Why did God create Satan?

Q. Did God really know that Satan would rebel?  Why would such a monster be allowed to live?  I just don’t think He would have let Satan near His other angels, or more importantly, near His earthly creation.  I love my children, and if someone threatened them in any way I would do anything in my power to stop it. Satan went after Adam, and ever since then he’s been messing with people’s chances for salvation. God’s judgement was harsh on the enemies of the Israelites. Satan was and is much more wicked. Why hasn’t he been annihilated long ago?  Is God really more powerful?

It’s difficult for us to reconcile the belief that God supremely loves his creatures with the thought that God created a monster that he knew would wreak horrible and eternal devastation among them.

So how do we explain the creation and continuing existence of Satan?  Is God not all-knowing?  (He didn’t realize Satan would rebel?)  Or is God not all-powerful?  (He thought he could stop Satan but then wasn’t able to?)  Or is God simply not all-good?  (He doesn’t care whether his creatures are destroyed?)

I think the solution to this problem lies in appreciating the radical nature of the freedom that God has endowed each of His intelligent creatures with.  It’s hard for us to understand this because we are created and finite, but an eternal and infinite God can make creatures who are so free that their moral choices are not predetermined and so cannot be known in advance.

But isn’t God supposed to be omniscient and know everything, even the choices that we’re going to make?  No, it is no failure in omniscience not to know what cannot be known.  And the freedom God has given us is so radical and profound that the essential moral choices we will make cannot be known in advance.

Perhaps an illustration will help.  The question of how God can be all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good at the same time, and still allow Satan to exist, is comparable to another question that has often been asked about God:  If God is omnipotent, can God make a rock so big that he can’t move it?

The answer is “No.”  Not because God isn’t omnipotent and therefore can’t either make the rock or move the rock.  The answer is no because the contemplated action involves a logical contradiction and is therefore impossible, and it is no failure in omnipotence not to be able to do the impossible.

The logical contradiction is this:  Any created thing is by definition finite, including the largest rock God could possibly make.  A rock so big that God’s infinite power couldn’t move it would have to be of infinite mass instead.  But nothing can be both finite (created) and infinite at the same time.  This question is ultimately asking whether God can do the logically impossible (make something that’s “A” and “not-A” at the same time), and that’s something that by definition can’t be done.  (I’m not talking about miracles here; God can do what is naturally impossible and beyond the scope of any earthly power.)

It’s a similar logical contradiction to ask whether God can know in advance what choice a truly free moral agent will make.  Can God know what cannot be known?  No, no one can.

The implications of this are that when God created the great angel Lucifer, who became Satan when he chose to disobey, God didn’t know for a fact in advance that Lucifer would fall.  God’s intentions in creating Lucifer were not to turn a monster loose on his creation.  Rather, God intended Lucifer to be an agent of good and blessing just like the archangels Michael and Gabriel, who throughout the Bible are recognized, in glimpses at least, as powerful agents of God’s salvation.

Imagine what good Lucifer could have done if he had used all of his splendor, intelligence, and might to serve God’s purposes in the creation!  Imagine what any evil person could have done if they had used their powers in a positive way, and you’ll get a sense of what God had in mind when he created them.

Perhaps one question still remains:  Why would God give his creatures freedom if the consequences of bad choices would be so devastating?  Here’s the best way I’ve been able to understand this:  God knows, in a way that we cannot know, that a world in which there is freedom, and thus the potential for both love and suffering, is infinitely better than a world that has no freedom, and thus neither love nor suffering, and God also knows that these are the only two possibilities.

Anything beyond this is mystery.  But we don’t need to wonder about the goodness and power of God.

This post has generated a great deal of conversation.  For an exchange with a reader about this post, see this follow-up

For responses to the questions asked in the comment below about why a loving father would allow anything evil to tempt his daughter, see this post, and about whether God is so different in His dealings with us today as to be almost a different God from the one in the Bible, see this post.

For an answer to the question asked in another comment below about whether God knows in advance what choices the Antichrist will make, see this post.

Angel GlasgowThis photograph of an angel sculpture from a church in Glasgow suggests the beauty, power, and potential for good that Lucifer had when he was originally created. (Photo by Norma Desmond)

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

65 thoughts on “Why did God create Satan?”

