Alvin Plantinga managed the logical problem of natural evil by the traditional move of assimilating it to moral evil. This dialectical move invites rhetorical flak, but it’s perfectly legitimate in the context of the logical problem. It’s at least epistemically possible that all we have are various species of moral evil.
Let me suggest a different approach to reconciling the existence of natural evil and God. Grant that God can unrestrictedly actualize a naturally perfect world. We are granting that, necessarily, God can actualize a naturally perfect world. Plantinga famously denies this since it is inconsistent with the possibility of universal transworld depravity. But we can concede more than Plantinga does. A naturally perfect world is, as you might guess, a world in which none of the pain and suffering due to natural events occur. There might be natural events such as hurricanes, droughts, pestilence and the like, in naturally perfect worlds, but there is no suffering and pain due natural events. And so there are no natural evils.
Consider the thesis T.
T. Necessarily, God actualizes a naturally perfect world.
Let’s show that T is false. Suppose all of the naturally perfect worlds are in the set S. It follows from T that every possible world is in S.
1.0 Every possible world is in S.
But if every possible world is in S, then there are no worlds that include natural evils.
2.0 There are no worlds W1 that include natural evils.
Let W0 be an extremely valuable, morally perfect and naturally perfect world. W0 is such that, every significantly free instantiated essence freely satisfies the requirements of beneficence in taking every necessary measure to prevent any suffering and pain due to natural events. Since W0 is a morally perfect and a naturally perfect world, W0 is in S.
3.0. W0 is in S.
But if W0 is in S, then W1 is in S. If every agent in W0 is significantly free and freely satisfies the requirements of beneficence in preventing the pain and suffering due to natural events in W0, then there is a possible world W1 in which every significantly free agent freely fails to satisfiy the requirements of beneficence in W0.
4.0 W1 is in S.
But (2) and (4) are obviously inconsistent. Therefore T is false.
5.0 /:. It is not the case that, necessarily, God actualizes a naturally perfect world.
6.0 /:. It is possible that God can actualize a naturally perfect world and God does not actualize a naturally perfect world.
Therefore the existence of God is consistent with the existence of natural evil, which was to be proved.