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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108 of 117 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."
51 of 53 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.
32 of 34 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.
27 of 29 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.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A thoughtful, serious-minded and deep philosophical on an ancient and perplexing moral quandary.6 Jan 2007
Midwest Book Review
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Bishop and theologian N. T. Wright presents Evil and the Justice of God, a faith-minded look at the all too real problem of evil in the modern world - child abuse, ethnic cleansing, torture, terrorism, and more. How can the existence God be reconciled with the unarguable presence of such suffering? Is a world in which humanity is delivered from evil possible? Wright puts forth the reasoned philosophy and theology that the problem of evil will only be solved by God's creation of a new world, with new heavens and new earth, and redeemed, renewed human beings ruling over it. Stressing that the continued presence of evil in today's world cannot prevent God's creation of a world free from evil due to the power of forgiveness, intrinsically linked to Jesus Christ's resurrection, Evil and the Justice of God lives up to its title with its measured reasoning supporting Wright's interpretation. Wright also acknowledges the importance of human choices in either becoming part of God's new world, or excluding oneself from it. A thoughtful, serious-minded and deep philosophical on an ancient and perplexing moral quandary.