  1. You are a good thinker, my friend and I so enjoy this Blog very much. However, you cannot answer this question because this is one of those “questions” that Bible scholars have wrestled with and any answer seems to be contradictory. To say that God is not sovereign over the affairs of humanity is to make God impotent and to say humanity has complete freedom and is not a “puppet” being pulled by God assumes that God is not in control of his creation. God crossing his fingers and hoping humanity makes good choices. I know this sounds like a cop-out but Scripture teaches both truths. Humanity is Free and God is sovereign. If the creation was perfect, how could sin enter the picture? How could an angel sin in the first place to become Satan? I don’t believe these questions can be answered!

    1. Wayne,
      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. I’m actually not choosing one side of this paradox over the other. That is, I’m not saying that because humans are morally free, God isn’t sovereign. I believe that God works sovereignly to achieve his purposes by making use of the free choices, good and bad, that free moral agents make. My point was not about sovereignty, God’s control of his creation, but about foreknowledge, and my belief is that if true freedom exists in the creation, then some things cannot be foreknown because they are not foreknowable. But the ultimate relationship between God’s sovereignty and human moral freedom is, as I say at the end, a mystery.

      1. why isn’t it just safe to assume the non existence of both the devil and god when the bible is filled with contradictions like this one ? God killed everyone in the flood he also killed the people of sodom and gomorrah for the same crime satan is accused of but why then didnt he do the same to satan, whys he waiting for thousands years and millions of human deaths before he kills satan. It doesn’t make sense that god would hold us to a different standard than satan if anything his standard for his angels would be greater cause he’d expect more from them.

      2. I acknowledge in this post that the question of why God would allow freedom, knowing that the consequences of allowing it could be so devastating, remains in the category of “mystery” for me. But I don’t think we need to abandon belief in God simply because we run into a mystery like this. I believe there are so many other things we can say confidently about God, from the Scriptures and from our own experience, that we can continue to affirm that God’s fundamental disposition towards us is to do us good (as I discuss in this post), even in the presence of questions that remain troubling.

        Your specific question seems to be, “Why would God punish humans more quickly and severely than angels, whom God would presumably hold to a higher standard?” In reply, I’d observe that the people who died in the flood and in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah lost their earthly lives, but they did not necessarily lose their eternal souls. They may have a future opportunity to embrace God’s love. (See this post for a further discussion of that.) The final judgment of Satan, by contrast, even if delayed for reasons we don’t understand, will be definitive. The flood is described in the Bible as a restraint on the wickedness that had filled the earth in that time. It was designed to give humanity a new chance to live out God’s intentions for the created world. And, as I’ve said, even those who died in the flood might get a new chance themselves. So I see a qualitative distinction between the judgments of humans and angels.

        I hope these reflections help address your concerns, which I sincerely thank you for sharing.

      3. I disagree with you sir….i rather stand on the belief that it is all part of his sovereign plan for the greater good for us and for his glory…for what is free will without having something to choose from…like a friend of mine was said,lucifer was created to be the stumbling block for humanity…A test in which we would need salvation from and part of God’s plan to reveal to us his only begotten son,Jesus Christ…through whom God revealed himself to mankind…evrything is all part of his sovereign plan…we just have to believe and trust him…for you to say he does not know our moral choices also means he does not know our future…I.e he just creates us,leaves us to ourselves and just hopes we make the right choices and do the right things…if this is true then he is not omnipotent and saying he is not omnipotent is blasphemy…thank you

      4. Well, I have to disagree with you, sir: Saying that God does not know something He could know would mean that God was not omniscient, not that God was not omnipotent. But as I say in this post, “It is no failure in omniscience not to know what cannot be known.” So our disagreement is not actually about whether God is omniscient, but whether the free choices of moral agents are knowable in advance. We can’t let go of one part of the Bible’s teaching (human moral freedom) to try to hang onto our understanding of another part of its teaching (God’s omniscience). Rather, we need to hold the two in tension, recognizing that their relationship is a mystery.

      5. I understand “it is no failure of omniscience not to know that which cannot be known”. However, I think this is a fallacy of moving the goal posts and special pleading. Lucifer has no way of evading god’s omniscience in regards to his uprising. it’s a tangible predictably by gods standards, he COULD and SHOULD have known about Lucifer. Saying he could not have known, thus implying he didn’t fail in omniscience, is attempting to spare god face.

