Friday, September 16, 2005

Who's to Blame for Natural Evil?

As I mentioned Wednesday, God is behind natural disasters as He is sovereign. However, natural disasters are here because of the sin of humanity; we cursed nature through disobedience, and have to live with the consequences. I also mentioned that this doesn't mean that specific instances of such natural evil are judgment on a particular person or place. We are all sinners in need of grace and mercy. God sends sun and rain (and disasters) on believers and non-believers alike.

While I'm not going to say Katrina, or the tsunami last year, were specific judgments, I will say that there is a good end from any disaster. God works ALL things for good, even the bad things. Unfortunately for us, though, we have a limited perspective. Things don't make sense if a loving God is all powerful. But by faith we may see that the greater good is served through suffering now. It may be that had Katrina not happened, for instance, a worse event would have happened. We just don't know. That's what makes the question of evil so difficult.

But getting back to the issue of culpability. The question is often asked why we have evil in the world if God is good. The underlying assumption is that God would intervene if He were good. There are a few problems with the question, though, that should be addressed. Talking about moral evil will get us closer to answering that question.

God is indeed good. Scripture leaves us no doubt about that. We don't always see this, though, as we decide that we know what is good. When God acts in a way that we don't think we would act, we deem that evil on His part, or say He's too weak to stop evil. Neither case is true. The fault lies in our own perception and discernment. We can't see eternity or even the "big picture" of our current existence. It is the height of arrogance to tell God He shouldn't have directed Katrina as He did if we don't know His greater purpose for mankind, or if we can't see everything as He does. This is the petulant judgement of a child who says he should be allowed to skip his medicine because he wouldn't make medicine that flavor, when the parent and physician can see that the medicine is the only thing that can save the child.

So if God is good, He must intervene, or else He's not the omnipotent deity we believe, no? Well, no. Again, we need to be careful about telling God what to do. He doesn't need to intervene to retain His goodness and omnipotence. What He is doing is allowing us the growth that comes from suffering, the ultimate in free will, and the consequences we choose through that free will. In other words, when we sin we tell God we don't want His ways. So He says, "fine. Here are the consequences. You bring evil into the world, I'll work through it and still end up having my will realized. But you will have consequences with which to deal along the way." We are morally culpable because God gave us, out of His love, free will. We choose to do evil, and we suffer. God's goodness won't shield us from our own choices or else we'd lose our free will. In His omnipotence, He works through the evil times to redeem them for good. His goodness and power are revealed even in times of evil and suffering.

If God's not to blame for evil, though, that leaves us. I'll turn to the reality of moral evil next week.

God bless, and have a great weekend!

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