Monday, March 19, 2018

Evil Must Be Seen With Respect to the Goals Of God, Rather Than Those of Humanity

Image result for john piippo evil
Battling evil in Monroe
The intellectual atheist objects to the existence of God on the basis of evil in the world. By "evil" is meant "pointless suffering," or "gratuitous suffering." Gratuitous suffering is suffering that is not needed to either bring about a greater good, or prevent an equal or greater evil from happening.

The evidential (or probableistic) argument from evil reasons that, 

1. Much pointless suffering exists.
2. Therefore, an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God probably does not exist.

Why not? Because such a God would not allow gratuitous suffering; i.e., suffering that has no point to it.

William Lane Craig says this particular objection to God's existence is not difficult to respond to. Craig writes, 

"Since the problem is being presented as an internal problem for the Christian theist, there is nothing illicit about the Christian theist’s availing himself of all the resources of his worldview in answering the objection." (In Chad Meister, God and the Problem of Evil: Five ViewsKindle Locations 873-875.) 

The reason some think the argument from evil is so powerful is that they assume if God exists, then the goal for human life is happiness. Following John Hick's "soul-making defense" against the argument from evil, the atheist assumes that God's role is to provide a comfortable environment for his human pets. 

"But," writes Craig, "We are not God’s pets, and the goal of human life is not happiness per se but the knowledge of God— which in the end will bring true and everlasting human fulfillment." (Ib., Kindle Locations 879-880)

Many evils that happen may be pointless with respect to the goal of human happiness. But they may not be pointless with respect to a deeper knowledge of God.

"Because God’s ultimate goal for humanity is the knowledge of himself— which alone can bring eternal happiness to creatures— history cannot be seen in its true perspective apart from considerations pertinent to the kingdom of God." (Ib., 882-883)

My first two books are...

Praying: Reflection on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing...

Technology and Spiritual Formation

How God Changes the Human Heart: A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation

Palm Sunday - Jesus Comes to "Hosanna" Us

In Jerusalem

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Easter week. For those of us who are Jesus-followers, this is the turning point of human history, the fulcrum that tilts the universe from darkness to light.

We read about that first Palm Sunday in Mark 1:1-11, and Matthew 21:4-5.
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, 'Why are you doing this?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.' "

[Matthew 21:4-5 adds these verses:
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
 5 "Say to the Daughter of Zion,
      'See, your king comes to you,
   gentle and riding on a donkey,
      on a colt, the foal of a donkey.' " 

Back to Mark... 

4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, "What are you doing, untying that colt?" 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 
9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
   "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
 10 "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!"
   "Hosanna in the highest!" 


When the people saw Jesus, and began shouting “Hosanna!,” they were calling out to Jesus, “Save us!” 

“Rescue us!” 

Hosanna is a Hebrew word (hoshi`ah-na) that had become a greeting or shout of praise, but actually meant "Save!" or "Help!" Not surprisingly, forms of this word were used to address the king with a need (cf. 2 Sam 14:4; 2 Kings 6:26). The palm branches are symbolic of a victorious ruler. 

"Hosanna" has the sense of immediacy. It would be correct to translate it as, "Please save us, and do it now!"

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (rather than a stallion), in his upside-down Kingdom way, desperation was in the air. The Jewish citizens were under the heavy yoke of the Roman Empire. They had heard about Jesus. Rumor was that he claimed to be a king. Even, the Messiah. When word got out that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem, he was greeted as a king. 

There were shouts of “Blessed is the King of Israel!” Clearly,  the people saw in Jesus the answer to their nationalistic, messianic hopes. 

Earlier, a crowd had wanted to make Jesus king (6:15). Now, this gathering was recognizing him as king, in the city of the great King. Here was the great dream of a Davidic ruler who would come and liberate Israel, establish peace, and subdue the Gentiles

The way Jesus entered Jerusalem was a deliberate, prophetic “Zechariah 9:9 act.” Zech. 9:9 reads: Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt. 

