Who created sin?

By Dr. Christopher Plumberg

Where did sin come from? Did God create Satan with sin, or is sin simply some kind of self-existing entity which must always exist?

To address this question, let's consider what Scripture has to say. We know that sin, being evil, did not exist when God first finished His creation. We see this coming from Genesis 1:31, which tells us that "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good" (NASB). Or again, 1 Timothy 4:4 confirms this by telling us that "everything created by God is good" (NASB). Strictly speaking, this leaves us with three possibilities: either sin is good, or sin is a thing which was not created by God, or sin is simply not a thing at all.

Let's look at each of these possibilities in turn. First, as we've already noted, sin is clearly not a good thing. Instead, sin is clearly evil, and we know that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23, NASB). So we can easily rule out the first option: sin is evil, not good.

Second, we know that sin cannot be a thing which was not created by God, since Colossians 1:16 teaches us that by God "all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him" (NASB). In other words, nothing exists without God creating it and causing it to exist (except, of course, for God Himself). Thus, if sin exists, then God must have created it; but if God created it, then as we've already seen above, this means it must be good. Thus, if sin were a real thing which God created, then it would be a good thing. And of course, as I've already noted, this simply cannot be: sin is evil, not good.

This brings us to the third option: sin is not a thing which exists at all. This is a strange conclusion to come to, since we are used to thinking and speaking of sin as a "thing." Nevertheless, let me try to argue why I believe this conclusion is the right one, and therefore the biblical answer to the question we are interested in.

Why shouldn't we think of sin as a "thing"? First, let's consider a specific example of sin, say murder. Now, it's clear that murder can't be thought of as a thing that God would have created, since "murder" is really just a term used for a kind of voluntary action, and actions just aren't things which exist. Actions are necessarily "things" which are done, not actual things which exist. In other words, it doesn't make sense to say "murder exists" in the same way that one might say "That tree exists," since murder is not a thing like a tree.

But someone might object at this point: we also use murder as a noun, not just a verb! In other words, we do sometimes speak of murder as a thing (e.g., "There were three murders in Los Angeles last night.") However, in this case, we are using the term "murder" (as a noun) to describe the state of affairs produced by someone committing murder (as a verb), and murder in this sense simply did not exist prior to the fall of man, and therefore was not originally a part of God's creation or existing independently of it. In other words, the state of affairs that "murder" refers to was brought about by someone who is a part of God's creation; it was not created by God Himself, nor was it "self-existent" before His act of creation. Alternatively, states of affairs just aren't things in the sense that we are speaking of here.

So now, let's try to reformulate the original question as it applies specifically to the sin of murder: where did murder come from? We have already seen that it is wrong to think of murder as an actual thing which is self-existent and co-eternal with God. Rather, murder, insofar as it is a thing at all, refers to a state of affairs which was brought about as the result of some (wrong) choice made by a person created by God. Clearly, then, murder came from the wrong choices of the murderer himself, and is therefore neither an intrinsic nor original part of God's creation, nor an eternally self-existing state of affairs.

In short, then, we can answer the original question in the following way: Satan was not created with sin, but was originally a good part of God's creation. Sin also is not a self-existing entity. Rather, sin is a state of affairs which initially resulted from Satan's free choice to rebel against God's authority. The ability to choose freely, in turn, is a good part of God's creation, even though it necessarily entails the possibility of choosing evil. Thus, God's creation was initially good, and sin had no part in it.

All of this is rather abstract, so let me end by sharing an analogy which I have found helpful when thinking about these things. Imagine a brand new shirt: no stains, rips, loose strands, or any such things. Now imagine cutting a hole in this shirt. Clearly, the hole ruins the shirt by making it unwearable; in fact, we might even say that the shirt is no longer good. However, a hole is not really a thing at all; rather, it's absence of something which should be there. By cutting a hole in the shirt, we have not "added" the hole, as if the hole were itself a thing with its own existence, independent of the shirt. The hole really just means that we have taken away something from the original good shirt, leaving the shirt in an inferior condition. Sin is somewhat like a "hole," in this sense: it is not a thing which gets added to our human natures to make us evil; it's something which represents a deficiency in (or absence of) some of the original goodness that we were created with. Thus, there is no need to wonder where it came from (in the sense of tracing the origins of its existence), since neither holes in shirts nor sin in human natures are really things at all. Rather, they are both states of affairs which cannot exist independently of shirts or human natures.

Image Credit: madabandon; "hole"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | God-Father  | Sin-Evil

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Published 8-23-16