God and the Appropriation of Evil
Abstract: A fascinating issue in applied ethics is the question of when it is permissible to appropriate the products of someone’s evil action. Should medical researchers, for example, be permitted to cite medical data obtained from the grossly unethical experiments conducted by the Nazis during World War II? Though the use to which the product will be put is typically beneficent or morally neutral, use of such products can still generate significant moral controversy. An amazing fact about the God of the Bible is that he is an appropriator of evil. God uses the suffering of his children to develop their characters (Heb. 12:5-11; 1 Pet. 4:1-3); he used the evil done to Joseph to place him in a position to help in a time of famine (Gen. 50:20). And, most significantly, God took the evil done to Christ at the crucifixion and appropriated it to accomplish the redemption of humanity (Isa. 53; Acts 3:13-19). In this paper, I first offer a more detailed characterization of appropriation problems and the sorts of rationales that are offered to oppose appropriation. I then argue that God’s appropriation of evil is always righteous because he always appropriates evil in order to defeat evil.