Is evil the absence of love or good?

by Matt Slick

No, evil is not the absence of good or the absence of love any more than light is the absence of darkness or a cat is the absence of dogness.  Real evil, the kind that is demonic, has its own presence, its own pervasive malevolent intention. It can be experienced. It is a wickedness that can be felt. It is not just the absence of something. It is something. 

The Bible has much to say about evil.

  • Proverbs 12:20, "Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but counselors of peace have joy."
  • Isaiah 32:7, "As for a rogue, his weapons are evil; He devises wicked schemes to destroy the afflicted with slander, even though the needy one speaks what is right."
  • John 3:20, "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."
  • Romans 1:29-30, "being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents."

The Bible tells us that love is patient, kind, and does not remember a wrong suffered, (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). But if a person is not patient and kind, it doesn't mean he is intentionally evil, that he seeks to deceive people (Proverbs 12:20), or that he is seeking to destroy the afflicted (Isaiah 32:7), or that he hates the light (John 3:20), or that he is full of greed, and evil, and murder, and arrogance, and disobedience, etc. (Romans 1:29-30).  It does not mean he is evil. People can be apathetic, impatient, and even unkind but it doesn't mean that they are intending to do wicked things.

In my opinion, when people say that evil is nothing more than the lack of good the same way they will say that hate is the lack of love, I consider those sentiments to be just that, sentiments. They are not biblically based, and they are not well-informed. I am not seeking to be insulting. But, in a world of relativism, the absolutes of good and evil are blurred to such an extent that the danger of what evil really is lessened.

Christians need to be very wary and not succumb to the relativistic, good intentions of the nonbiblical who seek to abide in the gray area of truth. But truth is often hard to accept and very inconvenient at times. We must not consider evil to be a lack of good any more than we would say that God is a lack of evil. We should not define something by what it is not but by what it is.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.