Tuesday, March 15, 2011

(More on) God, Earthquakes, and Tsunamis

William Lane Craig, in Hard Questions, Real Answers, asks re. the problem of evil, "What about natural evil?" From a Christian noetic framework we can answer this way.

First, "it is important to see how inextricably intertwined natural evil is with human, moral evil." If there were no human, moral evil there was a natural evil event such as a drought in Ethiopia, then the world would rush to the aid of the people there to prevent famine. "The wealth of the world would be largely redistributed, instead of being hoarded in the materialistic Western nations, As a result, disease would greatly diminish, medical care would be more readily available, and people would live in decent housing instead of shacks or shoddily constructed tenement houses that are demolished in natural catastrophes."

Yes, terrible natural evils would still be with us. Accidents would still happen. But if there were not human, moral evil, many natural evils would disappear or be greatly reduced. We would, out of love and care, make room in our relatively earthquake-free areas for people who live in the "ring of fire."

Second, "a world of containing gratuitous natural evils may be necessary for people to come to a knowledge of God... Perhaps it is just a fact that only in a world containing pointless natural suffering would people turn to God. Who knows? It may be that God has created a world containing natural evils that don't contribute to any higher good in this life but which serve as the context in which He knew people would freely believe and trust in Him."

Third, "God may have simply created a world operating physically according to certain natural laws and then, for the most part, sat back and let nature run its course." It would not be wrong of Him to allow natural evils, "for in the afterlife He rewards with an incommensurable good those who endure in faith those natural afflictions."

Here it would be good to read for yourself the examples Craig adds to explain this kind of reasoning. But note this. One accusation against Christians is that the existence of an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God does not rationally cohere with the existence of natural evil. Craig writes, re. this: "Since the problem is being presented as an internal problem for the Christian, there  is illicit about the Christian's availing himself of all the resources of his worldview in answering this objection." Of course the atheist does not believe in an afterlife that contains an incommensurable good. But this is a claim within the Christian theistic worldview. This claim helps me make sense of the existence of natural evil. The real, underlying issue to then be debated is re. the theistic vs. atheistic worldview.