Contemporary Christians may hesitate to assign a direct connection between particular natural disasters and sins. Yet many still believe that the reason for the existence of natural disasters in general is punitive and a direct consequence of early human disobedience in the Garden.
As harsh as that may sound to some, the alternative seems bleaker from a religious perspective. If natural disasters are not anyone’s fault, human or divine, wouldn’t that mean these catastrophes are also without purpose, just another tragic event reflecting the fragility of our lives? If God isn’t using natural disasters to punish disobedient creatures, why does He allow them at all?
One historically significant answer finds divine purpose in natural horrors””without those horrors signifying punishment. This year marks the 300th anniversary of Gottfried Leibniz’s “Theodicy,” which remains one of the grandest attempts to prove the goodness and justice of a God who created an evil-soaked cosmos like ours. Most affecting was his claim that our world is, in fact, the best world that God could have made (so don’t complain!), which sounds either crudely optimistic or despairingly pessimistic.