        Personally I believe God knows a million times more than what we know…..But not everything, it’s just that by our standards it seems he knows all, what is said in the bible is a result of assumptions made by him and then us during translations. We consistently try to fit the evidence around god being omniscient and omnipotent when in reality the answer is he is neither. This shouldn’t discourage us however. God is still a standard, a model, a place giver, a parent. I accept that my parents weren’t perfect but I love them. God is a million times more than that….But not infinitely times more.

      6. Well, if you don’t mind my saying so, it feels to me as if you are also moving the goalposts, although in an opposite direction. But you have indeed described one of the other logical possibilities:
        – Lucifer’s choice was knowable in advance, God knew it, so how was it a free choice? (The usual conundrum.)
        – Lucifer’s choice was not knowable in advance, because it was a truly free choice, so God could not have known it (my response).
        – Lucifer’s choice was knowable in advance, but God didn’t know it, and so created Lucifer unwittingly (your response). To me this leaves open the question of whether our choices are free and also leaves open the original concern of how God could have created such a destructive being. Whether we substitute ignorance for indifference, we still have a big problem with what God allows the creation to suffer from. I don’t think an underachieving God is the solution to this mystery.

      7. someone ask me the question I trying to find an answer and thats what I told him…no one knows why! I quit asking most questions I knew that no one had the answer ha thank you

    2. Satan /Lucifer was created for a good reason,intention and purpose-to serve God as an Angel(we know their roles and the power given to them by God). The question is why did He throw satan on earth is this a dumping place?Why does God allow Satan to live for all this time ,aren’t there consequences for his deeds?

      Naturally our Lord is a loving FATHER, My be he threw him here so that satan could repent which end unto man who was living peacefully to encounter this fallen angel thus the genesis of sin(suggestion). But why did God plant that tree of knowledge of good and bad which satan used to deceive man?
      It seems that God from the word go had recognized man’s autonomy in making decisions but there were known consequences for them – ( Leviticus 30) God has set before us a blessing and a curse ,life and death therefore choose life.SO HAVE CHOICES TO MAKE but we should expect consequences.Planting the tree was a deliberate WILL of God(LORDS PRAYER-‘let they will be done on earth as it is in heaven’…) and the will of God was to set before us a choice of what is good and bad. Adam and Eve were led to it by satan the deciever this led to sin sufferings ultimately death . THAT IS WHY I ALSO CAN FEEL REMORSEFUL OF HIS CREATION…
      God has a purpose in His will for the reason why satan has lived for all this year doing all that.He has an ultimate plan for him.To fuilfill the prophesy and further prove the point that our God is the TRUE, God and all knowing, right in His words through revelation.ALPHA AND OMEGA.In the end satan will burn with his angels and followers this is after all has been fuilfilled.


  2. Chris,

    As always, love your post. I like how C.S. Lewis said it (to paraphrase): An intrinsically impossible statement does not become intrinsically possible simply by inserting the words “God can” before it.

    1. Matt,
      Thanks for sharing this quote–it’s very well put. We can even see the infinite power of God in establishing a boundary in our world between possible and intrinsically impossible. Thanks!

  3. Isn’t that contradicting God knows all or he doesn’t? God has fallen angels in chains awaiting judgement day, why not Lucifer? When did god create hell? Was it before Lucifer? Why did he allow evil to exist and to continue? Why are devils allowed to enter people and take control and drive them mad? Turn them against God and family? My boyfriend, a once-saved, God-loving and fearing man, woke up one day hating God, hearing voices saying he’s Satan and going to kill God. He doesn’t talk to me or anyone any more…only to all the voices he hears constantly, sees and feels things that no one else does. He becomes angry and violent if I or anyone interrupts him and “them” or if i speak about God. Doctors say he’s depressed.

    1. First of all, let me say how sorry I am about what has happened to your boyfriend. I do hope he can get all the spiritual and medical help he needs. As for your questions, I’ve tried to answer in this post and the follow-up post the questions about God’s omniscience and about His allowing evil and the devil to continue for a time. As for when God created hell, most theologians believe it was created as a place of punishment and confinement for Lucifer after he rebelled. As for why people are still spiritually oppressed today, I’ll have to say, as I do in the follow-up post, that this is a mystery to me, but that I hope and pray that all such people will find help and freedom through their Christian communities and those in the caring professions. I wish the best for you and for your boyfriend.

  4. Aside from noting that God cannot do that which is self-contradictory or logically impossible, another interesting way of looking at the question of whether God can create a rock too heavy for Him to lift is the one presented by George Mavrodes. I’ll paraphrase it here just for kicks.

