Why does God allow bad things to happen? How can He if He is good and all-powerful? These questions identify the “problem of evil” that for many people represents a significant challenge to God’s existence—and to personal faith.
Philosophers and theologians recognize two kinds of evil: moral and natural.2 Moral evil stems from human action (or inaction in some cases). Natural evil occurs as a consequence of nature—earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, diseases, and the like.
Natural evil seems to present a greater theological challenge than moral evil does. A skeptic might admit that God can be excused for the free-will actions of human beings who violate His standard of goodness. But natural disasters and disease don’t result from human activity, they reason. Therefore, this type of “evil” must be attributed solely to God. Recent work, however, aimed at reducing cholera in rural Bangladeshi villages suggests how precarious this reasoning can be.3