Jesus enters Jerusalem in a kingly way, and the people respond in a kingly fashion. The imagery is regal, even messianic, though this is a humble Messiah. As the people spread their garments (NIV: their cloaks) on the road, a "red carpet" of sorts is produced. 

He has come to rescue them. They people were about to be "hosanna-ed." But it was not going to happen as they imagined. Because Jesus is a different kind of king. He will "hosanna" the world by dying on a cross.

The meaning Jesus attaches to his triumphal entry is different from the peoples' expectations. N.T. Wright says, "That, perhaps, is where we can learn the most from this tory today."
People often turn to God when there’s something they want, and they want it to look a certain way. Here, in our Palm Sunday story, everyone wants Jesus to ride into the city and be the kind of king they say he ought to be. “Help!” “Save the life of my sick child!” “Pay my bills!” “Give us peace, now!”

Jesus does intend to respond to the people’s cries. He has come to seek and save the lost. He has come for people who need help. He will be there for people who are sick and need a doctor. But he is not coming to be all things to all people. He is not riding into Jerusalem to conform to the expectations of the crowds. He is going to answer, in his own way.

The people wanted a prophet. This prophet, Jesus, will tell the people they are under coming judgment. 

They wanted a Messiah. This one is going to be enthroned on a pagan cross. 

The crowds wanted to be rescued from evil and oppression. Jesus is going to do that, but in a far, far deeper way than they could envision.

Jesus is going beneath surface evil, into the depths of the human heart. N.T. Wright says: “Precisely because Jesus says ‘yes’ to their desires at the deepest level, he will have to say ‘no’ or ‘wait’ to the desires they are conscious of, and expressed.” (NTW, Matt, 68)

Once you cry out “Hosanna,” Jesus will “hosanna” you more thoroughly than you imagine, more deeply than you wanted. The hosanna-ing Jesus brings is not just a band aid. On Palm Sunday we are given “an object lesson in the mismatch between our expectations and God’s answer.” (NTW, Matthew, 69)

The bad news is that the crowds are going to be disappointed. The good news is that their disappointment is on a surface, shallow level. “Deep down, Jesus’ arrival at the great city is indeed the moment when salvation is dawning… The “Hosannas” were justified… they were correct…. but not for the reasons they supposed. To learn this lesson is to take a large step towards wisdom and humility, and towards genuine Christian faith.” (NTW, Matt, 69)


1. If you are a Jesus-follower, you have been hosanna-ed. You called. He answered. He came to your rescue. Think of how God has become your Rescuer. Make a list of things he has hosanna-ed you from. Carry it with you, and give God thanks.

2. Christ has not stopped loving you. He remains your Redeemer, your Rescuer. If there is an area in your life that needs hosanna-ing, identify it, and cry out to him in prayer.

My first two books are...

Praying: Reflection on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing...

Technology and Spiritual Formation

How God Changes the Human Heart: A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation

Nothing Has Separated Us From the Love of Christ

Image result for john piippo first baptist church joliet illinois
Redeemer sanctuary

When Linda and I were pastors at First Baptist Church in Joliet, Illinois (back in the mid-70s), our church hosted a coffee house. Every Saturday night, twenty to fifty young adults would gather in the basement of our building. Someone would bring a teaching. And, we would worship.

The worship stayed with me. We had great instrumentalists, and some phenomenal voices. Some of those songs, repeated over and over, have become the furniture of my heart.

One was a simple worship song that repeated Romans 8:35:

What can separate us from the love of Christ? 
Can affliction or hardship? 
Can persecution, hunger, nakedness, peril, or the sword?

Follow Jesus long enough, and you will go through some of these things. Most have experienced affliction, hardship, persecution, and peril. Linda and I have had the death of loved ones. We have experienced persecution, sometimes coming from within our church families. We have known financial hardship (many pastors have, BTW). I have encountered perilous situations while ministering to people in dark environments.

Still, through it all, the experience of God's love remains.

Love is an experience, not a theory. (See Leading the Presence-Driven Church, Chapter 2, "The Case for Experience.")

