The Purpose of Evil in the Bible
God looked at everything He had made, and it was very good (Genesis 1:31) Five times in Genesis 1, God looks at that which He has created, and pronounces it "good". Then on the sixth day He creates Man, and says that His creation is now "very good". God's pronouncement of His creation, which would be everything around us and includes ourselves, as "very good" is hard to reconcile with that which we see on a daily basis -- a reality in which we experience much pain and cruelty from man and nature. These negative experiences we call "evil".
Evil, in this sense, is a very broad term, and needs to be defined. In general terms, "evil" is that which works against the life-giving power of God, and seeks to thwart God's will. In the Bible, the term "evil" is used to describe anything that brings sorrow, distress, calamity, and moral wrong-doing. In more modern times, "evil" has been associated with warfare, especially chemical and nuclear warfare, as well as problems associated with over-population, racism, ecological destruction, and worldwide disease. Indeed, evil is so much a part of our lives, the very term seems to have lost meaning. It is not uncommon in public debates to hear one side associate the other with evil, casually placing their opponents on the side of Satan and destruction.
So, what did God mean when He said that His creation was "very good"? Did He simply mean that He was finished, and that evil was an intentional part of His design? Or did evil come afterward, suggesting that it was beyond His control? This is a vexing question to those of faith, especially in the Judeo-Christian faith, who believe in an all-powerful, loving God. If God is good and loving, and God is all-powerful, why is there so much evil in His creation? The answers to this question break down into three categories: the Atheist; the devoutly faithful; and those that would question the idea that God is all-powerful.
An Atheist would use the above question to argue against the existence of God. How could a loving God allow so much evil, suffering, and despair in the world? There are several answers to this question from a religious point of view, some of which I will examine, but to an Atheist, they will all sound like reasoned excuses, but ultimately meaningless ones, by people of faith.
At the core of Atheism, I believe, is a moral relativism. I don't mean this as a harsh critique, suggesting that Atheists are immoral, but as a comparison to a devoutly religious person. People of faith see their moral values as coming from God, written in Scriptures, and the word is passed along at the churches, synagogues, and mosques. They see moral codes such as the Ten Commandments as being divinely given and eternal, not to be questioned and interpreted differently to fit modern society's lifestyle. Atheists, on the other hand, view the world in more shades of grey, a civilization where...