It is common for the Holy Scriptures to refer to things that God allows as His action and work. Nonetheless, even when it says that “God creates evil” (Isa. 45:7), or that there is no “evil in the city which God has not created” (Amos 3:6), it is not trying to present God as the cause of evil. The word “evil” has two meanings. Sometimes it describes what is inherently evil, that is, whatever is opposed to virtue and God’s will. Other times, it refers to the bad things that we perceive, such as pain, sorrow, and misfortune. All these things seem evil because they cause pain; however, in reality they are good things. For people with understanding, they become the cause of repentance and salvation. These are the “evils” that the Bible describes as taking place through God. Even so, we should realize that we ourselves are the cause of even these evils. Because involuntary evils [i.e. sorrows] result from voluntary evils [i.e. sins].
There is One God Who is the only source of good, and Who is free of all evil. “But then,” some people ask, “where does evil come from? Since it is impossible for evil to be brought forth from good.” Evil is nothing other than the deprivation of good, and the deviation from the natural state to an unnatural state. All things that God created are very good, when they remain as they were created. However, when they voluntarily distance themselves from the natural state and proceed to an unnatural state, they become evil.
In their natural state, all things serve and obey the Creator. When, however, one of these creations willingly flees and becomes disobedient to its Creator, it creates evil within itself. Because evil is neither an entity nor an attribute of any substance. Rather, it is an event; that is, a voluntary turning away from the natural to an unnatural state—which is the same as sin.
From where did sin arise? It is the invention of the devil’s free will. Is then the devil evil? He was not created evil but good. He was created a bright and radiant angel by God; however, as a rational and free being, he willingly distanced himself from the natural state of virtue and entered the darkness of evil after separating himself from God, Who is the only good One and the Creator of light.
God out of goodness created all things out of nothing, and He knows beforehand everything that will occur. If they had not been created, then no one would have become evil…If people who were to come into existence due to God’s goodness were prevented from being created on account that they would become evil as a result of their own choice, then evil would have defeated God’s goodness. And so, everything that God created, He created good and very well. Each person on his own chooses to become good or evil.
—St. John of Damascus