but it’s a mystery.
Let me go right to the first question that everyone always wants to ask: if God knew Satan was going to do what he did, then why did God create him? Remember, I told you that the scripture said in Deuteronomy 29:29, “The Secret things belong to God.” There are just things that we can never know until we get to heaven.
~ Jennifer Mills, To You with Love from Jesus: Fifty of the Most Commonly Misinterpreted Scripture Truths from the Bible Revealed, p. 48
… God created Lucifer, the angels that chose to rebel, and people because He wanted to… We also need to realize that there are things we do not fully understand. God has a wonderful plan that stretches into eternity, full of things that we “do not know.” It is important to remember that God is in control and that He promises to work everything (even the bad things) together for the good of those who love Him. Sometimes we need to trust Him and walk in faith.
~ AnswersInGenesis.org, Kids Feedback: Why Did God Create Lucifer?, April 14, 2011
We’ve seen this excuse before, because it’s a wonderful catch-all for any problem that cannot be logically explained. This rebuttal does not offer any explanation, it just posits one exists, and places it just out of reach on the other side of death.
As previously stated, this kind of excuse can be employed by any religion to defend any problem. If a Muslim approaches a Christian and says, “Don’t worry about the difficulties you perceive with Islam, all these things will be explained away in the afterlife!” I don’t think the Christian would be convinced. It’s special pleading to argue, “My logical absurdities will all be explained in the afterlife, but yours will not.”
It’s also important to understand that we are not simply asking God to explain a mystery — a mere gap in our knowledge — we are asking God to make the illogical logical. Can God create a circular square? Can he make down also be up? Or black also be white? Can he make the south also be west? Can he be perfectly good and create evil? Or all-powerful and not responsible? (And don’t even get me started on the trinity).
Isn’t it enough that God asks us to believe in an invisible, intangible, and eternally elusive God? Must he also demand we have faith in the illogical? Does God purposefully disguise himself as nothing to test our faith? And then go so far as to make himself illogical, that he may test our faith against our god-given ability to reason?
3) God created Satan to help “manifest his glory.”
To summarize, God knew that Satan would rebel and that Adam and Eve would sin in the Garden of Eden. With that knowledge, God still created Lucifer and Adam and Eve because creating them and ordaining the fall was part of His sovereign plan to manifest His glory in all its fullness.
~ GotQuestions.org, If God knew that Satan would rebel and Adam and Eve would sin, why did He create them?
God has ordained that Satan have a long leash… because he knows that when we walk in and out of those temptations, struggling both with the physical effects that they bring and the moral effects that they bring, more of God’s glory will shine in that battle than if he took him out yesterday.
~ John Piper, Why does God allow Satan to live?
There are several problems with this line of reasoning.
First and foremost, we cannot admit that God knew Satan would do evil without also inferring that God desires evil. God now has a motive to conduct evil, and he wields it as a means to an end. This understanding of God makes it difficult to later claim that there is no evil in God, or that he does not desire evil.
Second, a perfectly good God would never use “good” ends to justify “evil” means, it’s just not in his nature. A perfectly-good God would have to say, “This plan requires the introduction of evil, and because there is no evil in me, I cannot knowingly produce it. It would be better that nothing be created.”
Third, assuming the use of evil is justifiable for the greater good, God should not be labeling Satan’s works as “evil.” Satan’s actions are actually good, for without them the “fullness of God’s glory” could never be realized. God (and Jesus) should be continuously thanking Satan for helping him bring about this greatest good, not chastising him and casting him into a lake of fire.
Forth, what exactly is this “greater good”? How this can this be “a greater good” when the majority of mankind end up in hell? Wouldn’t the “greatest good” have been not creating humans at all? To spare billions from suffering?
Fifth and finally, if we believe that every bit of evil that exists is absolutely necessary in order to bring about a greater good, this thinking leads us to some bizarre conclusions. For example, we probably shouldn’t attempt to reduce suffering, lest we inadvertently prevent the greater good that God is trying to accomplish. If God did not want this evil to exist, it wouldn’t exist, and therefore we shouldn’t try to stop it. Pain and suffering are good for us!
Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.
~ Mother Teresa
4) You can’t have freewill without Satan.
Satan himself rebelled against God without anyone tempting him, and in the very presence of God, no less; thus proving an evil tempter is not a prerequisite for exercising free will. Adam and Eve had the forbidden tree, all they had to do was freely choose to eat of it.
It’s safe to assume Adam and Eve would not have eaten from the tree had it not been for Satan, for surely it would’ve been preferable for them to sin of their own free will, so all the blame would rest squarely on their shoulders. God could then say, “I gave you absolute free will, and while I knew you would sin, you just proved my point.” Once you involve Satan, the blame is transferred to him, because it can be argued that Adam never would’ve sinned had it not been for this interference. This blame then gets transferred back to God, who created Satan and allowed him to tempt Adam. Ergo, God triggered the fall.
If God created everything, and God is perfectly good, then it stands to reason that all of his creations would be perfect… yet evil abounds. In order to explain this discrepancy, believers posit that evil springs from free-willed creations, and not from God. However, if God is all-knowing, then he can prevent evil by not creating evil beings like Satan. And even if God somehow did not know Satan would turn evil, God should not have risked creating him, or used his absolute power to stop him.
Some believers resort to redefining words like “good” and “evil” to the point where they lose all practical meaning; while others try and re-define the very nature of God, to allow for a good God that also does evil. But most will simply throw up their hands and say, “We have to wait for God to explain these things in the afterlife,” (though they are unwilling to accept this kind of reasoning when it is offered by competing faiths).
Bottom line: I don’t think it’s reasonable to believe that God would create Satan. I think the real reason this problem exists is because too many impossible demands have been placed upon God’s character. The God of the Jews had to be more powerful than all the other neighboring gods; he had to be the best, the strongest, the wisest, the oldest, the first, the last, the most benevolent, and (eventually) the only. We like our God to be absolutely perfect, the problem with this is that, if God is perfectly good, evil should not exist. The faithful have tried to patch this problem by offering Satan as a scapegoat, but then people asked: “If God made everything, why did he create Satan?” And we are back where we started.
So we can choose to hope against reason that our invisible, intangible, elusive, and illogical God will explain all absurdities in the afterlife, or we can assume the Bible’s description of God is fundamentally flawed. If the latter is the case, at worst, we add God to a long list of deities that have become victims of rational thought; at best, God exists, but he is either weaker or more malevolent than the we have imagined.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?