    The way he draws out the self-contradictory nature of the question is to begin by assuming, in light of the question, that God is not fully omnipotent. If one were to decide to give up only as little as possible of God’s omnipotence in order to satisfy the question, it could be done in two ways. Either by retaining Gods infinite power with regards to lifting while limiting the sort of stone He can create or by limiting His power in lifting while retaining His infinite power to create.

    If we were to choose the option of limiting Gods ability to create while retaining His ability to lift we can then look at how much omnipotence God has in fact lost. Apparently God would no long be able to create all things but would still be able to lift infinitely. So what is the object God could no longer create? The rock which He cannot lift. Since the question essentially only restricts one of Gods attributes God would still be able to lift infinitely meaning that His ability to create would still also run to infinity. He has not in fact lost any omnipotence.

    So if in an argument you grant that God is no longer omnipotent in light of that question, the burden still falls on the other person to show how God actually loses any of His omnipotence.

    1. Thank you very much for sharing this interesting line of argument from George Mavrodes. It suggests that even if God has or accepts one specific limitation, this does not mean that He loses the otherwise infinite nature of his capacities. Put simply, infinity minus one is still infinity. (1,2,3,4,5 . . . = 1,2,4,5 . . .) I wonder whether this sheds some light on the way that Jesus “emptied” himself of certain attributes when He came to earth but remained fully God.

  5. I get your line of argument. As interesting as it is, here’s a simple question. Isn’t God completely beyond the realm of human understanding? Yes he has made what he wants to be known about himself clear through his Word. But at the end of the day that’s all that’s required right? For science and logic are simply tools that we use to make sense of what is around us. They help us to an extent, true. But I do not think that all the knowledge they give us is going to help us make sense of Him whose thoughts are higher than ours, whose ways are higher than ours as the heavens are higher than the earth.Some things about God are extremely difficult to comprehend and I don’t think it’s wrong to question God, ask for answers or even be upset with him. We’re human after all. But God is good and the Bible makes that clear, also that his love for us is immeasurable. Once we know this in our hearts, all that’s required is faith regardless of whether there is Joy or Sorrow for he will never ever forsake us. Now I’m not saying logic or science is wrong but I do think human understanding is simply a platform (say ten feet high) and looking down standing atop it we see some things. What if it was never a platform (of any height) for God but a completely different way of looking at things, which is incomprehensible to us and thereby makes him completely superior to science.

    1. I do acknowledge in my post that we can only understand questions like this up to a certain point, beyond which the rest is mystery. But I do think we are called to use our minds and reason to understand God’s ways the best we can. Jesus said we should love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and I think loving God without our minds means working to understand all we can, while respecting the limits of our capacities. While God’s wisdom is infinitely superior to human reason and science, I don’t think these things are opposed to God. Used rightly, they honor the gifts He has given to humans in His image.

  6. As an atheist (former Catholic who has read and lived by the bible) I must say I love your analysis on this! Very philosophical and addresses the logical fallacies involved with the question asked (that of creating something that is “a” and not “a” at the same time)
    But now a quick question, would this level of omniscience be the same as Jesus knowing Judas would betray him? How could Jesus know that would happen, but God not know about Lucifer’s betrayal? Assuming Jesus was God in flesh, the same type of power must have applied, no?
    (On a personal note I believe Judas is innocent as there’s evidence (gnostic texts that were deemed heresy by the church without being fairly judged) that suggest Judas was asked by Jesus himself to betray him.

    1. Thanks for your comment. To answer your question, no, God knowing whether Lucifer would rebel is not the same thing as Jesus knowing that Judas would betray him. Christians believe that when Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth, he “emptied” himself of certain divine attributes, the ones known as “non-communicable” (in other words, the ones that humans cannot share), which include omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. Jesus fulfilled his mission on earth by complete obedience to God, rather than by drawing on powers not available to other humans. Jesus knew that Judas would betray him because he had keen insight into human character and motives. As for the gnostic texts you cite, each person must make their own determination about whether they are historically accurate. I personally believe that the canonical gospels have stood the test of scrutiny and that we can trust their accuracy, certainly on large questions such as whether Judas betrayed Jesus. We shall have to see whether the gnostic texts stand the test of time and provide a legitimate challenge to this long-held belief.

