When discussing the problem of evil, I tend to get tripped up on the issue of natural disasters. The created order appears to take lives indiscriminately. Moreover, we have no recourse to standard theodicies when addressing natural disasters, since most explanations of evil have to do with free will and human personhood. These sorts of explanations seem unhelpful when discussing natural evils. God could - in theory - override nature without "violating" anyone's will or personhood. Yet, God permits natural disasters which kill millions of people. Why does he do it?
Paul says that creation is groaning because of human rebellion, and the curse such rebellion ellicits (Rom 8:18-25). Humans are integrally related to the world God created for them, though the exact nature of this interelation is not clear. Our sin introduces systemic flaws into the created order. However, while we know this to be the case, we can't explicate the precise cause and effect relationship between human rebellion and systemic imperfection in creation. "Why" and "how" questions still linger. Is there anyting more we can say about natural disasters, humanity, and theodicy? I think so.
Last week, my dad preached a great sermon on the problem of evil. After the sermon, someone commented to him that Adam and Eve would not have survived the fall unless creation fell with them. If creation remained untainted by human rebellion, it would have been too glorious for humanity to endure. Imperfect humans could not exist in a perfect creation, since the resplendency of such a world would surely obliterate them. C.S. Lewis made a similar point in The Great Divorce. The protagonist happens upon heaven, and realizes that it is almost unbearably solid.
It was the light, the grass, the trees that were different; made of some different substance, so much solider than things in our country that men were ghosts by comparison.[The Great Divorce (New York: Touchstone, 1996); 28-29]
It appears the only "hospitable" earth for treasonous sinners is one with imperfections. Once we concede this point, we realize that natural disasters and other systemic flaws go part and parcel with living in a habitable world. We are not yet ready for the "realness" of the world Lewis describes.
No doubt many have made the point I am making. However, it has helped me to view our deeply distorted world through a whole new set of lenses.