December 19, 2010

Evil & Suffering VII: Natural Evil-Natural Disasters

In this portion of my series "Evil & Suffering" we will examine the evils themselves and break them down into understandable categories the first of which will be natural evils. When dealing with Natural Evils we must distinguish between those that result from moral evil and those that are not attached to any specific sinful acts that can produce them. Unattached natural evils are a far-reaching result of living in a fallen world. God could’ve avoided disobedience but he would’ve had to have created robots programmed not to sin. Unattached evils are the result of distorted or malfunctioning systems that were originally created to function properly (pre-Genesis Chapter 3).

Natural Evils are evils attributed to processes and systems that are outside of the human being. The hydrological system is now arranged in a way that allows for flooding or droughts. It appears this was not the case pre-antediluvian and was definitely not the case pre-Fall. Droughts or floods can then cause secondary issues with famine, pestilence and plague. Anomalous weather patterns formed within the hydrological system can form typhoons, hurricanes, and combined with geographical features can form tornadoes such as those in the US Midwest like the recent one in Joplin Missouri, siroccos or desert winds like the Santa Ana winds which fan fires in California, etc. From tectonic geological systems we have a broad overarching category that can include all forms of natural disasters stemming from phenomenon related to earthquakes and arise from having a crust on the earth that is akin to shattered eggshell. Tectonic activity can also cause volcanic activity and undersea fault shifts that cause Tsunami and other natural disasters. Paul has informed us that the entire creation is subject to futility (Romans 8:18-22) which also reinforces statements made in Genesis that mankind will need to work harder to produce from the earth (Genesis 3:17-19). God will eventually overcome these effects but until then there is the “groaning” of man, creation and the Holy Spirit (Feinberg 193-194).

Some other aspects of this category focus on humanity as opposed to nature itself. Some Natural Evils can manifest themselves in the form of physical deformities, misshapen limbs, blindness, mental retardation or general overall human deficiency, insanity and diseases as previously mentioned (Feinberg, “Faces of Evil” 192). Of course where some of these sufferings or evils are cause by the moral evil of other human beings the distinctions begin to blur and exacts causes become ambiguous if not downright impossible to pinpoint. A good example of this is people who deliberately infect others with deadly diseases such as AIDS through malicious unprotected sex. Another example could be birth deformities cause by exposure to radiation from nuclear testing or chemical warfare. The distinction between diseases, malformation or birth defects are in some cases indistinguishable. It is best to see these medically oriented evils as nearly concurrent or categorized the same. This is especially true since some of the birth defects like being born blind or disease can precipitate directly out of the diseased mother or father (STDs, etc). In the case of blindness caused by STD we may actually see sin in the form of disease being passed down to a new generation. When dealing with unattached evils we need to understand that man and the creation are subject to the Fall as stated before. As such it is subject to a twisting from or a drift away from its intended order. As Dr. Bruce R Marino posited in a Theology I class lecture on theodicy at Valley Forge Christian College, evil is the lack of intended order from God. Evil is disorder (Marino). They are products or sum results of purposefully malfunctioning or divinely altered systems. Systems that, according to the Bible, had functioned properly at some definite point in the past but have since been made, or have become, dysfunctional due to the Fall and man's sin.

As for the attached evils, these are more or less self-explanatory. They are evils attached directly to sin or other moral evils which will be briefly outlined in Moral Evil next.

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