God's love is felt. It is known, in the Hebrew sense of knowing. 

Linda and I have never been cut off from this.

Dallas Willard writes:

"When our first child was born, I realized painfully that this beautiful little creature was separate from me and nothing I could do would shelter him from his aloneness in the face of time, brutal events, others’ meanness, his own wrong choices, the decay of his body and, finally, death. 

That would be the last word on the subject, except for God. He is able to penetrate and intertwine himself within the fibers of the human self in such a way that those who are enveloped in his loving companionship will never be alone." (Willard, Hearing God Through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional, p. 51)

My first two books are...

Praying: Reflection on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing...

Technology and Spiritual Formation

How God Changes the Human Heart: A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Presence-Driven Church Is Counter-cultural

Worship dancers practicing at Redeemer

I like reading Eugene Peterson more than I like eating a Cadbury egg.

Peterson's book Living the Resurrection would be a good read as we approach Easter week.

Peterson is like A.W. Tozer, Tozer is like Soren Kierkegaard, Kierkegaard is like Martin Luther, Luther is like Jesus, in this way. As Jesus approached the city on the first Palm Sunday, he wept. He mourned. He grieved, like at a funeral. The same Greek word is used here that is used in John 8:32. Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. Jesus wept at the death of Jerusalem and the Temple. Jesus wept because the people did not recognize the time of his visitation.

After Jesus mourns, sobs, as he sees the city walls, he goes into the Temple and cleanses the courts. What was meant to be a house of prayer had turned into an Entertainment Temple, A Consumer-Driven Temple. A Business Temple. The religious leaders had shut the door to the reigning presence of God. And, they do not have the time to pray, because they are making money off the people. They, Jesus accuses, do not "enter in."

"Enter in"... to what? Into God's presence. The Presence is gone from the Temple. His power is gone, his all-knowingness is gone, his omnibenevolence is gone. God has vacated the Temple, and taken his essential attributes with him. And Jesus, Luther, Kierkegaard, Tozer, and Peterson, weep.

Peterson writes, "The church in which I live and have been called to write and speak has become more like the culture... than counter to it." (Peterson, Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday Life, Kindle Locations 107-108)

When God's presence is gone, when God's presence is not the central focus of church, when the whole church thing is not 100% about God, when the emphasis is on controlling things and people and the "program," when chronos prevails over Kairos, when pressure is on to keep the people coming and add more people to the program to maintain the growing infrastructure, the smell of death rises from the Great Absence.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Silence Before God Is Different Than Entertainment In the Church (The Presence-Driven Church)

Button bush, Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio

"Silence is the discipline that helps us go beyond the entertainment quality of our lives."
- Henri Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing, p. 49

For some years I taught a course on prayer in the D. Min. program at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. One of my students was an African American leader and pastor in Chicago, named Joe. I remember the first day of class, back in 1980-ish. When the students arrived we did a few introductions. Then I sent them out to pray for an hour, using Psalm 23 as their meditative focus.

When they returned from class I asked, "How was that for you?" Joe was crying. He said, "I haven't prayed for an hour in 20 years."

Jump ahead four years. I'm teaching the same class, in the same place. When the D.Min. students arrived, there was Joe. I asked, "What are you doing here? You've already taken this class!"

Joe said, "I wanted to take it a second time. There is still so much for me to learn."

Joe is the only student who has taken my class twice. I asked how he was doing, and how his church was going. Joe shared this. 

"After that class four years ago I went back to my people and preached on a Sunday morning on Psalm 46:10 - 'Be still, and know that I am God.'"

"What happened?" I asked.

"I simply read the verse, then sat down. There was silence for 40 minutes. Finally, one person stood up and spoke a word from God. Then another did the same. We just stayed there, silently, in the thick presence of God. Gradually, one by one, people began to leave."

"How was it, Joe?"

"It was... electric!"

Wow, I thought. Joe has a hopping, dynamic church. What a radical idea God gave him! This story confirmed a number of things I believe about pastoral ministry, and the nature of the church.