  7. I liked reading this about why god would create satan, but I have to differ slightly. I think god created satan to have the nemesis for the story. Without a nemesis for the story there is no story it would be about an omnipotent god with no bad guy. How interesting would that be. It wouldn’t. Also in my reading of the bible satan has gotten a bad wrap. God has killed millions more people than the satan character. I think lucifers kill count is about 2000 and yahweh is about 2.5 million people plus or minus.

    1. Thank you for your comment. It’s true that without conflict of some kind, there’s no story, and things aren’t very interesting. But conflict doesn’t have to be between a “good guy” and a “bad guy.” Conflict can consist in the challenges involved in bringing order and structure to a chaotic and unstructured situation, which call for persistence, creativity, and courage. It has been noted that the Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city, and both are paradise, but there’s a lot of “culture-making” that’s required to get from the garden to the city, and this would be the case even without a “bad guy.” The nemesis, in other words, can be un-creation or chaos, and the plot of the story is how to overcome it and bring about creation. As for divine violence in the Bible, this is a matter of serious concern to thoughtful people of faith, and I discuss it frequently on this blog, under the tag “War/Violence.” There is not an easy answer to this concern, and I can appreciate how it has driven many people away from the faith. It needs to be addressed thoughtfully and respectfully, as I try to do when questions about it arise.

      1. This may be completely off base, but it’s just one scenario I’ve considered for this difficult topic…

        One aspect of God is that he has always made “oaths” throughout the old testament (Abraham, Moses, David, etc.)
        Based on that, I’ve often wondered if similar oaths were ever made in the angelic realm, before Genesis ever took place.
        Is it possible that God made an oath with Lucifer so powerful, that there were certain boundaries set where God was bound by his word and couldn’t simply “exterminate” Lucifer?
        This oath could have included free will for Lucifer, so that angels were not mere puppets. I also believe that God has the ability to not see everything if he chooses not to, but still maintains ultimate control.
        The reasons for this seem obvious. If every single detail is known and every single person’s destiny is already known, that’s just puppetry and God would never receive and true love by choice.
        Just some brain-storming I guess.

      2. Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts on this. I agree that the full explanation lies in a realm that is mysterious and inaccessible to us, so we need to consider possibilities such as you mention.

  8. The discussion about logical contradictions are just that – discussions with no logical conclusion – as though logic were a god. If logic contradicts God in His omnipotence and omniscience then it is God who triumphs, not logic. God’s sovereignty always triumphs over logic, intelligence, human understanding and yes even science. God does not bow his will to our understanding- He is God of Gods, Lord of Lords and the founder and ruler of all creation and everything outside of creation. He is beyond time and beyond comprehension, – we see through a glass darkly and our understanding is coloured by our limited minds and our limited understanding. When God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, his only son, then the mind of faith says, I don’t have perfect understanding of God’s ways – but what I do have is faith – not faith that God will raise him from the dead, but simply faith that God’s ways are beyond finding out and higher than our ways and our thinking. We can’t comprehend how the death of His Son, Jesus Christ- who is really, God in the flesh, can accomplish some eternal value through His death. We have to take it on faith that God accomplished, in Christ, something deeper and wider, that our little minds can comprehend. When we say “Thy will be done on earth – as it is in heaven – we understand that there are places that God willingly allows some sort of perfection in heaven and some sort of imperfection on earth. This is His sovereignty and some sort of wisdom and some sort of power without a reduction in His eternal dignity and glory. We can only see darkly and without an eternal perspective that God himself can see and understand. God’s will – will be done. We can only understand what God reveals about Himself. Some things He doesn’t reveal until we see Him in eternity when the darkness is peeled away and we see Him as He is and see Him face to face. When we truly behold His glory – His character – His lovingkindness- His mercy – His glory – His majesty – His wisdom – our response will not be some sort of intellectual “aha,” but worship. The most candid response to revelation of God is not understanding or logic or wisdom- but worship. Revelation brings worship; not logic.

    1. I agree with you that there is much about God’s ways that we will never understand in this life. But Jesus told us to love the Lord our God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength (adding the word “mind” to bring out the meaning of the word “soul” in the original commandment in Deuteronomy), and I believe that one aspect of loving God with our minds is working to understand and appreciate his wonders to the greatest extent that we can. The fact that God’s created universe does not admit logical contradictions is a testimony to its order, beauty, and harmony, and an occasion for precisely the kind of worship you’re talking about.

