Ask Pastor Matt: “Can a Good God and Natural Evil Co-Exist?”
by Matt Rawlings
Every week I receive great questions from believers and skeptics alike. In the wake of the destruction left by typhoon Haiyan, a skeptic sent me this heartfelt question, “Can a good God and natural evil co-exist?” This is a great question and needs to be approached from a view different angles to give it justice.
What we often call natural evil is destruction to human edifices and life wrought by the outworking of the physical laws of the universe. For example, our planet’s crust is fairly thin. If it were thicker, then plate tectonic recycling could not take place. Plate tectonics produce earthquakes and volcanoes but they also form mountains that prevent our planet from becoming one giant ocean. Also, plate tectonics recycle carbon by absorbing it in the soil and spitting it out through volcanoes, which also helps to stabilize our planet’s temperature. The magma that volcanoes spit out can be destructive but it is necessary to our survival. The magma produces a magnetic field that protects us from the sun’s solar winds that would otherwise erode our atmosphere.
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To be fair, we humans often place ourselves at greater risk by choosing to live in places where earthquakes and volcanoes are more frequent. I lived in Hollywood for several years and my first earthquake scared the lemonade out of me. I was an atheist at the time or otherwise I would have preached to every one of my fellow Californians that obviously God doesn’t want people to live there no matter how nice the view is from the hills!
Yet, one may object, “If God is all-powerful, can’t He create a world with different physical laws and/or protect people from harm?” Philosopher William Lane Craig is helpful here when he argues God chose the physical laws that govern the universe to provide the optimal creation in which His ultimate purposes could be fulfilled. This is not the best possible world for that will come when God renews creation but it is the best possible world where we have the freedom to turn to God or away from God…