  1. This kingdom of God is about God's presence, in which God rules and reigns.
  2. Therefore, desire God's presence, in the first place.
  3. Dismiss the idea that we need to entertain our people, that what our people need is more entertainment so they'll stay with us.
  4. What our people most need is God.
  5. Cultivate a Presence-Driven environment that moves with and responds to God's presence.
  6. Usher people into God's presence. Here is where the "audience" dissolves and engagement with God begins.

My first two books are...

Praying: Reflection on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing...

Technology and Spiritual Formation

How God Changes the Human Heart: A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation

Friday, March 16, 2018

Time Alone with God Is More Important Than Busyness

Image result for john piippo time with God
Josh, Beth, Linda, and myself in northern Israel

Spending time alone with God is more important than what you do. What you do becomes more important as a consequence of spending time with God. 

If this is not in the right spiritual order, you will become irrelevant, in terms of the desires of God. You will do things, maybe many things, self-directed. You will become your own god, a god that has no time for God. Pity the poor people whom you recruit for your own doings.

Even Jesus spent time alone with the Father. If we don't, what is that about? Unbelief? Deism?

Eugene Peterson writes:

"The alternative to acting like gods who have no need of God is to become contemplative pastors. If we do not develop a contemplative life adequate to our vocation, the very work we do and our very best intentions, insidiously pride-fueled as they inevitably become, destroy us and all with whom and for whom we work.
Contemplation comprises the huge realities of worship and prayer without which we become performance-driven and program-obsessed pastors." (Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness, p. 114)


I am now writing 

How God Changes the Human Heart 

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Normal Church Is Continuationist, Not Cessationist

Linda gave me these two gifts, which are on my home office window.

I have preached and taught against a false theology called "cessationism," and for the ongoing, needed, operative reality of all the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians. If a church has no spiritual gifts in operation (including healing, tongues, etc.), that is weird. Normal Church experiences all the gifts Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians. 

There is not one sentence in the New Testament that says, "One day, in a few hundred years, when the Bible is compiled, the spiritual sign gifts (tongues, healing, etc.) will no longer be needed."

I have never been a "cessationist." I am a "continuationist"; i.e., one who believes that all the gifts of the Spirit have continued (thankfully!).

When I got rescued out of drugs and alcohol abuse at twenty-one, I picked up a Bible and began to read. I was familiar with a few stories, but had never read the Bible for myself. My initial, cold reading of the Bible did not cause me to think anything leaning towards cessationism. To the contrary, it opened me up to a God and a life where there were miracles, signs, and wonders. Like the theologian Karl Barth (in a way), I was opened up to "the strange world of the New Testament" (as against the "normal," desacralizing, disenchanting reductionist world of the "Enlightenment.")

I read about miracles, spiritual warfare against satan and demons, spiritual gifts given by God to build up the people (the church), and a Spirit-empowered Church that was not a building but a people movement. No one, on a first reading of the Bible, would ever conclude cessationism. They might wonder why they don't see miracles and spiritual gifts in operation, but that would be another thing.

Later, when I became an academic theologian, and taught at various theological seminaries, I read, as a matter of historical interest, about cessationism. If you want to learn about this I recommend Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views. In this book we find a scholarly, readable, and loving dialogue between continuationists and cessationists.  

Historically, cessationism has roots in The Westminster Confession of 1693. While that document has things to commend it, it contains at least one moment that is misleading, because false to the biblical texts. It reads: "Therefore the Holy Scripture is most necessary, God's former ways of revealing his will to his people having ceased."

Really? Says who? What's that about? Old Testament scholar Jack Deere writes,

“The Reformers argued that the primary purpose of New Testament miracles was to validate the apostles as trustworthy authors of Holy Scripture. Then…   after the apostles had written the New Testament, miracles would have fulfilled their purpose and would no longer be needed, for because now the church would have the Bible.” 

That is false. Regarding the Westminster Confession, I am with John Wesley, who wrote:  I do not recollect any scripture wherein we are taught that miracles were to be confined within the limits either of the apostolic … or any period of time.”

