NT Wright is one of the leading New Testament scholars working anywhere in the world today, and probably has the highest profile of any. He is Bishop of Durham, and lectures regularly at all the major US and UK academic and theological establishments.
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A short but comprehensive book covering such topics as why evil still matters today, why we shouldn't offer glib answers to the problem of suffering and evil, and what Christians can and ought to be doing about it.
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As ever written in a readable style, Wright is in command of his subject and has some very interesting insights. Necessarily he skims over some areas, normally noting "I have written more extensively on this elsewhere" but annoyingly not giving a note about where (at least not in the kindle version.)
Some of his ideas about the centrality of forgiveness in the life of the disciple are very interesting.
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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
The Wright/Right Approach24 Nov. 2006
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N. T. Wright summarizes the subject of evil in the world, and how God allows it, and what he has done and is doing about its continuing presence. This is not an exhaustive treatment of the subject, but it is certainly a provacative and well thought out discussion of evil. Wright says that he was attempting to deal with the meaning of the cross and found that he had to deal with the subject of what does the cross do about evil? This book starts out by recognizing and pointing out some of the obvious problems of evil in the world. He shows that evil is not just found in so-called evil people, but runs potentially down the middle of all of us. He also shows how that evil is in the world as exemplified by such things as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis.
Bishop Wright the biblical origins of evil by beginning in Genesis and then carrying the thread throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and then the New Testament. He asks the question, what can God do about evil? He speaks of the cross, resurrection, and life in the Spirit as being God's reversal of evil in God's New Creation that began according to John 20:1 "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark..." when Mary came to the tomb and found it empty. The author in no way encourages Christians to ignore the problem of evil, but rather invites us to imagine a world without evil and to pray for God's will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven and deliver us from evil. This is not a light weight treatment of the subject, but this book is not difficult reading. There is not any highly technical language so anyone could read and understand this book. I recommend it highly. God bless.
115 of 125 people found the following review helpful
A Practical, Christian Approach to Contemporary Evil12 Dec. 2006
Cameron B. Clark
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Wright's book was developed out of five lectures he delivered at Westminster Abbey in 2003 and, in summary form, through a television program which first screened in the U.K. on Easter Day 2005. Its approach is biblical, practical, even intuitive, but not philosophical. As he states in his preface after reflecting on the recent natural disasters caused by tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes and the 9/11 attacks: "They are a reminder that 'the problem of evil' is not something we will 'solve' in the present world, and that our primary task is not so much to give answers to impossible philosophical questions as to bring signs of God's new world to birth on the basis of Jesus' death and in the power of his Spirit, even in the midst of 'the present evil age.'" This primary task underlies Wright's approach to what he calls, in chapter 1, 'the new problem of evil'. The old problem was a metaphysical question, asking why evil exists if there is a wise, good and supremely-powerful god. Contrary to some, Wright thinks this is a futile question, and one the Bible does not answer in any way satisfying to contemporary philosophers. The new problem in its present metaphysical form, he says, has been around for at least two-and-a-half centuries, beginning with the Lisbon earthquake on All Saints' Day 1755. He agrees with Susan Neiman's assessment in her book, Evil in Modern Thought, that Europe's philosophical history is best understood as people trying to cope or come to terms with evil. This includes Enlightenment-modern thinkers as well as postmodern ones. However, Wright sees the lines of thought that emerge from these attempts to understand the world in general and evil in particular as unsatisfactory. This includes the popular doctrine of automatic progress which, he affirms, post-modernism rightly deconstructed although it too leaves us without any satisfying solution. The 'new problem of evil' leaves us ignoring evil when it doesn't hit us in the face, surprised when it does, and reacting in immature, dangerous ways.
Wright seeks for a biblical, practical solution to evil that focuses on what God has done, is doing (including through us) and will do about evil. His summarizing journey through the scriptures is impressive, and his focus on the healing nature of divine and human forgiveness as rooted in "the victory of the cross" (favoring the Christus Victor theory of the atonement) is welcome. But take the book for what it's worth. It is not a comprehensive or balanced treatment either of the problem of evil or the meaning of Jesus' crucifixion, things which Wright admits in his preface. Although he asks the question "What is evil?" up front, one doesn't get anything like a definition until the middle of the book, in chapter 3: "Evil is the force of anti-creation, anti-life, the force which opposes and seeks to deface and destroy God's good world of space, time and matter, and above all God's image-bearing human creatures" (pg. 89). Again, his approach to evil is not philosophical. If you want to know "the ultimate reason why suffering exists," then see Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor, where Piper offers a Christ-centered one, but don't expect it to be satisfying to many contemporary philosophers.
In addition to Neiman's book, mentioned above, Wright also references C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, Desmond Tutu's No Future Without Forgiveness, and Miroslav Volf's Exclusion and Embrace, among others, the last two relied on to expound on forgiveness in the last chapter. In terms of a recommendation, possibly no greater one can be given than that of Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland: "From now on, it should be the first work consulted by Christian philosophers and theologians working on the problem of evil, and pastors, laypeople and Christian workers should read and internalize the perspective of the book to insure a distinctively biblical approach in ministering to people in the face of evil."
