Did God create the devil? Couldn’t He have saved Himself a lot of headache/heartache if He hadn’t?
On the first question: yes, God created the devil, by which I presume you mean Satan himself. Indeed, to say that anything other than God Himself exists is to say that it was created by God. As John 1:3 says: “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.”
Purported Biblical references to Satan’s origin are all complex, serving normally only as the background against which either a ruler’s demise or God’s sovereignty is painted. Isaiah 14:12-17, Ezekiel 28:11-19, and even Job 26:13 follow this pattern.
But there is no Biblical case whatsoever for regarding Satan as an eternal, evil opposite of God’s morality or equivalent to God’s power. Although he does occupy a position of power (see Jude 9), he is, without doubt, only one among the myriad creatures of God. This fact makes your question legitimate. Why would God bother creating such a problem?
On that question: I infer that you believe Satan is responsible for mankind’s fall, and that if God could have prevented the fall, He should have. It is actually a very good question, and it belongs to the realm of theodicy — why would an all-powerful and purely good God create any evil?
To get to a more specific response, we should first broaden the question to include not only why God created Satan, but why He created mankind too.
The idea that if Satan had not tempted Eve, then mankind would not have sinned… is actually not supported in the Scriptures
Revelation 12:9 makes clear that Satan is the deceiving serpent who will one day be judged. So Satan tempted Eve, and mankind fell. But the idea that if Satan had not tempted Eve, then mankind would not have sinned and God could have been spared the effort and sorrow of redemption is actually not supported in the Scriptures.
God created all the elements that brought Eve to her crisis: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the command not to eat from it, and the serpent (described in Genesis 3:1 as “more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made”). So there is no reason to focus blame for mankind’s fall on Satan.
In fact, when James addresses the issue of temptation in general, he emphasises that people should not blame anything outside of themselves: “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). This focus on man’s responsibility for his own temptations comes in a book plainly aware of Satan’s work, where devils believe and tremble (James 2:19) and believers are commanded to resist the devil (James 4:7).
So, in the terms of your question, God could have avoided “a lot of heartache” if He had chosen not to create the tree, or not to give the command, or not to create mankind. But He chose to do all of them.
Yes, God knows all things before they happen, and He has the power to do whatever He wants. He foresaw that Satan would deceive mankind and we would fall, and He knew exactly what it would cost Him (His own Son), yet He created the serpent (along with the tree, the command, and mankind). Clearly, the avoidance of heartache is not God’s purpose.
God knew exactly what it would cost Him when He created all the elements that would led to the Fall. Clearly, avoiding heartache was not His purpose
There are myriad historical answers to why God would choose to create a world with so much pain, which also explain why He would choose so much heartache for Himself, as you put it. Those answers are not my point, but they include ideas from people as well-known as Augustine and Aquinas, not to mention Jesus. For example:
There is no dearth of such explanations.
Regardless of which of those theodicies is correct, there are a couple of things inherent to the story of Scripture which seem unavoidable.
First (in the spirit of C.S. Lewis), God does not undo things. When mankind falls (in the garden), when sin multiplies (just before the Flood), or when Israel persists in their rebellions, He does not uncreate them, think them out of existence, or forsake His plan for them. Instead, He moves forward — expelling, judging, and chastising.
But second, and more importantly, each of those acts is not just forward, but toward a specific end: redemption. What God does in redemption is not simply make a bad situation better, or even make it as good as it would have been had the evil not transpired. No. God does something which is in itself evidence of His omnipotence. When God redeems the unspeakably terrible things that have happened, the entirety becomes better than anything else that could possibly have happened.
When God redeems the unspeakable, the entirety becomes better than anything else that could possibly have happened
In such an understanding, the term “fortunate fall” has found a home. It is not actually the case that the fall needed to happen. God does not rely on a circumstance to be capable of creating the greatest of possible outcomes. But the fall did happen. And in His righteous, patient, loving, and gracious response, He created a story greater than any that could have been told, one in which redemption’s value is set at the inestimable worth of His own Son’s incomparable sacrifice. In these ways, Paul’s claim in Romans 8:18 becomes apropos: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
God deemed us — created by Him, fallen from perfection, in desperate need of forgiveness and cleansing, of love and grace — His redeemed children to be worth the headache, and the heartache.
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