  9. The issue is very complex and appears to be beyond our understanding. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about it, as well as your humility and faithfulness despite our lack of a clear answer on this difficult issue. I agree we should resist as best we can the temptation of doubting God’s goodness. His true face, revealed in Jesus Christ, going through all He went through for each and everyone of us, certainly earned my love and loyalty. I guess we’ll understand these things one day, when we see Him face to face.

  10. I really have enjoyed this topic and knowing I am not the only one who has asked this question. That being said, while my analytical mind can eventually accept the fact God allowed satan to exist and tempt Eve, I would like to take it a step further. Why would her choice, along with Adam, be the choice for every soul yet to come? I would like to think if I was placed in a perfect Utopia and given only one rule, I would not make the mistake of risking all that, much less being disobedient and giving in to a talking snake, of all things.

    I am 38, married and have a daughter. I have an extremely high IQ and this analytical mind of mine was given to me by God. The last few years, though, I find myself finding more reason to doubt or not believe than I have my whole life.

    I am usually met with stern judgement or no answer at all when I raise my questions or ask for explanation on what seems to be numerous contradictions in God’s word.

    For instance, with my daughter, even as an earthly father, if I had the ability to place her in a perfect environment and allow her to already be spotless and live forever, why would I ever create something evil to tempt her, all the while knowing she would give in?

    I am really wrestling with this and it is more and more frustrating, as I feel I am losing my child-like faith. I have no problem believing in God, Jesus, the resurrection, etc…but I lack the passion, drive and acceptance I see so many other ‘Christians’ display and live by.

    Lastly, the other ‘thing’ I am having a hard time with is this: If God is the same, yesterday, today and forever, why is He not dealing with our immoral, worldly society as He so often did in the bible? Be it the flood, Sodom & Gomorrah or any other references, He did not drag His feet, so to speak, and rendered swift judgement.

    The more I read, it seems like there are actually three different Gods in one, in the regard of how He was, is and will be.

    Obviously, I have questions and would appreciate your insights, answers and encouragement as I wrestle with this. Thank you and keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks very much for your contribution here. I want this blog to be a place where anyone can ask any question and get a straight answer (at least from the way I’ve come to understand the Bible) without any judgment or condemnation. So you are most welcome to hang out, read the posts, and ask anything you want. I’ve answered your first question, about why a loving father would allow anything evil to tempt his daughter, in this post, and your second question, about whether God is so different in His dealings with us today as to be almost a different God from the one in the Bible, in this post.

  11. Wow I really love this article. For years I’ve been trying to make sense of two of my somewhat conflicting beliefs, one being that we are made as an expression of God’s love and two that God made Satan knowing that he would turn on him and tempt Eve. I’ve often wondered myself if God makes the deliberate choice to not know what choices we will make. Being God he certainly has the option to make that choice if he wants to. My only thought that would seem to contradict this theory would be that the Bible talks about the future Anti-Christ and it’s pretty clear about what choices he makes. What are your thoughts on this?

    1. No, I’m saying that God created all creatures, including the angel Lucifer, with free choice, and that from our free but wrong choices evil came. But that possibility was the necessary price for a universe in which love was possible because there was pure freedom.

  12. Now that I rethink your answer, I’m still having trouble understanding how God couldn’t know Satan would rebel.

    You said to me that Jesus Christ “emptied” himself of “certain divine attributes” and knew Judas would rebel based on insight and knowledge of human nature…. Meaning God himself actually has divine attributes of knowing the future, and thus (at least as I was raised knowing) God knows every move I’ll make from now until I die.

    I can understand how God cannot make a rock so big that he cannot move it. But how could he know every move I make based on divine powers and still NOT know about Lucifer rebelling? If Jesus did it with insight, wouldn’t God be able to do it with divinity?

    1. Thanks for your continuing reflections on this question. The issue is not what kind of abilities God in heaven or Jesus on earth might have had. The issue is whether a truly free choice is knowable in advance through any kind of ability. And according to my understanding of freedom, by definition, a truly free choice cannot be known in advance. Perhaps the issue is that you were encouraged to understand freedom in a different way.

      1. You said that “Jesus Christ “emptied” himself of “certain divine attributes” and knew Judas would rebel based on insight and knowledge of human nature….”

        Not that Jesus would need to empty himself of any divine attributes, but, if a free choice can’t be known in advance, through any kind of ability, then how did Jesus “know” that Judas would betray him?