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Wright Responds to Lisbon -- Or Does He?21 Feb. 2007
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Bishop Wright begins his five-part meditation on Evil by refering to well-known horrific events such as the Lisbon earthquake, 9/11, the Sumatra tsunami and Katrina, suggesting that he will deal with the conundrum of "natural evil" as well as the "personal evil" that pervades the world. This promise is not fulfilled, for most of the book focuses on personal evil and how a just God had dealt and will deal with it, and how human beings might relate to it relevantly today. He frames the problem within the framework of the Christus Victor theory, and concludes that "Jesus throughout his public career and supremely at the cross had dealt with it [evil], taken its full force, exhausted it," thereby effectively defeating it. He concludes with some very practical thoughts on what it means to forgive orselves and forgive others. In his presentation Wright dialogues with such luminaries as Susan Neiman,Desmund Tutu, Miroslav Wolf and I. Gregory Jones. Wright's conclusions will not be convincing to all - in what sense can we say the power of evil (natural as well as personal) has been exhausted? -- but as always he is a provocative and pastoral writer, each of whose books I have read with benefit.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Nodding My Head and Knitting My Brow30 Dec. 2011
Daniel and Keren Threlfall
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In Evil and the Justice of God, N.T. Wright unleashes his customary powerful and insightful biblical prowess, combining it with a keen awareness of circumstances today. The book is no ivory tower analysis of a theoretical evil presence. Instead, Wright grapples with the appalling natural tragedies and shocking injustice that rock our world today. He even wrestles with the historical difficulties of genocide and murder that readers of the Old Testament encounter.
Evil and the Justice of God is divided into five chapters:
Chapter 1 -- Evil Is Still a Four-Letter Word: The New Problem of Evil -- Wright discusses the panorama of the problem of evil, including a survey of the postmodern understanding of evil. Chapter 2 -- What Can God Do About Evil? Unjust World, Just God? Here is where Wright explores the Old Testament passages on evil, focusing particularly on Isaiah and Job. Chapter 3 -- Evil and the Crucified God. Chapter three is a survey of the New Testament data, including the atonement. Chapter 4 -- Imagine There's No Evil: God's Promise of a World Set Free. Wright emphasizes a restorative justice perspective when he deals with evil on a global scale. Chapter 5 -- Deliver Us from Evil: Forgiving Myself, Forgiving Others. The book closes on a tone of personal application, encouraging forgiveness, and joy in the ultimate triumph of God over all evil.
Why I Nodded My Head When I Read Evil and the Justice of God
One of the helpful features of the book is the way in which Wright performs a biblical theology of evil. This biblical theology is quite selective. The selectivity, however, while possibly a weakness, may be one of its helpful features, since it brings to the fore some of the most important passages in a discussion of evil.
Also helpful is Wright's handling of evil both on a personal and global scale. In this section, unfortunately, some of his solutions and suggestions, particularly those dealing with global conditions, come across as a hasty addition rather than a thoroughly analysis. The book contains powerful personal application for every believer, as it brings up the issues of forgiveness and justice.
Why I Knitted My Brow When I Read Evil and the Justice of God
In spite of its many virtues, I did come away with some concerns. Here are some of them. Wright seems ambiguous on the status of Satan as a person. He wittily pointed out, that "the feminists never campaign that the satan should be referred to as `she'" But he ended up calling Satan a "quasi-personal force." My reading of Scripture seems to emphasize Satan's personhood, not his "it-hood."
Another knit-brow moment had to do with something that Wright did not say in his section on the atonement. A cursory reading of this chapter leaves the reader with the impression that Christ's death was a final capitulation, albeit a salvific one, to an evil world, rather than a planned, prophesied, and prepared-for sacrifice. I am not questioning Wright's atonement orthodoxy, but I am pining for more comprehensiveness on the from-eternity-past nature of Christ's sacrificial death.
One other features seemed to be missing in the final chapter: a mention of evangelism. If evil is to be truly and righteously confronted in this present world, then surely evangelism would be a part. I found it perplexing the he mentioned art, creativity, political influence, and poverty relief--all of which are good and necessary--but somehow forgot to include evangelism and verbal proclamation of the gospel.
If you read the book expecting to come to the end and breathe a sigh of relief now that you have a pat answer to the whole problem of the evil, you will be disappointed. Evil and the Justice of God is not an "Ah! Finally!" solution; it is instead a thought-provoking study on the topic of evil.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
The Problem Of Evil9 Nov. 2006
Loves To Read
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We all want to know where evil comes from and how to define it in our world. Some have determined that there is an 'axis of evil' and that the world pits the 'good' guys versus the 'evil ones'. This is a gross oversimplification of the problem. N.T. Wright does not try to determine where evil comes from but rather accepts the fact that it exists and that God has worked out a plan to deal with it. The line between good and evil runs down the middle of each one of us individually and God took on the full power of evil on the cross in the person of Jesus and has provided a way for us to deal with it and that way is rooted in forgiveness, both personal and corporate. He shows you how to look at the world the way it will be someday with the absence of evil and work backwards to how you can live that out today. One of the great theologians in the world, N.T. Wright never gives simplistic answers or formulas but gives real world solutions to be lived out as a part of God's redeeming plan for the world. Even if you've read other books on the problem of evil, you will not be disappointed. N.T. Wright always has a fresh viewpoint that's both practical and Biblical.