Monday, September 03, 2012

BookPastor >> "Evil and the Justice of God." (NT Wright)

This book review was first published at Yapdates here on June 5th, 2007.


TITLE: Evil and the Justice of God
AUTHOR: Nicholas T. Wright
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2006, (176 pages).

No theologian is ever a theologian if he/she does not tackle head on, at some point of their life, the problem of evil and the goodness of God. NT Wright, a world renowned scholar is one who recently tackled this in his book "Evil and the Justice of God" (IVP, 2006). At 176 pages over five chapters, Wright gives a broad overview of the past attempts by different quarters in explaining the problem of evil. He bemoans the present postmodern ideas of dualism and progressivism (that things will get better and better), arguing that they are inadequate. He challenges Christians at the present to think Christianly in terms of three recognitions:

  1. To recognize the flaw that assumes Western type democracy is perfect, complete, or a climax of a long drawn process of wise noble libertarianism.
  2. To recognize that there is a deep dimension of evil in this world.
  3. To recognize the line between good and evil is not simply between 'us' and 'them' but through everyone of us.

An interesting suggestion Wright makes is in terms of imagining a world without evil. This is a cogent thought as it broadens our typical approach to 'explain' into the realm of imagination. Our imagination needs to be educated, and one way is through the arts which can help us to integrate heart, mind and soul on the matter.
Art at its best not only draws attention to the way things are but to the way things are meant to be, and by God's grace to the way things one day will be, when the earth is filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea. And when Christian artists go to that task they will be contributing to the integration of heart, mind and soul which we seek, to which we are called. They will be pointing forward to the new world God intends to make, to the world already seen in advance in the resurrection of Jesus, to the world whose charter of freedom was won when he died on the cross. (p128)
Finally, Wright urges for the understanding of evil in the light of the cross of Christ, of which we see a forgiveness in ourselves and others. Wright recommends three books, namely Miroslav Volf's Exclusion and Embrace, Gregory Jones's Embodying Forgiveness and Desmond Tutu's No future without forgiveness. Volf's argument is that one must face and name evil head on when dealing with international relations or one-to-one personal relations, to identify and then embrace. Jones touches the pastoral and personal details while Tutu brings in practical and political perspectives. Wright concludes by mentioning three ways to be able to be delivered from evil.
1) The death of Jesus of Nazareth at the cross has confronted and dealt with evil once and for all, that evil has already been defeated once and for all.
2) At the cross of Jesus, lies forgiveness that will release (not relief) us from guilt
3) The cross of Christ is the final victory over the forces of evil, and will usher in the new world eventually, a world with a future.

What about forgiveness in terrible evils done in the past, like the Holocaust? Wright puts it very pastorally, saying that the present ill-feelings over the evils committed will also be healed in the eschatological future. One will indeed find true forgiveness eventually in our new resurrection bodies. The physical, the mental pain of unresolved anger and bitterness will be dissolved, as one allows oneself to be forgiven and to forgive. I like his articulation which I reproduce below:

"The quest for a solution is not a quest for the intellectually satisfying answer to the problem of why evil is there in the first place. Rather, the quest for a solution to the problem of evil is a seach for ways in which the healing, restorative justice of the Creator God himself - a justice which will one day suffuse the whole creation - can be brought to bear, in advance of that ultimate reality, within the present world of space, time, matter and messy realities in human lives and societies." (p149-150)
In a nutshell, forgiveness is only possible in the power of the Cross. I agree.


No comments:

Latest Posts