In his book Who Is to Blame? Disasters, Nature and Acts of God (Oxford, UK and Grand Rapids: Monarch Books, 2014) Bob White presents a most helpful exploration of theodicy – defending the idea of a just and loving God in the face of what seems contrary evidence.
We have little problem in identifying where human beings, given freedom by God, act sinfully and cause the suffering of the innocent (‘moral evil’), but cases of disease and the tragedy of natural disasters are far more difficult to explain. We cannot begin to deal with these problems without asking serious questions about how we believe that God acts in the world, and this involves both a theological and a scientific perspective.
With the help of modern science we are able to predict where and when natural disasters are likely to take place. So countries which are rich in resources and technology could counter such anticipated problems and avoid the worst effects if they had the will-power to accept the economic costs; for example, houses need not be built on an earthquake fault, and farmers need not farm on the side of Mount Etna. Poorer countries have less choice and are less able to take evasive action. Unless developed countries are willing to share their wealth, living space and expertise with others less advantaged, large populations will go on living – for example – on the coastal flood plains of Bangladesh. Thus, when we raise the moral question of the goodness of God, we recognise that this also involves a moral issue for us. It is often a matter of justice.
Bob addresses these questions, while also addressing the ‘elephant in the room’ – population growth, which is a contributory factor in extent of many disasters.
Keith Innes provides a useful review of the book, which can be read here on the JRI website.