“I form the light, and create darkness,” God says. “I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7). Understanding this scripture is tirelessly daunting. The light and the peace part are cool but the darkness and evil are less so. To a certain extent, it may even be self-incriminating. The idea that a peace-loving God is also an evil-creating one is jarring to the spirit and vexing to the soul.
But theologians have argued that the evil here refers to one other than the moral evil of humanity. It is therefore not an evil of sin or gratuitous cruelty but of adversity, trouble, misfortune, calamity and suffering. It is therefore of the natural kind with a supernatural endorsement, so to speak.
If so, does it make it any less self-incriminating? I know God’s sovereignty is boundless. It is unqualified and unconditional. Who is to tell God what he can do and cannot? Who dares add or subtract to His infinite wisdom and power? That much is of course incontrovertible. But as the sole author of all misfortunes and natural calamities (so says the scripture), what can we say about God then?
Picture a natural calamity, the killing of thousands, children left orphaned, parents left childless, and the land soaked in blood and sorrow. Is this an act of God? Is this what it means by the scripture, "I...create evil?" Who should we blame then?
Now let’s turn to man-made disasters. Picture again the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, the three mile island accident, and the Enola Gay's fateful mission to drop the atomic bomb on Japan during WWII. We readily put the blame on man for such man-made tragedy. That is our natural response and that much is again incontrovertible.
But, when we return to natural calamities like the Christmas Eve Tsunamis in 2004 and the numerous earthquakes, hurricanes and cyclonic storms, where does the blame lie knowing that the divine fingerprint is all over them? Shouldn't our response be equally natural then? And if so, why should the creation of or permission for such natural disasters be deemed as an act that is less morally culpable than the evil that men create?
Or is blaming even the correct approach in the first place considering that God does as he pleases (or omits as He wishes)? Standing in the shoes of a Biblical apologist, surely there should be a nuanced distinction between a divine agent who creates evil of the moral kind, leading to death of thousands and sufferings of even more, and a divine agent who creates calamity and adversity, leading to the same amount of death and prolonged sufferings thereafter right? And the difference is in the underlying purpose of that authorship? That is, one evil is irredeemable and purely gratuitous, and the other is redemptive in nature. One is random and is evil for evil's sake and the other is by a premeditative divine act to bring about the best in us...right?
But is such distinction even practical or is it just too convenient? I dread to be the one singled out here to answer that question.
Here, I recall Romans 8:28 where all things work together for good in the ultimate end. And I am tempted to apply that scripture to all the biblical evil that God had created and will be creating in the tradition of Isaiah. Maybe our forbearance is worthwhile because a greater reward awaits. Maybe the eternity to be gain far exceeds all the pain and sufferings inflicted by the natural calamities that is divinely authored. Maybe we shouldn’t point the finger at Him when such a hasty blame game is not only premature but will soon turn out to be exceedingly embarrassing for us when we discover how all the good in all the bad that humanity have suffered would finally triumph to justify it all. Or just maybe God’s sovereignty is an OB marker for His believers. Maybe.
I guess this is how the paradoxical nature of the sovereignty of God works on this side of heaven. Although we will never appreciate the supremo-like intelligence and creative twists that go into the redemptive evil that God had diligently designed for our long term benefit, I imagine God assuring us personally and collectively to take it all in with hope and faith and to endure to the very last breath what he had morbidly prepared for us.
So, indeed He forms the light, and creates darkness, and makes peace, and creates evil. Everything is done by Him, for Him and through Him. He alone knows where our limit of endurance will stretch; even if it means stretching to the collateral death of countless. He alone sees the fruitfulness of what he had wrought for us, even if it is hidden from us for a reason beyond what we can possibly comprehend now.
And should we ever be chosen to brave through the scriptural evil that God has affectionately packaged for us, let it be with quiet resolve, persevering hope and a spirit of thanksgiving that we receive this most peculiar gift of a certain assured tragedy. Cheerz.