“If God is (1) perfectly loving, (2) omnipotent and (3) omniscient, why is
evil so prevalent in the world? The free will defense explains ‘moral
evils’ such as murder and rape, yet it fails to explain ‘natural evils’
such as earthquakes and cancer. Is this because Satan has free will as
You are right, free will is something that defines us as humans. Without
the possibility of rejecting the good, we have no meaningful relationship
with our Creator or with one another. Yet disease and natural disaster
appear to fall into a different category. Here are my thoughts:
* I am not so sure that Satan is behind all sickness, accidents, and
natural disasters. Being ‘the evil one’ is not the same as being Evil.
Satan is not simply the personified power of evil; he is an independent
being who has chosen to rebel against God and his will.
* True, everything that happens God directly causes or allows to happen,
but this does not mean that every time we suffer we ought to blame it on
Satan, any more than we should blame it on God.
* Christians are never promised freedom from suffering. The ‘prayer of
Jabez’ in 1 Chronicles 4:10 is not a prayer for Christians, despite the
immense popularity of a religious book by that title. Bearing the cross
means we are guaranteed suffering, and freedom from suffering is not so
much a mark of spirituality as of disengagement from the fight.
* Earthquakes, volcanic and tectonic activity, are essential for life on
earth. They circulate the elements, bringing the heavier metals from the
core and mantle to the surface. Floods make the soil fertile. Hurricanes
scour the surface of the globe. These natural disasters serve as a
checks-and-balances system to make our atmosphere, earth, and seas
beneficial. Without storms, earthquakes, and floods, our plant would not
be an inhabitable place at all! They are as vital for us as the 23.5? tilt
of the earth’s axis, our being located 93 million miles from the sun, and
the moon as the primary producer of tides, also crucial for aquatic life,
both plant and animal.
* The ‘evil’ when it comes to natural ills seems being in the wrong place
when it’s time for a catastrophe to occur. In other words, don’t build
your hut on the lip of a volcano; don’t build your village in the flood
plain; and don’t blame God if you took your chances and lost everything!
* Disease accelerates the end of life. Death is not always a curse, but a
blessing. Have you ever spent time with a dying man, someone in great
pain? Then you know that sometimes people pray for death. Have you never
prayed for the death of someone you loved? Death means an end to
suffering. (Of course, as Christians we know it is not the end at all,
only a kind of transition.)
* Even if medical researchers extend our lives and reduce our pain levels,
have our relationships been improved? Are we closer to God? Is this world
all there is, or should we rather not be preparing for the next?
* Sickness demands patience and perseverance. There is no short-cut to
character, Romans 5 is very clear about that. Physical and emotional pain
not only toughen us up, they also help us relate to others. Empathy means
every loss, pain, or sickness is a hidden talent. We have something to
share, something to talk about, something to use to connect through love
with others. Without hardship, what heroism, courage, or magnanimity of
spirit would there be? All these considerations paint a picture of a world
under God’s control. His providence operates through physiology, geology,
psychology, and whatever other,logy there is!
For more on this subject, let me recommend C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of
Pain, Ravi Zacharias’ Deliver Us fom Evil, and Philip Yancey’s What’s So
Amazing About Grace.
Douglas Jacoby, Ph.D. (www.douglasjacoby.com)