"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things." Isaiah 45:7
First, before I get into my understanding and response to the age-old "the problem of evil" I want to quickly address this passage from scripture.
One thing we know from many other teachings in the Bible is that God is absolutely good and holy and is NOT the creator of "evil" in the way that "evil" is being considered in this discussion. Here are just a few: God is absolutely holy (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8), “his work is perfect,” “all his ways are just,” he is a Being of “faithfulness” who is “without iniquity,” and is both “just and right” (Dt. 32:4). Moral evil cannot be attributed to the Creator in any way (Hab. 1:13; Jas. 1:13-14).
God has allowed evil to exist for His purposes, yes, and He will produce a good result from it, for those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). But the Good Book is clear He is not the creator of (capital "E") Evil.
Understanding the Bible and what He teaches through it is done by reading verses in context and in light of all the scriptures, so that if a verse is plucked out ("cherry-picked" as they say) and put up against another also plucked out of context, and they appear to contradict, you will find that the more you know of the whole of scripture and of those verses' actual intended meanings in their contexts, there really aren't contradictions. Paradoxes . . . yes. But confusion and contradiction, no.
In this case, (as in Isa. 45:7) the Hebrew word for "evil" which is "rah" . . . has several different meanings. Hebrew, unlike Greek is more limited so that one word can mean a few things depending on the context (ie., like how the English word "blue" can mean a color, a moral tone, or a mood.) Some of the different ways "rah" is translated, according to context are " "wicked," "bad," "hurt," "harm," "ill," "sorrow," "mischief," "displeased," "adversity," "affliction," "trouble," "calamity," "grievous," "misery," and "trouble."
In this verse "rah" or "evil" is not speaking of MORAL or (ontological) evil--the original kind which Lucifer and Adam and Eve brought into the world through disobedience to God's will. In the context of the surrounding passages, Isaiah is depicting contrasts between "light and darkness", "well-being and calamity" . . . something more like "adversity" . . . .
Does this make a difference? Yes. It is one thing to say that God is the creator of (ontological) or foundational "evil." It is something else to say that He creates or causes "calamity" or "adversity" . . . "trouble" . . . "affliction" . . . or judgments such as "natural disasters" which are also referred to as "evil" in places of scripture.
For a people who are born in sin--who are in full-on rebellion against God . . . who "naturally" hate Him and are primarily driven to seek pleasure, power, comfort, security in, for and by themselves . . . "evils" such as "affliction" . . . "trouble" . . . "calamity" . . . "suffering" . . . (directed or allowed by God) . . . are, it appears, the only ways that cause people to bother finally seeking Him out!
Why is it nearly impossible for the wealthy and "powerful" to make it to Heaven? Because they think they have no need for God or Heaven. They are SELF satisfied, content with their portion of riches, comfort and control within this life. Only when some "evil" is introduced into their lives (a disaster, a loved-one dying, a disease) do they at last (hopefully) begin to ask what this life is actually all about and search to find a purpose and meaning BEYOND their limited, finite selves . . . .
(to be continued:)