The last post was about Free Will as a solution to the “Problem of Evil.” In this post, I’d like to delve into another aspect of this solution. Most of the time, when people talk of the Problem of Evil, the focus is on moral evil.
Remember, moral evil is that evil that is directly caused by humanity; torture, murder, rape, etc… There is that other type of evil to take into account as well, and that is natural evil, as I mentioned before. Natural evil comes about from “nature” and the various laws of science operating. If you fall, gravity will pull you down and perhaps aid in breaking a bone, or even result in death from things like head injury.
Free will isn’t just a solution supported or put forth from Christian philosophers. The interesting thing here comes in when it becomes clear that most people that support the free will solution are focusing in on only moral evil. It is pretty obvious that our wills, whether they are free or not, play into moral evil…that’s the whole point. Mankind contributes evil to this world all the time; we lie, cheat, steal, kill, etc…
Now, from a Christian perspective, the Free Will solution also covers natural evil. From our perspective, God created a good world for us to live in; a safe world, one in which we didn’t even have to worry about death. Again, Adam’s free will choice of not faithing on God brought about natural evil in our world. God gave charge over to Adam over this world of ours, and Adam’s choice impacted not only humanity but also the rest of physical reality here.
We believe that all creation groans under the weight of sin, not just humanity. This is one of the few explanations that I’ve come across that can and does account for both kinds of evil. It is true that we can now try to yield to righteousness, instead of to sin, in the realm of moral evil, but we must also put up with a fallen creation, not just a fallen humanity, in the realm of natural evil.
Natural evil can be anticipated, but in most cases of huge natural disasters, we are unable to “fight” it directly. We have to anticipate and then respond. So, the characteristics of the two kinds of evil are different, but the ultimate responsibility still lies with mankind. The ultimate outcome, again according to scripture, will be a restoration not only of mankind, but also of all creation. Both moral and natural evil will be taken care of.
One common question that come up is something along the lines of, “So, you believe if Adam shimmied up a tree and fell on his head that he would have survived prior to his eating of the Tree of knowledge?” My answer is “yes.” God clearly has the power to sustain…not only life, but also inanimate matter as well…
Deuteronomy 8:1 All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers. 2 And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. 3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. 4 Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.
What we have here is a clear example of God maintaining the state of even inanimate matter; their clothes lasted forty years whilst they trudged about in the wilderness…they never needed knew robes, shoes, etc… because God intervened, apparently at the molecular level, in order to maintain their clothing. He is quite capable of sustaining that which He wishes to sustain.
Again, I wrote this post mainly because I do think it is important to touch upon both kinds of evil, moral and natural, and also to show that Christianity does indeed account for both through the free will solution. I hope to give a brief overview sometime soon of the Arminian vs. Calvinistic position on the whole free will issue.