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Posted January 18, 2007

Book: Evil and the Justice of God
Author: N.T. Wright
Inter Varsity Press. Downers Groove, IL. 2006. Pp. 176

Excerpt from the Jacket:

With every earthquake and war, understanding the nature of evil and our response to it becomes more urgent. Evil is no longer the concern just of ministers and theologians but also of politicians and the media.

We hear of child abuse, ethnic cleansing, AIDS, torture and terrorism, and rightfully we are shocked. But N.T. Wright says, we should not be surprised. For too long we have naively believed in the modern idea of human progress. In contrast, postmodern thinkers have rightly argued that evil is real, powerful and important, but they give no real clue as to what we should do about it.

In fact, evil is more serious than either our culture or our theology has supposed. How then might Jesus’ death be the culmination of the Old Testament solution to evil but on a wider and deeper scale than most imagine? Can we possibly envision a world in which we are delivered from evil? How might we work toward such a future through prayer and justice in the present?

These are the powerful and pressing themes that Wright addresses in this book that is at once timely and timeless.

An Excerpt from the Book:

There is a noble Christian tradition which takes evil so seriously that it warns against the temptation to “solve” it in any obvious way. If you offer an analysis of evil which leaves us saying, “Well, that’s all right then; we now see how it happens and what to do about it,” you have belittled the problem. I once heard a leading philosophical theologian trying to do that with Auschwitz, and it was squirmingly embarrassing. We cannot and must soften the blow; we cannot and must not pretend that evil isn’t that bad after all. That is the way back to cheap modernism. As I said earlier, that is the intellectual counterpart to the immature political reaction of thinking that a few well placed bombs can eliminate “evil” from the world. No: for the Christian, the problem is how to understand and celebrate the goodness and God-givenness of creation and, at the same time, understand and face up to the reality and seriousness of evil. It is easy to “solve: the problem by watering down one side or the other, saying either that the world isn’t really God’s good creation or that evil isn’t really that bad after all. What I have argued in this chapter is that the problem isn’t simply a matter of what we think of as philosophy or theology; the failure to address the question lies at the root of our puzzlement about several complex and urgent problems in the immediate political and social spheres.

The questions that ought to be occupying us as a society, never mind as a church, are these: How can we integrate the various insights about evil which the greatest thinkers and social commentators have offered? How can we offer a Christian critique of them where necessary? And how can we tell the Christian story in such a way that, without attempting to “solve” the problem in a simplistic way, we can nevertheless address it in a mature fashion, and in the middle of it come to a deeper and wiser faith in the creator and redeemer God whose all-conquering love will one day make a new creation in which the dark and threatening sea of chaos will be no more?

Table of Contents:

1. Evil is still a four-letter word: the new problem of evil
The new problem of evil
The new nihilism: postmodernity
Toward a nuanced view of evil

2. What can God do about evil?: unjust world, just God?
To renew the blessing
People of the solution, people of the problem
My servant Israel, my servant Job

3. Evil and the crucified God
Rereading the Gospels
Jesus dealing with evil
Early Christian view of evil’s defeat
Results: atonement and the problem of evil

4. Image there’s no evil: God’s promise of a world set free
Interlude: naming the powers
World without evil
The intermediate tasks
Educating the imagination

5. Deliver us from evil: forgiving myself, forgiving others
God’s final victory over evil
Forgiveness in the present