Evolution and the Problem of “Natural Evil”

Perhaps evolution is necessary to create beings which make free choices about right and wrong.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/evolution-and-the-problem-of-natural-evil

Excellently stated, Jim. I’m reminded of what I recently heard Dr. J. Richard Middleton share in a talk: that we should even object to the label “natural evil” since it is based on a naive notion that the operations of creation (predation, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.) are somehow immoral. I have to say I’m inclined to agree with him because what if so called natural evil is just God’s way of steering the whole of creation toward maturity? After all, the constant theme of Scripture is that glory comes only after suffering (Rom. 8.17). Indeed, even our Lord was made perfect (made mature, reached his goal) through suffering (Heb. 2.10).

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@Jim Stump


You raise many questions, but do not answer any of them. These are basically philosophical questions, which indicates the problems we have when we make the discussion between science and Christianity and leave out philosophy.

A full response to this blog does not fit into the form of comments, but this question is addressed in my essay, God and Freedom, found on Academia.edu and my book, The GOD Who RELATES. I await your response.

@Relates Roger, this was an excerpt from the chapter (though even the chapter cannot fully address this issue). You and I agree about the role of philosophy.


Thank you for your response.

Does this chapter attempt to address this problem?

_It seems that evolution may be the only way to create beings with the capacity to know good and evil.

Is that your answer?

Do you object to looking at another response, such as found in the chapter, God and Freedom, in my book, The GOD Who RELATES? (See my previous response as to how to find it online.)

Wow. Deep thoughts here. My church has always taught that all evil and pain came from the Fall. As an evolutionary creationist, I no longer accept that (and actually, prior to accepting EC, always thought that that carries its own horrible images of an unjust God). I appreciate this insight. I fear to tread on explanatory pathways for being wrong, but also don’t want to be completely naturalistic sometimes–though naturalism itself reveals God’s character, too.

How do you pin all natural evil on the unrelated sins of 2 humans? I suppose YECs are going to blame the Fall on why a sun goes supernova and destroys the life on any planet in the vicinity …

There’s plenty of Divine Evil to consider in the Old Testament, which makes allegations about Evil from the Fall seem a bit unfounded:

God drowns millions of humans… women, children, babies… I’m not even going to mention the animals that were drowned because of God’s wrath.

So… was God over his blood lust? Apparently not. In the time of Exodus, he indiscriminantly kills the first born of Egypt… including the children of slaves, the children of domestics, and all sorts of people who never did a single thing to Moses or the Hewbrew.

But at least he’s getting more specific, right?

So all this YEC fussing over “death in evolution” … I think there is a lot to explain on the side of the Bible’s stories… and then we can ask just exactly why there should be any humans suffering because of something two people did.

Thank you. This reminds me of stories I have heard of neglected children making up reasons as to why they were abandoned. Frequently, these involve blaming themselves.

There seems to be an evolutionary advantage to the illusion that we are responsible–because, not only do we feel things are controllable, but we can think of how to control the world.

Maybe reminding myself of this will give me more compassion for the YEC view when I wonder why they would rather have an evil God who punishes children for their fathers’ sin, than an open question as to “natural evil.” This is certainly a conundrum, particularly if we think of an all-powerful God. There’s compassion to go around!

I often hear the " if God is good ,how come he let’s children starve ? " …
My response " why do you ? "

You blame God ,but what are you doing about it ?
You felt compelled to blame God , but did you consider perhaps God was trying to tell you to do something ? Perhaps God meant for you to address the issue .

As for natural " disasters "
1 . It rains on the just and unjust alike
2. If you live in tornado alley and know it , quit blaming God because you chose to take the risk
3. Natural events serve purpose , understand it’s purpose and you will stop calling it evil
4 . If God created it , it’s God’s to do with as he chooses , quit being arrogant .it doesn’t belong to you .

I like bats , I like their purpose , mosquitos annoy me but they feed bats …
Bot flies are vicious , but the robber fly eats bot flies ( balance)
Death is painful to see , but without it , there is no soil to grow new life …
Without pain , how can you understand relief .
Balance , a just weight and measure .

It rains , and waters the Lily , be happy .
One love (agape) God bless

I’ve been waiting for this for some time

The problem of natural evil erupts as soon as someone suggests an all powerful God, that is all knowing, and all loving.

One of these three factors has to “give”. The Greeks and Romans never had problems with this, because “fate” was a form of awareness that even the Gods could not defeat… and Fate loved no one.

The error is thinking that Young Earth Creationists have solved the problem. They have not. They have merely obscured the problem more than usual.

Of God is all knowing , perhaps he knows it isn’t evil but necessary or even kindness, if he is both all knowing and all powerful then his choices must be for a reason , if he is all loving then by default he is acting or not acting out of love .

We are on our little swamp planet near the edge of the universe complaining " we don’t like the veiw " …

we , in all our vast wisdom ( percieved) are blaming God , yet we can barely get off the surface of our world . We are barely a spec of a planet when looking at the vastness of the universes…
How often do ants complain about your driving?


I think you are confusing me with @Prode.

My point is not to say there is no possible solution to natural evil.

My point is that natural evil still exists in a Young Earth Creationist scenario … and that YECs have not resolved the matter by simply saying that The Fall solves the problem.

How the problem of natural evil is resolved is a denomination-by-denomination topic of discussion.

Calvinists would say one thing; Catholics would say another; and Greek Orthodox would say something else entirely.

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Yeah , but I wanted to answer the scenario :grinning:, I enjoy the challenge…

I get where you’re sliding though , my point is the " natural evil " or " mean God " scenarios are faulty to start with .
It assumed from only our perspective. A very selfish perspective .
It fails to consider how small our knowledge is , instead of admitting there are things we don’t understand .
It assumed we know better than a mind that can create our entire physical universe including all life in it , so intricate of an equation that our greatest minds can’t comprehend it all , or even a fraction of it all in one vision .
That is just arrogance.

Ahem…They are faulty from your point of view. I doubt if your answer is the one that would satisfy all denominational differences.

But I’m glad you have an answer to the problem from your own viewpoint.

:grin:… Agreed , but the heart of the question is really … "are these things rightfully called evil "

The end game " if God exists why can’t we live forever " . " Why do things suffer " etc etc …

Why not design a perfect existence without things to complain about , yes ?

I have not missed some fundamental point have I?

Please correct me if I’m mistaken , I’m no great mind or exceptional in any way , I accept I have limitations …
But generally it’s the atheist perspective :
God can’t exist and be all loving , all knowing , and all powerful if things we don’t like happen.

Right ?


I’m a unitarian universalist and I’m inclined to think the triune Omni- statements are not particularly credible.

I think all-aware and all-love is more than enough for any God-like being.

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Considering we don’t even own our bodies , at best we rent them for about 80 years on average .

And that we are the ant complaining about the lawnmower breaking up our anthill …

It seems " shut up and be happy you whiney children " would be an appropriate response by God in my humble opinion lol

As I said before, some denominations would find your view agreeable, and some would not. You seem unwilling to consider your views as less than universally acceptable.

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