And, in his journal, Wesley added that the reason miraculous gifts were seen so little was "not only that faith and holiness were almost lost, but that dry, formal, orthodox men began to ridicule whatever gifts they had not themselves.” 

We often ridicule what we fear. I have met people over the years who fear the spiritual gift of healing because it is out of their control. There can be abuses! But of course. And so what? The following is a non-sequitur:

1. The gift of healing is sometimes abused.
2. Therefore, we will not allow the gift of healing in our church.

I think it is an abuse not to pray for the sick and expect God to heal.
Last Sunday, I asked people who were sick and wanted prayer to raise their hands. Then, many of us prayed for them. Not just me, since all God's people are invited to pray for the sick. As we saw some people healed I reminded everyone that, as this happens, it is God doing it, not us. Like when Peter said to the people, after seeing someone healed:

Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? … By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. (Acts ch. 3)

I think some Christians (maybe just a few) look at someone like me and a church like ours and think we are weird. We are strange. But I believe the kind of thing that happened to Peter in Acts chapter 3 was not at the time strange, but normal, beautiful, and compelling. 

Normal Church is about God, his love and his power, and what happens when God enters the room. At that point you can throw a lot of your Western rationalistic categories out the window (BTW, I've been a professor of Logic at our local community college for the past seventeen years).

I always had this thing in me that thought it was weird to read the story of Jesus - his healings, encounters with demons, raising the dead - and then, in churches, seeing not only none of this stuff happening, but not even talked about. In spite of the biblical fact that this gets at the very heart of Jesus' teachings!

I thought it was weird to sing songs about shouting to the Lord, and no one - ever - shouts to the Lord. 

I thought it was strange to sing about lifting hands to the Lord, and seeing no one, ever, raise their hands.

I thought it was strange to read the apostle Paul say God’s kingdom was not a matter of talk, but of power, and then attend church services where it was all talk and no power.

I thought it was weird to read about ALL the gifts of the Spirit, like tongues and interpretation of tongues,  and never hear this stuff.
I thought it was weird to read about Jesus casting out demons, and to read Paul say our battle is not flesh and blood but against Satan and demons, and then see churches where a lot of flesh and blood was being spilled while there was never engagement in spiritual warfare. My sense was that such talk was simply too weird, and too embarrassing, for the Christians in those churches. And yet, according to the apostle Paul, the answer to all their church problems was to battle spiritually against demons, principalities, and powers.

I thought it was weird to read all the verses and stories in the four Gospels about Jesus healing people, and be in churches where they never prayed for people to be healed, and never expected anything to happen. (The convoluted theological theories that attempt to explain away the lack of the supernatural in the American Church is almost weirder to me than the lack itself. Like, e.g., cessationism.)
I thought it was weird to be in churches where the greatest miracle, for some, was to get out of church on time.

I have been in churches where we never, ever, laid hands on people. We never prayed for their physical and emotional healing. We did not have this great sense of expectation that God was going to do something. Like I read about in the Gospels, the book of Acts, and the letters of Paul.

This began to confuse me, because as a new follower of Jesus I was reading the Bible (I later found out Bible reading is not done by many people who say they are Christians). In the Bible I was reading, I saw Jesus - always - touching people and healing them. I also read about this in the early church, in the book of Acts.

What is seen by some as weird is actually normal, and what many consider normal church is weird.

Randy Clark, whom I find normal, while some find him weird, says: “Many believers today understand and practice the ministry of healing in the Church, but many more do not, and significant resistance still exists.” (Clark, Authority to Heal: Restoring the Lost In heritance of God's Healing Power)

Let me remind you of what Jesus did.

Matt 4:23 - Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

Matt 12:15 - Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill.

Let me remind you of what Jesus commanded his followers to do.

Matt 10:7 - As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

Finally, let me remind of what Jesus said his followers would do.

John 14:12 - Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

What Jesus did.

What Jesus tells you and I to do.

What Jesus says we will do.

