Christianity is the only belief-system that has any answers to the problem of evil. Hence, we blow a great opportunity when we fumble the question.
i) Islam denies original sin. Hence, it has no explanation for the universality of sin.
ii) Hinduism refers evil to reincarnation. This explanation has its own internal difficulties. It begs the question of how the cycle got started in the first place. And if we don’t remember our past lives, then how can we learn from our mistakes and do better the next time around.
Hinduism and Buddhism also tend to treat the sensible world as illusory or delusive. But this only pushes the question back a step, for you must then account for the illusion.
iii) Buddhism counsels radical detachment in the face of evil and suffering. This treats the symptom by dehumanizing the subject. We became numb in the face of evil.
iv) Secularism blames moral evil on our predatory ancestry. But predators don’t regularly kill members of their own species. And if this analysis were correct, then evil would be insoluble since it is programmed into our genes.
There is also the Marxist diagnosis, which, even if otherwise accurate, only pushes the problem back a step by failing to explain why the haves oppress the have-nots in the first place.
i) Traditionally, theodicy distinguishes between moral and natural evil. The freewill defense, even if otherwise valid, is logically accessory to moral evil rather than natural evil.
ii) One attempt to extend the freewill defense to natural evil is to attribute natural evil to consequences of the fall. This makes sense with respect to disease and certain forms of death (by aging, illness, and crime).
iii) It makes less sense with respect to natural disasters. In general, hurricanes, tornadoes, tidal waves, volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, and wildfires are not intrinsically evil. They are either side-effects of something else, or function as a natural safety-value for releasing and equalizing the build-up internal pressures or thermal invariances in the natural world.
It some cases it’s just a difference of degree—water is good, too much water, or too little, is bad.
Is fire good or bad? It all depends.
What makes a natural disaster an evil is not its intrinsic character, but its relation to human life and livelihood.
iv) Attributing a natural disaster to the sin of Adam or the agency of Satan is a rather ad hoc explanation.
a) A robust doctrine of original sin is incompatible with the freewill defense. Those who affirm freewill deny that original sin is that debilitating.
b) Scripture does not attribute natural disaster to the devil. That would turn the devil into some sort of storm-god of the kind worshipped by idolaters.
Moreover, it only pushes the problem back a step. If the devil lies behind a natural disaster, who lies behind the devil? Is God not in control of the devil?
c) Another possible move is to attribute natural disaster to divine judgment. This strategy has the merit of some Scriptural precedent. However, collective guilt is ill-suited to the freewill defense.
v) I have no reason to assume that a natural disaster could not occur in an unfallen world. What would not occur are human fatalities as a result of natural disaster.
God would warn us, or shield us. Or perhaps we’d be so technologically advanced that we could regulate nature and divert a hurricane away from a population center.
For some reason, there are ministers who feel that any dumb answer will do so long as it is long on warm-fuzzies.
But this simply won’t do. The laity are not a bunch of five-year-olds. Many laymen have advanced degrees in intellectually demanding fields of study. This habit of talking down to the laity is a sorry excuse for pastoral ministry.
For that matter, unbelievers aren’t stupid either. And when they hear stupid answers, they feel justified in the contempt for the faith.
It’s revealing that when an Osteen or Warren or Campolo publicly misrepresents the Christian faith, you have folks who rush to their defense and put words in their mouth.
Now, one could make allowance for flubbing the answer if they were out of character. But when someone has a track-record of sloppy theology, why give him the benefit of the doubt?
And, more to the point, why is the priority to defend human falsehood rather than divine truth?