Origins of evil and purpose of suffering

What does Christianity say about the origin of evil?

Many Christians believe that evil is the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God.

Adam and Eve were the first humans. They ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Their punishment from God was to endure suffering in life. This is known as ‘the fall’.

Stained glass window depicting Adam and Eve's banishment from the Garden of Eden

Some Christians believe that all people inherited the tendency to sin from Adam and Eve. This belief is called ‘original sin’. According to this belief, all humans are born with a tendency towards evil and the ability to cause suffering.

In Genesis it states:

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... the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.Genesis 8: 21
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Most Christians also believe that as well as a power for good - God - there is also a power for evil. Christians refer to the power for evil as ‘Satan’ or ‘the Devil’. Satan is traditionally thought to have been an archangel who was thrown out of Heaven for disobeying God.

Evil and freewill

For Christians evil and suffering are related to freewill (the idea that humans make decisions for themselves).

In Genesis, God placed Adam and Eve (the first humans) in the Garden of Eden.

Adam and Eve were told they could eat any of the fruit from any of the trees in the Garden, except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

In the Genesis account Satan (the Devil) tempted Eve with the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan, in the form of a serpent, said that God did not want humans to eat from the tree because if they did, they would end up like God:

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'For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.' Genesis 3:4