        1) He didn’t “know”
        2) Free chosen actions are knowable in advance (with, or without ability)
        3) The choice wasn’t made in free will. (So God does interfere in people’s free will, and could have done the same to Satan/Lucifer)

      2. Your comment contains a simple logical fallacy. The opposite of “all” is not “none,” but “not all” (or “some”). If not all choices are free and unpredictable, that doesn’t mean that none are free and unpredictable. In other words, Jesus knowing that Judas was going to betray him doesn’t necessitate God knowing that Lucifer would rebel. All the future needs to be free and open is that some choices, not all, be free and unpredictable.

  13. I thought your piece was well written. I’m thinking through this question at present, and after reading your article I had two comments.

    Firstly, the original question posed is ‘Why did God create Satan?’. I’m just not sure you actually answered that question. You seemed (to me) to go somewhat around the subject, but not fully addressing it.

    Secondly, I am wondering about your comment regarding omniscience. This is something I am still trying to figure out an answer to myself, so please in no way take my comments as a criticism. I’m just wondering if God doesn’t know the end from the beginning, and know the choices we would make, why would God from the outset set in place a plan for salvation through Christ (Gen. 3:15)? Or would you say that God only ‘thought up’ the salvation plan after Adam and Eve had sinned and it became evident to God that it was needed?

    I’m interested in your thoughts. Cheers.

    1. Let me share a few thoughts in response to your excellent questions.

      First, as I say in this post, my answer to the question “Why did God create Satan?” is: “God didn’t create the monster Satan, God created the angel Lucifer.” But God also created a universe in which such beings have a terrible and beautiful freedom that allows a Lucifer to potentially become a Satan–without their free choices being knowable in advance. The possibility of love, which can only be chosen freely, comes at the risk of potential bad choices.

      When the Bible says that “God knows the end from the beginning,” this is in a context in which God is declaring that He alone is the living God who can act in history, so that God knows the end from the beginning because He knows what He is going to do and how things will turn out as a result: “I will accomplish all my purpose.”

      The declaration in Genesis that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent’s seed is one of those statements that has an initial meaning in its own context and a fuller and deeper meaning in light of later redemptive-historical developments, as I discuss in this post. Its initial meaning is that the harmony between the human and animal worlds would be broken as a consequence of the fall. Only in light of later developments can we see that it also foreshadows the coming of Jesus.

      Finally, my answer would be that God devised the plan of salvation after it was evident that it was needed. In systematic theological terms, this makes me a “supralapsarian,” as I discuss in this post. The alternative, known as “infralapsarian,” is to believe that God foresaw or even preordained the fall so that it would provide an occasion for redemption. But as I say in the other post, “I personally see such serious implications for the character of God that I don’t [regard] the fall in these terms.”

      I hope these responses are helpful. Thanks for joining in the conversation!

  14. According to your understanding of freedom, a truly free choice can’t be known in advance. You’ve also stated/the bible says Jesus knew Judas was going to betray him. IE:

    A (truly free choice), B (knowable in advance), C (Jesus knew/knowing Judas was going to betray him)

    If an action is A, then it can’t be B.
    C can’t be A, because A can’t be B, and C is B.

    Therefore, according to your understanding of freedom, Judas betraying Jesus must not have been an act of free will, as it was knowable in advance, and known So, the answer would have been number 3.

    What simple logical fallacy does my comment contain?

    1. I’m not going to prolong this discussion much further, but to explain things simply: by the time Judas “chose” to betray Jesus, he had made so many prior wrong choices and adopted so many wrong attitudes and perspectives that the course he was going to take was predictable. This is the nature of sin: it promises us freedom, but actually takes away our freedom. Jesus, after living closely with Judas for three years, could see the course his life was taking and where it would end up. But it was not evident at the time when Judas was born that he would eventually betray Jesus. And this is the point at issue: “why did God create Satan if He knew he would rebel?” suggests that it was evident at the time when Lucifer was created how the rest of his existence would play out. It wasn’t. So we can’t legitimately compare a choice that is predictable because it is largely determined by many prior choices with a choice that lies so far off in the future, and that will be contingent on so many later decisions, that it is not predictable. In other words, just because not all choices are free, that doesn’t mean that no choices are free. The analogy between Judas and Lucifer does not hold, on that basis. But thank you for your contributions to this discussion!

