Group Prospectus: Natural and Humanistic Evil

The Book of Job provides a paradigmatic lens with which to consider the existence of both natural calamity and human atrocity through the occurrence of each within the story. Similar examples of each type of disaster in modern history are the Holocaust of World War II, which parallels the humanist evil Job faced when the men destroyed his flock as well as the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010, correlating to the wind that lead to the collapse and death of his family. In Job’s case, the ultimate question of why must the good suffer has been repeatedly been considered. In the same sense, why would such catastrophic occurrences happen to the Jewish people of the 20th Century, as well as the people of Haiti in the 21st?

Thomas Aquinas defines evil as the absence or privation of good in his Summa Theologica, while calamity is universally defined as an event causing great and often sudden damage or distress; a disaster. In Augustine’s On Free Choice of Will, “evil” is ultimately attributed to man. Augustine argues that God is perfectly good, and the only way to share that goodness is to allow others to do good by the free will He gives them. The problem of free will is that misused it creates a mockery of good, or allows good to not be done, thus evil “existing.” God maintains His perfect goodness by punishing evil, and even being merciful in said punishment.

He shall act like a smelter and purger of silver; and he shall purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver.” –Malachi 3:3

In this verse God is described as a silversmith, one who holds man in the fire and refines them like gold and silver. From this it could be argued that God uses natural disasters, or natural suffering, to bring about Godly characteristics. A silversmith must burn impurities out of the silver until it has mirror like qualities. The God of the Bible claims to be the ultimate source of virtue and what is good. God uses suffering and adversity to develop virtues in man, a reflection of His own characteristics. Careful scrutiny of these sources will enable a more fulfilling and well-rounded investigation to ultimately address many of these problematic circumstances and events.

In terms of the media portion and presentation of the project, we have rough ideas about a possible video montage or interview collection. Each would somehow seek to highlight the “split” between the two types of disasters investigated within the paper. As the project progresses, these ideas will become more specific and focused and thus are subject to change.

Group Members: Jordan Barton, Michael Thompson, Kevin Rooney, Ben Ward and Leah Watkins


About Ben Ward

Ben Ward is sophomore at the University of Kentucky, majoring in Architecture and minoring in English.
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6 Responses to Group Prospectus: Natural and Humanistic Evil

  1. suzimills says:

    How are you approaching this? Are you saying God, man, or both are in control? I understand you are giving arguments for both natural calamity and human atrocity, but how is this suppose to help clarify our present problems? How does this tie into theodicy or prophesy? I like the use of free will and how misuse causes problems (I might steal part of this argument for my research). I think your media presentation is going to be difficult to formulate, unless you can find good interviews. You have a great idea, and I cannot wait to see what you come up with.

  2. suzimills says:

    Group names: Da’keisha, Ashley, Brandon, Susan, Suzi

  3. Kristina Strine says:

    So far I think you all have an interesting topic! I think that your argument that God uses natural disasters and suffering such as the earthquake, holocaust, and the examples found in Job to help develop one’s virtue or character is an excellent point of view. I’ve never really thought about unfortunate events in that light before. I also agree with what Suzi mentioned in the post above about your multimedia ideas. I’m feel like it will be difficult to find useful interviews on the internet for the events of the holocaust just because it isn’t as recent of an event as the earthquake…but unless you know people who you can interview yourself it would definitely be beneficial! But I do think a video montage would work out great for your topics. Hope everything all works out, Gook Luck!

    Kristina Strine, Mary Sticklen, Bethany Schuler, Taylor, Matt Thomas

  4. cmweid2 says:

    Great topic! I love your analysis of the verse from Malachi to describe why God does what he does and why these bad things happen. One thing my dad has always said is God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle, and I’m reminded of this with your topic focus. Something to consider is the numerous possibilities of other resources you could include; maybe news articles, EBSCOhost journals, theological philosophies, etc.
    This is an interesting topic and I am intrigued by your perspective. Can’t wait for the end product.

  5. Pam says:

    I like your theological approach to the problem. In your work on Aquinas and Augustine, are you going to condition their theology as being Christian and explain how that differs from the theology of the Old Testament? The other question that I’ve been asking since posting on Job is what is evil? Job’s troubles were bad things happening to a good guy, were they not? The earthquake in Haiti is an example of natural calamity. But the Holocaust, how could that be categorized as anything but evil incarnate? I’m just wondering if you are going to make any differentiation.

    However, I want to add that you proposal has a great scholarly feel to it for being a multi-media (I mean “modal”) and group project. I’m really just asking questions I’d like the answers to. Good luck!

  6. 00mattthomas00 says:

    I am very intrigued by your topic. It is actually similar to the ideas we are using for our presentation. The question of the existence of evil, whether it be in the form of a natural disaster or a human action, is an intense subject. As the previous post was saying, journal articles might be very helpful to your resource gathering. I have found handy analytical articles about this subject. I look forward to the finished product. Pura Vida!

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