Does God Create Evil/calamity? Isaiah 45:7, Amos 3:6

Some argue that the Bible cannot be true because it teaches that God creates evil (Isaiah 45:7, Amos 3:6). Learn the solution to this alleged contradiction.
Bible "contradictions"
Is God good?
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Quick Answer

The argument

Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning whether God creates evil. The Bible teaches that God is perfectly holy and righteous, yet there are passages that speak of God "creating evil." Here are the relevant passages. Both the KJV and ESV translations are provided, since there are some differences between them.

Isaiah 45:7 (KJV) - I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.
Isaiah 45:7 (ESV) - I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.
Amos 3:6 (KJV) - Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?
Amos 3:6 (ESV) - Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?

The solution

"Calamity" and "disaster" are better translations

Looking at the context of these verses, it is clear that the more modern translations of these verses are correct in translating the Hebrew words as "calamity" and "disaster," rather than as "evil." Hebrew words, just like English words, can have more than one meaning, and the correct translation to use depends upon the context in which the words occur.

Isaiah 45:7

In Isaiah 45:7, we are looking for a word that contrasts with "peace," or "well-being." We are not looking for a word that contrasts with "good." Because of this, "calamity" is probably a better translation here than "evil."

Amos 3:6

In Amos 3:6, the context is that a trumpet has been blown, signifying an imminent attack upon the city, which makes the people in that city afraid. Because of this, "disaster" is probably a better translation here than "evil."

Is it contradictory for God to cause calamity and disaster?

We must deal with the fact that God is sovereign over bad things that happen, such as calamity and disaster. The question is, "Can God be holy and righteous if He causes events that result in death and suffering?"

The answer is yes, for the following reasons:

  1. God's actions are the definition of what is right and wrong, of what is just and unjust. God is "ex-lex," or outside of the law He has given to humans, simply because the law cannot apply to Him. For example, God cannot murder because all life belongs to Him, and He cannot steal because He owns everything in creation.

    Therefore, if God causes events that lead to death and suffering, then it is holy and righteous for God to do this, simply because He has done it. There is no higher moral standard that God must submit to. To read more about the concept of God being the standard of right and wrong, see the article, Predestination, Free Will, and Responsibility - Gordon Clark

  2. Regarding why God would cause events that lead to suffering and death, it should be enough to say that God has a purpose for these kinds of events. These kinds of events glorify God because the suffering in this world magnifies the work of Jesus to save sinners from sin and suffering.

"I don't buy that explanation"

Some people have trouble accepting possible explanations to alleged contradictions in the Bible, especially ones that they consider a stretch. For example, Dan Barker, president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says this:

I have received numerous replies from Christians who think that these contradictions are either trivial or easily explained. Yet not a single "explanation" has been convincing.

Fact vs Opinion

The fact is that there are plausible explanations for every alleged contradiction in the Bible. That there is a plausible explanation for an alleged contradiction does not mean that it is definitely the correct explanation for the alleged contradiction.

However, as long as a possible explanation has been suggested, then it has been objectively demonstrated that there is no necessary contradiction regarding the Bible verses and passages brought up.

When people like Dan Barker say that they don't find a particular explanation for a contradiction "convincing," then that is merely their opinion. A plausible explanation has been suggested that eliminates the necessary alleged contradiction. They simply don't like it, which is not at all a relevant argument against the explanation.

Additional Resources

To read more about solutions to Bible contradictions and difficulties, check out Norman Geisler's The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. While we do not agree with some of Geisler's theology, particularly concerning his view of predestination, this book is still an excellent resource. It is thorough and filled with research.

Another book to check out is Tim Chaffey's Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions: Exploring Forty Alleged Contraditions, which also answers many alleged contradictions in the Bible.

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