Does Isaiah tell us that God is the one who creates evil? Yes and that is a great thing.
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)
In Christianity, this verse belongs to a group of passages I like to call the undesirables. What is Isaiah saying here?
The Hebrew word for “evil” in this verse is ra. This word is not “sin,” which is hhatah, defined as “missing the mark.” Ra stands for “adversity,” “calamity,” or “brokenness.” The Israelites called the desert an “evil place” using ra. Does this mean the desert has sinned or fallen short? That it needs to repent?
Isaiah is making the parallel between evil and peace. Ok, why peace? Why not goodness? The answer can be found in the prior verse that finds Isaiah making the parallel between light and darkness, thus the word in question must be an antithesis to peace. Therefore, the word translated as evil here is correctly rendered as a calamity, adversity and oppression, and brokenness. These are adjectives that most certainly describe what we would typically call “evil.”
Let us turn to the big picture. The evil in this world is not a surprise for God, nor is it part of a plan gone haywire. Paul tells us why.
For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. (Romans 11:32)
The answer to the problem of evil is that God creates evil, not so He can punish humanity with eternal torment, as Christianity suggests, but so that He can show mercy to the world. In order for the goodness and experience of love to be known there needs to exist rebellion, brokenness, loneliness and suffering by way of wickedness, otherwise, we would not know restoration or value goodness. Such ideas would be meaningless, a blank slate not experienced or acknowledged. But because of this contrast, love can be known and the universe will not and cannot end in chaos but in restoration.
This cannot be out of a desire for evil itself. If that were the case, it would follow that I would be unable to do or experience anything good in life, such as the love of my family, and relative ability to decide good, and the giving of myself to another. But, of course, I do. And everything delightful in this world is merely a taste of what’s to come. God does not create evil to delight in evil, but to sufficiently cultivate a beneficial outcome for His glory and our joy. Thus God creates the contrast as a step towards His greater, redemptive purposes. This is how God can create evil without He Himself having sinned or being evil, as is the Christian objection. His purposes are good. He has not, is not, and will never miss the mark. If God were a being of evil, the story of creation would end in annihilation.
This is why the idea of eternal torment/annihilation and absolute human free will is so nefarious. By definition, God becomes a sinner. God misses the mark because His creation, due to an act of evil outside of Himself, rebels against Him. He does not or can not achieve the outcome He desires: to reconcile all creation into His bosom (Colossians 1:15-20). Furthermore, He then loses souls who “reject” Him as they’re cast into eternal hellfire by the hand of Satan. There is no end where love ultimately wins, it merely becomes a flick of the dice and a prayer that it would land on a six rather than a one. But these doctrines are irrelevant to the Gospel, which ends with perfect completion. I am convinced that Christianity is, as Scripture states, another Jesus. It is not the God of Romans 11:36.
Yet I fear lest somehow, as the serpent deludes Eve by its craftiness, your apprehensions should be corrupted from the singleness and pureness which is in Christ. For if, indeed, he who is coming is heralding another Jesus whom we do not herald, or you are obtaining a different spirit, which you did not obtain, or a different evangel, which you do not receive, you are bearing with him ideally. (2 Corinthians 11:3-4 CLNT)
Is this not a Jesus who did not save the world but had provided only the mere possibility of salvation, or at most, a bizarrely limited atonement that ultimately fails to bring suffering to its end? Is this not a God who is co-creator with Satan, whom religion calls the creator of evil? Such an idea should make one’s soul ache.