    2. M,

      I am not a philosopher, so I am not going to keep up with this logic talk. All I can offer is my own observations of my father, who is a stickler for promptness. In fact, I remember as a child riding in the car to (for instance) someone’s home for dinner, if we were supposed to arrive at 6:00pm and we were running early, my father would slow down how fast he drove so that we would arrive exactly at 6:00pm: on time, neither late nor early.

      As for what this has to do with the present discussion… Suppose I have scheduled with my father to meet for lunch on some given day at noon. Since I am not my father, I have chosen to arrive a few minutes early for our lunch appointment. What time will he arrive? On time? Early? Late? I already “know” the answer — he will arrive exactly at noon. Does the fact that I “know” this imply that he is not freely choosing to arrive exactly on time? He is free to arrive a few minutes early or late (and no one would even fault him for this), but he arrives exactly on time. And I make my decisions based around my “certainty” that he will always arrive exactly on time.

      I don’t know how this fits into your schema of ABCs and fallacies, but it seems completely possible to me that even if truly free choices can’t be known in advance, someone (even without divine attributes) could still “know” what choices a free moral agent may make in some given situation, though not necessarily any given situation.

  15. A great question for this “mystery” would be this… If you were in God’s place, would you rather have people love you of their own free will or would you rather be loved because people fear your wrath if they do not love you?

  16. Why dose God use a man like Judas and not allow him time to repent but to someday to be recreated and come back as antichrist to just to suffer over and over , where is Gods love and compassion …. don’t you think Lucifer / Satan deserves a 2nd chance, did God setup the garden to fail in the first place? God knows the ending from the begging ? its not fair has this spirit and its all about revenge on a person that will be used just like Judas with out a choice in the matter…. Just a victim beyond his control. He comes as a angel of light… can’t anybody that he wanted to repent… but would God accept him, is it all a one sided story with no fair trial. Could Jesus ever forgive this entity that God has used, over the history of time, God use him on Job and Kane killed his brother and God is always to late to save the day…. Job was all about a bet? This is used for some kind of sick game. With no compassion on the part of God…. no fair trial to see all the evident …. the true story may never be told, there is only one side to the story told… Judas love Jesus so much he did just what he was told to do… just like that Jesus gave him over to Satan, like the man of sin has had no control over his own choices only to be used as a puppet for Gods own pleasure, God makes good and evil thus I am the Lord.

  17. God made everything, why did he create Satan when God knew Satan would turn evil, he had the opportunity to prevent evil by simply choosing to forego his creation.
    For example, that you traveled into the future and saw that your future child was responsible for the torture and death of millions of innocent people. Knowing this, would you choose to conceive this child? If you did, knowing what would happen, do you think you are at least somewhat responsible for the outcome?

  18. Well, all I know is that God is omnipotent, he is infinitely powerful, he can destroy the devil. he just needs a zero input of energy to destroy Satan
    Hebrews 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;.
    So from that verse, it’s obvious that God can destroy Satan, he is just waiting for the appointed time.
    Also, u need to know that even the devil knows that God is actually powerful.
    James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.}
    As to why Satan is still alive or has not been annihilated long ago, I don’t know, when we get to heaven, God will answer this for u.

  19. Ten years after this post was written I have two follow-up questions for you haha.

    1. There are components of orthodox theology that feel somewhat like logical contradictions. For example, the doctrine of the Trinity, or the belief that Jesus remained fully God without the non-communicable attributes, or that Jesus was somehow separated from God on the cross, and so on. Do these areas of theology add any wrinkles to your view that God is constrained by logic? Perhaps the key is that these are paradoxes rather than logical contradictions, though that starts to feel like spitting hairs.

    2. Regarding God’s knowledge of the future, do you subscribe to open theism as articulated by Greg Boyd? That is, that God knows all possible futures but doesn’t necessarily know which future will be actualized by free agents? In his view, God has the ability to determine some future events while leaving others open.

    1. 1. I’m not sure I would say that God is constrained by logic, since logic is a human discipline and God transcends human finiteness. I would say instead that A ≠ not A is something that God has built into the fabric of creation. I also don’t see logical contradictions in any of the examples you cited. I do see them as paradoxes, that is, as two things that appear to us as if they could not both be true at the same time, but there is some transcendent sense in which they are indeed both true. In a recent post I quoted Pascal: “The ultimate task of reason is to recognize that there is an infinite number of things that surpass it.” That should help us be more comfortable with such things.

      2. I would be comfortable with the description you offer of God’s knowledge of the future. I would just add that God knows some future outcomes because he is going to bring them about himself.

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