Where did Lucifer get the power to disobey God?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

Question: Lucifer was originally a good angel, and the only power that he had was what God gave him. Since God is all good, he does not have the power of evil to give to Lucifer. Now, disobeying God would constitute an evil action, so where did Lucifer get the power to disobey? The power of having free will would only give Lucifer the power of choosing how to obey God, not if to obey him.

Answer: You have some nice tight reasoning going on there. In fact, I like it very much. But it relies on two incorrect suppositions. You have misunderstood both evil and free will in general... which has colored your question about Lucifer in particular.

First, you have confused evil with sin. To a contemporary English speaker, the word evil evokes images that are anything but godly, like demons, a seamy underworld, unseen horrors. In fact, pop culture understands the forces of evil to represent cultural villainy, and that is our definition of evil. However, that is not the biblical definition of evil…and it had better not be! Why not? Because, contrary to you your assertion that “Since God is all good, he does not have the power of evil to give to Lucifer,” God does indeed have that power. How so? God created evil — so he can do what he wants with it! That’s what the Bible says, anyway.

“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17, KJV 1900)

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”
(Isaiah 45:7, KJV 1900)

“Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?” (Lamentations 3:38, KJV 1900)

“Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” (Amos 3:6, KJV 1900)

Take a minute to absorb these four verses. We see that God created a tree with an evil component before man ever sinned. He declared plainly that he created evil. He told us that just as good comes from him, so does evil. Lastly, he declared himself to be the very cause of evil in a city. Your logic depends on God not having the power to dispense evil to Satan, but God’s word says very plainly that God does indeed dispense it. This common misunderstanding of evil is (largely) an artifact of the KJV (King James Version) translation of the Bible. Today, when we hear the word evil we think sin. Four hundred years ago when the KJV translators heard the word evil, they thought calamity, disaster, bad things happening. Let’s examine three of these same verses in the ESV (English Standard Version), which uses the same English that we speak today.

“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7, ESV)

“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (Lamentations 3:38, ESV)

“Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?” (Amos 3:6, ESV)

As you can see, when the KJV said evil, it did not mean sin. It merely meant bad occurrences as would be understood by the words calamity, bad and disaster. Your statement, “disobeying God would constitute an evil action” tells me that you have sin and evil confused. Disobeying God would constitute a sinful action, not an evil action as is biblically defined.

Okay. So, God created evil — but who created sin? We and the fallen angels create sin, and this speaks to our second problem, your understanding of free will. A volitional being (that is, one with the free will to make choices) must have the ability to choose wrongly… or else he is not truly free in his will.

Your statement “The power of having free will would only give Lucifer the power of choosing how to obey God, not if to obey or not” is plain old wrong. You are attempting to create a being that cannot logically exist — one who both can and cannot choose! Any being that is restrained by God or his universe from disobeying God is a mere robot and not a volitional being. There is no blending of the two. It is true that there are many angels who have not rebelled… but they chose not to. God risked rebellion when he made beings who could turn their backs on him, but that is the only way he could have that particular glory that comes from creation. Could a robot ever give love or glory to God? No. That is God's design for sentient beings. Is there a programming code that can cause love yet eliminate the possibility of rejection? No. Love can only exist where rejection is possible, and your question postulates the opposite.

You asked, where did Lucifer get the power to disobey? From God himself. The potential for disobedience was one of Lucifer’s design features, and he received that power at the very moment that God created him.

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)