That is Normal Church. If this happened, churches would not need to A&E (Advertise & Entertain).

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Feinberg’s Defense of God Against Unattached Natural Evil

Myself, fighting evil in Monroe

(In my Philosophy of Religion class at MCCC I am now teaching on the argument from evil against the existence of God. Here is one response to the question of natural evil.)

Theistic philosopher Paul Feinberg, in The Many Faces ofEvil: Theological Systems and the Problems of Evil, writes helpfully on the problem of “unattached natural evil.” By this term he means: evils that cannot be defended via the Free Will Defense since such evils don’t have desires, intentions, etc.

Feinberg thinks there are four kinds of natural evils. They are:
1.       Evils attributable to human agency.

a.       Sometimes humans start fires that injure people; sometimes blindness is caused by something another person has done; some birth defects are caused by a mother who chose to use drugs during the pregnancy; and so on.

2.       Disorders caused by some genetic malfunction.

a.       Here nothing the parents did or did not do cause some genetic malfunction. A genetic defect may have been passed down through generations. Whatever the evil here, it doesn’t happen as a result of intentional wrongdoing on anyone’s part.

3.       Natural disasters produced by some process within nature but outside of human beings.

a.       Things such as bolts of lightning, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, crop failures, and so on.

4.       Diseases.

a.       Caused by bacteria or viruses, etc.
Some natural evils are “attached” to some form of free agency. These kinds of evils reduce to the problem of moral evil. That would be category #1 – natural evils attributable to human agency. Natural evils 2-4 are “unattached natural evils.”

For those of us who are Christian theists, how can we explain or account for such evils? Feinberg gives us three aspects to handling them.

I.                    An appeal to the Christian doctrine of the fall and its results.

a.       People ultimately die because the human race fell into sin.

                                                               i.      In a fallen world people die.

                                                             ii.      If they die, they must die of something.

                                                            iii.      One cause of death is disease.

                                                           iv.      “People may also die in fires, floods, earthquakes, or famines. Had sin not entered the world, I take it that biblical teaching implies that natural processes wouldn’t function in ways that contribute to or cause death.” (p. 195)

                                                             v.      The ultimate reason for these “unattached natural evils” is that we live in a fallen world.

                                                           vi.      Feinberg believes this justifies God as allowing these evils to happen to us. “When these evils occur, it is because we live in a sinful, fallen world.” (196) When God hinders these evils from happening, it is an expression of his grace. God owes no one grace, only justice. Feinberg says, “Hence, I can’t see any reason why God is obligated to remove these natural evils in order to show that he is good.” (196)

                                                          vii.      There are many people who will not buy into this explanation because they are not Judeo-Christians. But all that is needed is an explanation that is possible, and that would remove any apparent inconsistency between God and these evils. An atheist, e.g., won’t believe this stuff about “the fall of man” and its effect on the natural order. They don’t share our metanarrative.  Of course not. But for those of us who accept the theistic metanarrative, we have an answer to the problem of unattached natural evil. And since we do not believe in the atheistic narrative we do not hold to core atheistic belief such as, e.g., All that is real is only material (philosophical naturalism), Morality does not exist (Joel Marks, Nietzsche, et. al), and so on. All intra-metanarratival beliefs look weird from the outside.

b.      Because of the fall there are negative consequences for the natural order. For example, humanity must work harder to grow crops, because "thorns and thistles" infest the land. (Genesis 3:17-19)

c.       The entire creation was subjected to futility and waits for the time when it will be set free from its slavery to corruption. (Rom. 8:18-22)

II.                  God created a world which is run by various natural processes that fit the creatures God placed in it.

a.       “Sometimes these processes produce unattached natural evils, so perhaps a way to get rid of these evils is for God to change natural processes. (196)

b.      While this might sound good, “there are serious objections to it… There is no guarantee that new processes would be incapable of going awry and producing natural evils that are just as bad as or worse than those we already have.”

