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3. “Is Evil Required to Know Good?”

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Is the existence and knowledge of moral evil necessary for the knowledge of good? And if so, would that not easily explain how evil exists in a universe created by a holy God of infinite power who both hates evil and could have prevented it? Let’s see… 

Good Food in the Garden

Going back to the Garden of Eden, did Adam and Eve need to know the taste of rotten food to know the food was delicious? Can you appreciate steak or apple pie without tasting dirt or steamed okra? We can all appreciate a good back scratch without stubbing a toe or getting hit by a truck. And while we can take good things for granted and better appreciate our blessings when we lose them, it does not follow that we can’t appreciate good things without knowing or experiencing their opposite. We certainly can.

Knowing Good Before Going Bad

If Adam and Eve could not have known good until they knew evil, they could not have known God prior to their sin. God is good, yet Adam and Eve knew God personally and lovingly prior to their sin. And it seems contrary to the entire witness of Scripture that if Adam and Eve had obeyed and been confirmed in eternal life that they could not have known God as good, with whom they would dwell in a loving relationship for eternity. If they could not know good, they could not know that which defines God’s character and therefore could not have known and loved Him.

Evil Helps Nothing

Moreover, Adam, Eve, their descendants, and the world were not improved by that which is contrary to God and eternally destructive. Sin kills and destroys. But if knowing good requires knowing evil, the entrance of sin was a good thing that improved everyone’s situation. Of course, God can bring good, even infinite good from sin, but that does not say that good requires sin.

Triune Good Without Evil

Also, knowledge of evil was never needed among the persons of the Trinity for each person to know and love the goodness of the others prior to creation. But if evil were necessary for the knowledge of good, then evil would have been necessary for the persons of the Trinity to know good, an impossibility. God has never needed anything, least of all evil. Yet, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have existed forever in perfect goodness and knowledge, even prior to creation when evil did not exist. God never needs evil to properly know good. Perhaps God does not need evil to know goodness, but people do? But we will know God’s goodness in heaven where evil will not exist and “the former shall not be remembered, nor come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).

God Can Do What He Pleases

Additionally, the idea that evil is required to know good implies that God is unable to create beings capable of knowing and loving Him apart from that which He hates. Like the false claim that God is too high to communicate with human language, this debases God as unable to communicate His excellence to His creatures without the assistance of that which is most contrary to Him. God would no longer be independent, but dependent on His worst enemy to accomplish His will. Evil would be redefined as that which brings about the greatest good, accomplishing what God could not do without it, requiring a wholesale redefinition of how Scripture explains evil and the attributes of God. On the contrary, God in His infinity, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and wisdom, can do whatever He pleases without limitations. He needs nothing to accomplish His perfect will, least of all moral evil.

Next Up: Does God Require Evil to Display His Glory?

© 2015 Craig Biehl,

Related Topics: Apologetics, Character of God, Trinity

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