The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Problem of Natural Evil


Hello, resident Deist here back again.

Lately I’ve been struggling with the problem of natural evil. Moral evil’s existence I understand; there can’t be good without evil and you can’t know good without knowing evil. It probably has something to do with developing greater spiritual character. But why natural evil, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and infectious pathogens / diseases? Why did God either create or permit them to exist, what purpose do they serve for us?

Additionally, lots of people these days seem to worry about apocalyptic scenarios of various types, mostly environmental in nature.

What do you all think, would God allow humans to degrade the planet and its environment to the point where it’s no longer habitable for humans? If it’s a result of our choices, one could argue yes.

Would He allow something like an asteroid strike to wipe out most of life on the planet, like what happened to the dinosaurs?

Would He allow something like a nuclear war to render the planet uninhabitable, like what nearly happened several times during the Cold War?

Would He allow a global famine or epidemic to wipe out a large swath or all of humanity?

Part of me wants to say “no” to these questions, but I also am not that comfortable with the idea of predestination. God intervening either directly or indirectly could possibly infer an end goal in mind for us and could also take away some significance of our choices. One could argue that God gifted us with what we need to avoid these fates, but I have less faith in humanity than I do in God, and I’m also not wild about the idea of suffering the consequences of other people’s short-sightedness. I guess you could say I’m struggling with what I want to believe in, and I don’t like the feeling of giving up control.


YES. My theory about Z-Hell (1, 2, 3)…as the most probable, end-times tribulation scererio - would confirm that!


There’s no easy answer to that question. Perhaps this podcast entitled “Greg Boyd and Thomas Jay Oord discuss Why Can’t God Stop Evil?” will help:

The two theologians Thomas Oord and Greg Boyd both have attempted to answer the wider question of the problem of evil, the former with a view that God’s love nature shapes what He can do and the latter with a spiritual warfare paradigm. They also look at natural evil in their valiant attempts at theodicies.


The Problem of Evil


You can also type in “the problem of natural evil” into Google, and read the articles / discussions. For example - page 1:

The Problem of Natural Evil - Catholic Exchange

It should be noted, that this problem has been discussed before. By theologians and philosophers, both historical and contemporary. As well as folks on this forum. You will find “plausible” answers. But none that will satisfy everyone.


I appreciate the replies everyone.

Upon reflection, as best I can figure, I’m not sure God has a specific purpose in mind for every act of moral or natural evil (you’ll go crazy if you try and attribute everything to God and connect all the dots), nor am I inclined to believe he specifically designed different forms of either one (that’s just hard to imagine) but He may allow a certain degree of free will to nature and the universe as well as to man and he allows these forms of “evil” (which is a somewhat subjective term given that we define everything in relation to ourselves) in our temporary mortal world for the purpose of evolution and developing Godly character. I’m not sure what worth life on Earth would have if we never had any obstacles or hardship to overcome, or risks to face.

Deism believes that God gave us every tool we need, whether we know it or not, to survive and thrive, and it’s up to us whether or not we succeed. I guess you could say God is the ultimate tough-love parent, who wants the best for us and doesn’t want us to suffer but takes the ultimate long view and decided the best way for us to learn and evolve is for us to make mistakes and for the stakes to be high and real. Deism also generally believes that God does not intervene at all, but I’m not so sure about that. I like to think God plays some participatory role, but ultimately lets us control our own destiny as individuals and a species.

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Given your views, I think you’d like the books of Thomas Oord eg. “The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence”.


I looked into it. Interesting idea, but I have a hard time with the idea that God can’t do something, limited by his own nature. Mr. Oord has some biblical passages to support him that make sense to me even as a deist, but it’s still a hard concept to wrap my head around.


It seems like there should be nothing that God can’t do but the Bible itself lists things He can’t do:

Aside from what the Bible lists, there are logically impossible things like:
Can God create a rock so big He can’t lift it?
Can God imagine a being cleverer than Himself?

Generally people prioritise God’s power over His other attributes some to the extent that if God appears to do something most people would regard as evil in the Bible (eg. command a genocide or rape), then His sovereignty means that said evil is in fact good. Power shapes God’s character more than anything else in this view. This seems to me to be an all too human view of God more in keeping with the Caesars of this world.

The alternative is what I believe Jesus showed us in His life as He revealed perfectly the character and nature of God, one of self giving love and power shown in weakness on the cross. Here love is what shapes God’s character and makes it logically impossible for God to do things contrary to His own nature. To ask God to do something unloving would be like asking Him to make a rock so big He can’t lift it.