c.       “It is foolish to jettison processes that work well most of the time for the sake of the relatively few times they malfunction and result in evil, especially when we have no idea of what we might get in their place.” (197)

d.      For example, since there is rain in our world, there can be too much rain: floods result and crop failures can stem from those floods. Feinberg writes: “God can get rid of these problems by ridding our world of these natural processes, but why would we want that? We do need rain, sunshine, and the like to survive in our world. Most of the time when there is rain, wind, sunshine, etc., it isn’t harmful. Moreover, not even every earthquake or flood is harmful to us or to other life forms. So why should we expect God to remove these processes altogether? We need them to sustain life as we know it, and there is no guarantee that life as we know it could survive with different natural processes.” (197)

e.      Take, e.g., bacteria. Sometimes they cause disease. But often they do not, and often they perform helpful functions, such as breaking down ingested food so that it can be digested. Feinberg, following Bruce Reichenbach, suggests that were God to eliminate bacteria, the world would have to run according to different natural laws. “Therefore, to prevent natural evils from affecting man, man himself would have to be significantly changed, such that he would be no longer a sentient creature of nature.” (198)

f.        “In short, to rid the world of the negative results that can accrue from these natural phenomena we must also forego the benefits they bring. Hence, it isn’t wise to request their removal, especially when we have no idea of what might replace them.”

g.       Therefore, “I conclude that unattached natural evils are also justified in that they stem from natural processes which most of the time don’t produce natural evils and which are necessary to life as we know it. In a fallen world, it is possible for these processes to malfunction, and empirically, we know that they occasionally do. Still, to remove these processes from the world would remove life as we know it without any guarantee that what would replace these processes would avoid natural evil. Our world, then, is a good world, because it includes natural processes which make life for human beings possible.” (199)

III.                It is possible that God intervenes to prevent harm from unattached natural evils more than we suspect.

a.       Feinberg realizes that he can’t prove this. But it is not impossible that God’s miraculous intervention keeps more of these evils from happening than do happen. “Just because we don’t see the miracle doesn’t mean God isn’t working to preserve us. There is no reason that his intervention (miraculous or otherwise) must be observable in order for it to be actual, anyway.” (200)

b.      If a critic complains that it looks like God did not intervene and stop a natural evil from happening, the critic “shouldn’t suppose that he has raised a devastating blow to theism when he asks why God hasn’t intervened.” (200)

c.       Again, an atheist would object to this. But of course, since the atheist does not think God exists. Feinberg writes, “I note, however, that none of these objections points out an internal inconsistency in my theology. They are all objections on grounds external to the system. Moreover, many of these objections amount to a complaint that God didn’t make a better world than ours.” (204)

I’m now going to quote Feinberg’s entire conclusion. He writes:
"In sum, when addressing natural evils, one must first divide between those that result from moral evil and those that are unattached to specific sinful acts that produce them. The former evils should be handled by one’s answer to the logical problem of moral evil. As for unattached natural evils, they result from living in a fallen world. God could have avoided our disobedience only by creating subhumans or superhumans, and neither is what he wanted. Moreover, unattached evils result from malfunctioning natural processes, but those processes function without harming anyone most of the time, and they are necessary for the survival of the creatures God created to populate our world. 
In addition, God wants his human creatures to be able to exercise freedom in order to function in this world. But the exercise of freedom requires a natural order that is predictable. Hence, God forgoes performing a miracle on some occasions in order to maintain that regularity. For all we know, on many occasions he may intervene to keep more of these evils from occurring. Since these evils stem from living in a fallen world, a world for which all of us are ultimately responsible, God isn’t obligated to remove any of them by miracle or otherwise. His preservation of us from more maladies is solely a function of his grace.
Complaining that this defense doesn’t cover every instance of unattached natural evil fails to see that the problem of unattached natural evils is about those in general. Asking for further explanation about why this evil happens to one person and not another changes the discussion to the religious problem of evil. Finally, whether dealing with natural evils that result from moral evil or with unattached natural evils, the defenses offered render my theology internally consistent and thereby solve its problems of natural evil.” (203-204)