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Grappling with Natural Evil

Dr. Fazale Rana unveils an exciting new feature of RTB’s testable creation model: an explanation for the origin of human diseases (see his article “Did God Create Flesh-Eating Bacteria?”). This topic has traditionally been placed under the broader heading of “natural evil.” The following is a list of natural evils commonly cited by atheists:

  • Meteorites (and other collisions in the universe)
  • Natural disasters (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning strikes, fires)
  • Terminal disease
  • Infectious disease

Many see the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful, perfectly good and loving God as incompatible with a world containing natural evil. They claim that a truly all-loving God should have built a “better universe,” one without any form of natural evil. This belief can be a daunting barrier to faith.

Reasons to Believe has written a number of books and articles responding to this issue. Much of RTB’s approach involves considerations of how the universe would operate if it had been designed differently. What emerges is a deep appreciation for the efficiency of the universe, knowing that the rate of natural disasters could be far worse in a universe with different parameters (see Why the Universe Is the Way It Is). A consistent pattern has come to light in recent years where increased understanding of those systems that produce the so-called natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, reveals the critical role these phenomena play for sustaining human life (see “Where is God When Bad Things Happen? Why Natural Evil Must Exist by Richard Deem).

When we turn to discussions about the origins of human disease, it is not uncommon for atheists to raise the objection: Why would God create infectious bacteria, like necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria)? Christians generally frame the problem a little differently: How could these disease-causing microbes be considered part of God’s “very good” creation (Genesis 1:31)? Again, the implied assumption is that a “perfect” universe is incompatible with the existence of disease.

This is one of the things that makes RTB’s creation model concerning the origin of human diseases so groundbreaking. Dr. Rana asserts that microorganisms ought to be understood as part of God’s good design. His article details the role viruses and bacteria can play in ecosystems and in maintaining human health (see also, “Natural Evil or Moral Evil”. That being said, Christians need to be careful not to minimize the human suffering that results from these diseases. While it is vital to be able to reasonably account for the existence of natural evil within the Christian worldview, it is equally important that Christians demonstrate compassion for others.

RTB’s overall strategy in addressing natural evil is that a deeper understanding of the system will reveal a design or purpose. Otherwise put, many forms of so-called “natural evil” actually represent the design of an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving Creator and they are necessary for humans to live in this universe. Conversely, atheistic arguments that God could have created a universe devoid of all, or most, forms of natural evil are overly simplistic.

The real irony in all of this, however, is that the “perfect” universe atheists insist on—one void of pain, disease, decay, or death—will be the reward for those who trust in Jesus as their Savior (Revelation 21:3-5). We look forward to better and higher prospects in heaven. Things “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived” (1 Corinthians 2:9) in this creation will become reality in the next.