Book Review: Evil and the Justice of God

The 10th anniversary of September 11th, 2011 is just around the corner.

When tragedies like this occur, what sort of questions do people ask about God?  Most of us ask "Why" questions.  "Why did God let this happen?  Why didn't God stop it?"  And, to our consternation, God doesn't seem to answer these "Why" questions.

This astute observation from NT Wright launches his Evil and the Justice of God.  God doesn't tell us why evil exists, at least not clearly or conclusively.  But through and throughout the Bible God does tell us what he's doing about evil.  God resists evil, limits evil, defeats evil and, ultimately, removes evil.

Throughout Evil and the Justice of God, Wright combines attention to the biblical narrative with theological depth and practical guidance.  This is one of the best books on the problem of evil I've ever read.

In the first chapter, he reflects on the way people nowadays wrestle with evil. 
In the next two chapters, he traces God's opposition to evil throughout the Bible.
In Chapter 4, Wright examines how God will finally rid the world of evil.
In the final chapter, Wright evaluates the role forgiveness plays in our thinking about evil.
He covers a lot of ground in five chapters and 165 pages!

Why you should read this book ...

Most of our responses to the problem of evil jump quickly to philosophy and theodicy (see CS Lewis' excellent The Problem of Pain or Henri Blocher's Evil and the Cross) or to pastoral concerns (see Lewis' A Grief Observed or the second half of Vanauken's A Severe Mercy).  But balancing the two has proved tricky.  Carson does it well in How Long, O Lord?, but few others do.  Wright nails it.

At some point, our answers to why God allows evil sound hollow.  The question behind the question is really "Does God care about the evil in the world?"  Reading Evil and the Justice of God will help you see how God demonstrates his concern about evil: first through Israel, then through the Church, but ultimately through Christ and the cross.

One last thought, Wright's chapter on forgiveness does as good a job as I've ever read connecting God's work in the world with our responsibility to forgive.  If you've ever wondered why Jesus was so adamant that his people would extend forgiveness to each other ("Forgive us our trespasses as we've forgiven those who trespass against us") ... this book will help you.  You may actually put the book down and reflect on a relationship that's been broken ... and respond in a way that you didn't think possible.

What resources have shaped your thinking about evil and the justice of God?

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