The Raving Theist

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God Squad Review CLXXI (Natural Evil)

June 12, 2006 | 10 Comments

A Squad reader who lost a leg to bone cancer at age 12 has “a problem with people who believe God allows adversity in their lives.” I have a problem seeing how his logic could support anything but the opposite conclusion:

I don’t believe God visited this malady on me. I believe He created natural law. The cancer came about through His natural law. The cancer cells were obeying natural law. I’m sure God knew this would happen and could see the life choices I would make as a result of losing a leg.

Seems to be more that just “allowing” adversity — the problem has been planned down to the last detail, including the victim’s reaction to it. The reader then backtracks a bit, asserting that God also knew he had the “tools” to deal with the disability but that it was his “choice to use my God-given talents or not.” Does the Squad think, he asks, that this mass of contradictions represents “flawed thinking”? Of course not:

You have a very mature, wise and theologically sophisticated view of the problem of theodicy, a fancy term for the problem of why bad things happen to good people.

The idea that adversity is punishment is sometimes plausible, but not in your case. Obviously, there is a connection when people who smoke become gravely ill, when those who overeat and fail to exercise become diabetic, or when those who steal land in jail. However, what happens to such people is not so much punishment from God as the consequence of unhealthy or immoral behavior.

God has set before us all two paths — a path of righteousness and faith and a path of unhealthy physical and spiritual behavior. It’s our choice to walk in the path of righteousness. It’s also our choice and sad fate to bear the burden of our moral lassitude if we choose the wrong path.

Your bone cancer, however, was not the result of any bad choices you made. It’s an example of “natural evil,” as opposed to “moral evil.” You rightly understand that in such a case, God walks with you and helps you through your faith and trust in Him.

Actually, bone cancer sometimes kills people no matter what “tools” they’ve been given and no matter what trust they place in God. As do speeding cars operated by hit-and-run drivers, some of whom are never caught and live long, happy lives. And God occasionally gives smokers the “tools” to somehow avoid lung cancer, while depriving non-smokers of that same immunity.

So the whole “tool” analysis seems shaky. Moreover, if the ability to cope with bone cancer is a tool, so is the ability to cope with the urge to smoke or overeat. Calling a lack of will power a “choice” is questionable — it’s at least as likely that God selects those who will capitulate to it just like he plans out the progress of cancer in children.


10 Responses to “God Squad Review CLXXI (Natural Evil)”

  1. Thorngod
    June 12th, 2006 @ 9:12 am

    The obvious conclusion that the god they believe in is a very clever sadist seems never to occur to them.

  2. franky
    June 12th, 2006 @ 9:38 am

    Of course not Throngod, he’s a just, loving, kind god afterall. That’s why only the right people are amputees. Plus, that three hand baby in China does not mean he’s a sadist either. His way is mysterious…and all that jazz.

  3. June
    June 12th, 2006 @ 10:41 am

    How is cancer a “natural evil”?

    Cancer cells are God’s creatures with a right to live, multiply, and metastasize. Killing a human may simply be Cancer’s way of praising God.

    When Abraham sacrifices a sheep, I’m sure the lamb’s mother considers Abraham to be evil!

  4. Rowan
    June 12th, 2006 @ 7:51 pm

    “I don’t believe God visited this malady on me. I believe He created natural law. The cancer came about through His natural law. The cancer cells were obeying natural law. I’m sure God knew this would happen and could see the life choices I would make as a result of losing a leg.”

    …hang on . That means God did visit this malady on you. You said it yourself. He created natural law; and he knew that a consequence of this would be you getting cancer.
    They just don’t get it. God knows EVERYTHING. That means God planned everything, That means it’s all going to God’s plan. And THAT means that God is responsible for everything. Life is good and bad; so doesn’t that mean that God is responsible for the good and bad?

  5. Thom
    June 12th, 2006 @ 8:43 pm

    I wonder where the the Divine Duo – Lily and Chris Treborn – are on this one? I wonder what they would have to say about this? She must have done something do deserve the loosing a leg. Maybe it was a test? But why would God need to test anyone if he knew the result the very second he imagined this test? Why put someone through this agony? For his amusement? Maybe, like thorngod said, hes a clever sadist. I think this option is much more likely than the idea that he is omnibenevolent. What kind of moral example is God when he damns seemingly good people like this woman to lives of pain and hardship? No, I think this sky-fairy they call their God was never there to begin with.

  6. Some Guy
    June 12th, 2006 @ 11:13 pm

    If God is all-loving and all-powerful couldn’t he just make it so we dont’ get cancer. Think of all the natural evil occuring that God could easily stop. Stray kittens dying of the cold! Puppies drowning during hurricane Katrina–PUPPIES for crying out loud!!

    Maybe he’s just not all-caring.

  7. erie miller
    June 13th, 2006 @ 5:54 am

    hey, i kinda like this “natural evil” concept. it follows that god granted free will to nature, too. that certainly simplifies his (her?) job, huh?

    birds crap on you, bees sting you, cancer kills you.

    June 13th, 2006 @ 7:38 am

    Ah yes —- another perfect example where they have to jump through hoops to explain something that MAKES PERFECT SENSE IN A GODDLESS, NATURAL UNIVERSE.

    I don’t know which is worse — those two revered theologians with their convoluted advice or the poor suckers who try to give god a break for the horrible maladies they’ve gone through.

    I sure wish that I had the responsibilities bestowed upon god … I do right I get praised, I do bad and I still get praised – priceless!

  9. Baker Street Sax Solo
    June 13th, 2006 @ 7:19 pm

    “Theodicy” – didn’t realise it had a name.

    I had cancer when I was a child. I had a whole nunnery praying for me, apparently. Then it relapsed. Do I blame the nuns? They seemed like nice, well-meaning, deluded old women. Perhaps they were secretly Satanists. Do I blame God for not listening to the nuns? Do I thank God I am still alive? I wish I could ask those nuns now. Perhaps someone could explain? I am a good person. I want some theist to explain to me why God is responsible for my survival but not my illness, and if he is responsible for neither – what makes him a God?

    I think it’s a simple question really. Only medical science is responsible for my survival. Someone in my position 100 years ago would be dead – nothing but science to thank for that. If a God is responsible for my illness, then I really don’t want to worship the sicko!

  10. a different tim
    June 14th, 2006 @ 12:23 pm

    Book of Job.

    My summary: “God will allow to be visited whatever torments he likes on you, whether you’re righteous or not, for any reason he chooses, such as in order to win a bet with the Devil. God’s gambling habit is more important than you or the lives of your loved ones and family pets. Fuck you”.

    Of course, I may be biased in this interpretation :)

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