Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review: "If God, Why Evil?" (Norman Geisler)

TITLE: If God, Why Evil? (a new way to think about the question)
AUTHOR: Norman L Geisler
PUBLISHER: Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2010.

If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the QuestionThis is a very clearly presented book set out to defend the theistic perspective of God, evil and the nature of suffering. It uses simple language that can be readily understood by the layperson. It will be helpful especially those without much training in philosophy or theology. Using step by step 'handrails' to guide the reader through the arguments and counter-arguments, one can easily navigate through the flow of arguments. In ten chapters, Geisler deals with the different views of evil, the nature, origin, persistence, purpose, miracles, and many of the common difficult challenges facing people who are genuinely concerned about evil and suffering in this world. Each chapter contains brief examples for quick appreciation.

The last three appendices comprise of materials that cover animal deaths, proving the existence of God, and a book critique of The Shack. They do not seem to fit into the overall flow of the book. Yet, they are somewhat relevant to the topic of suffering. They are helpful chapters, but I feel are not necessary toward the overall thesis of the book. What surprises me is the way Geisler squeezed into the appendices a sharp critique of Paul Young's The Shack.

My Comments
What is amazing about this book is that it treats the topic sensitively and clearly, without sacrificing the breadth of coverage. My main critique is that Geisler fails to include more of the alternative arguments from the standpoint of the questioner. For example, in arguing the Best Possible World theory, what about the arguments against this? At times, I feel like Geisler is over-enthusiastic to present his side of the story, that he understates the 'other point of view.' I believe Geisler is right on many fronts. Yet, I get the feeling that this book will appeal more to the converted, rather than one that will convince the unbeliever. Having said that, I believe God is perfectly capable of defending Himself. I prefer to see this book as a readable  introductory resource for new students in the field of theodicy.

So what is exactly 'new' in this book's re-thinking of the question of evil? If there is anything particularly new, it will be the manner in which the author lays out the problem, identifies the flaws in the premises, and to modify the way the question needs to be re-stated. Nevertheless, this book is a valuable resource to introduce the dilemma of evil and suffering, to lay out the Christian position, and as God enables, to encourage those going through difficult periods of their lives. This book is an excellent choice for teaching an appreciation-level layman class on apologetics and suffering.


"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

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