Evil does not exist. If it did, then God would not exist. And all suffering at the hand of evil people would cease to have significance. Yet God created the world out of the overflow of his goodness, and he made all creation “very good” (Gen 1:31). Since nothing exists outside of what God made, then either God created evil or evil does not exist. But God did not create evil. So evil does not exist. It can only corrupt good things.
Augustine recognized this when he wrote, “For you evil does not exist at all, and not only for you but for your created universe, because there is nothing outside it which could break in and destroy the order which you have imposed upon it” (Augustine, Confessions, 7.13). Hundreds of years later, Thomas Aquinas wrote, “For evil is the absence of the good, which is natural and due a thing” (Summa 1.49).
And this is good news because if evil exists God would not and our suffering would be meaningless. Here’s why.
God Is Good so He Made Everything Good
Jesus says, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). God alone possesses goodness. He is good. And he can never change: with him, there is “no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). God always has been and always will be good. For this reason, everything that he created is good: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31).
For evil to exist, God must have created it since apart from his Word nothing was made that was made (John 1:3). Had God created evil, then he himself would capable of it. He would not all holy, all light, all good, all the time. But he is just that. So he did not create evil nor can he do so because it would contrary to his perfection.
A god who creates evil by giving it substance would differ from the God of the Bible. Our God possesses goodness by nature and cannot change. In himself, he is a fount of life—eternally giving himself to the Son and Spirit. In history, God does not change. God’s eternally life-giving nature does not change with his creatures. He always gives of himself whether in his being or to his creatures.
Everyone called by God’s name, God moulded “for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isa 43:7). God formed and made those called by his name to share his glory, meaning that “for my glory” means to glorify God’s people. As Jesus prays, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:22).
God’s glory is his pure light of goodness that he shares with those whom he has set upon his love. The very glory of God—the life that is in Son (John 5:26) that divine and therefore eternal life—we have by union with the Son who shares with us his divine life, that is, eternal life.
Had God created evil, he would create something contrary to his eternally good nature. He would be a different God. He would not exist as we know him. He would be something other than perfection itself. He would not be eternally beneficient. He would not exist. Either God exists or evil does. Both cannot be true.
Our Suffering only Has Meaning If Evil Does not Exist
Evil signifies a corruption of goodness. It corrupts good people and good things. It rusts out goodness—taking away a substance while not being a substance itself. Paul tells us that creation is in “bondage to corruption” (Rom 8:22). Evil has no real existence but merely is a word that describes the privation of some good thing (See Augustine, Confessions, 7.12; Thomas, Summa, 1.49). What God created to be good, corruption infests.
Peter contrasts “the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” with partaking “the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). We corrupt the world through sin, while the world itself partakes of corruption due to its bondage due to sin (Rom 8:20). False teachers promise freedom yet themselves become enslaved to corruption since they have no way out of it apart from God (2 Pet 2:19). Corruption can touch all.
But Jesus conquers death, brings life, and grants incorruptibility (ἀφθαρσίαν) through the Gospel (2 Tim 1:10). We return to God by union with Christ through which we receive divine life, eternal life, and so incorruptible life. As Paul says, those who seek “for glory and honor and [incorruption (ἀφθαρσίαν)], he will give eternal life” (Rom 2:4).
For this reason, we experience suffering now with hope. We count it all blessing to suffer in the footsteps of Jesus because we know that our suffering has an eternal reward. We know that our corruptible bodies will be raised incorruptible (1 Cor 15:42). We suffer for the sake of the kingdom where we gain an inheritance of incorruptibility (1 Cor 15:50).
All of our sufferings have significance now because they imitate Christ’s life in which he put death to death, abolished corruption, and gave eternal life. Through suffering, we enter into an incorruptible mode of life whose reality comes at the resurrection.
Were evil to exist, how would it cease to exist? Were evil to exist, how could the God of the Bible exist? Since evil does not exist, it merely corrupts the good. Then perfect love can cast out fear of evil for it is a cheap mimic, a rusted nothingness. It has no future for the future belongs to the kingdom of God where we will gain our inheritance of incorruption. Corruption will cease because the incorruptible one will recapitulate all things in himself—whether things in heaven or on earth.
Satan Brought This Corruption
The Devil denied God’s definition of his purpose and essence. He descended from being “very good” to being “bad.” He corrupted his good purpose by denying God. He did not bring evil into existence any more than we do by sinning. Instead, he infested the garden and corrupted Adam and Eve. They too fell from their perfect calling into something less. The lost the tree of life which represents the eternal life of God. They corrupted God’s good image in them. And so have everyone else after them.
But Christ brought being back to us by recreating into the image of God, the image of himself (Col 3:10; Eph 4:24). We are new creations. We pursue an upward call in Christ to reach incorruptibility which is our inheritance in Christ.
Christ put death to death, sin to rest, and crushed Satan’s head. Christ defeated the devil and his works, the very purpose for which he came: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Yet to give room to evil by giving it substance or being means that Satan’s first work has the same status as God’s; it would mean that Satan too could create. But creation belongs to God alone. There is one God over all.
If evil exists, then God would not. And all of our sufferings would suffer from meaningless as we’d live in a world with gods who create good and evil from their nature. One half is good; one half is bad. But when we see the beauty of a sunset, we know that creation is good. We know that a forest represents the beauty of life. Evil simply cannot exist. It can only corrupt.