Scripture Saturday: Who Conceives Evil? (Ps 7:14)
Recently a commenter going by Patrick asked me, regarding this article, if it mattered whether God created calamity or evil. He wondered if that was just semantics.
Well, no, it isn’t just semantics. Evil here means “moral evil.” If God created moral evil, then he cannot be good by any definition of the term. A perfectly good God could not look back on his creation and say it was “good” if he had created moral evil.
On the other hand, “calamity” is neither this nor that. It’s a force of nature, neutral. In the hands of a righteous God, argues Clay Jones, calamity is a powerful call to repentance.
So for this Scripture
Saturday Sunday (better late than never, right?), I wanted to take a peek at Psalm 7 to determine just who creates “moral evil.” The answer is in verse 14:
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies.
This verse describes a potentiality — the potential to sin. It all begins with the will to evil; a desire to commit mischief and that gives birth to lies. James, the brother of our Lord, explains it this way:
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (Jms 1:15)
So the desire is our own, not the fault of God. The desire, having taken root, produces the sin. Sin, fully realized, is death. That’s why God takes all of this so seriously — and why we should, too! But, alas, Francis Schaeffer was right to observe “. . . that none of us in our generation feels as guilty about sin as we should or as our forefathers did.”
Posted on December 11, 2011, in Bible Thoughts, Morality, Scripture Saturday and tagged problem of evil, Psalm 7, Theodicy. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.
You said that “if God created moral evil, then he cannot be good by any definition of the term.” First, the very nature of this proposition implies that moral evil has some kind of ontological status, so could you clarify the metaphysics of moral evil under the view you are defending? My request of course pertains to metaethics (what morality is), not ethics (what is moral).
Second, and subject to how you answer the former (plausibly), how does it follow that God cannot be good if he created moral evil? It is self-evident and obvious that God cannot be good if he does moral evil, so are you suggesting that to create moral evil is itself a moral evil? If so, then what is the justification for that conclusion?
Third, you tied this moral dimension to the creation account in Genesis, which suggests that when God looked over his creation and said that it was good he meant that in a moral sense. While the semantic range of that Hebrew term (tob) allows for interpreting it in a moral sense, what is your exegetical justification for doing so in this Genesis text that avoids the fallacy of illegitimate totality transfer (D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies [Baker, 1994])? I would argue, as others have, that the moral sense cannot apply here, which can be seen by considering what it would look like for creation to be not good (Gen 2:18); as such, this Genesis text is not a relevant example for your moral point.
(Incidentally, I would disagree that calamity is morally neutral. It is by the hand of God and thus morally good; cf. Clay Jones’ point.)