Evil and the Justice of God by NT Wright

Evil and the Justice of God by NT Wright

After NT Wright completed his seminal work on the resurrection of Jesus: The Resurrection of the Son of God he planned on writing a follow-up on the crucifixion of Christ (what would eventually be The Day the Revolution Began). As he prepared to write that book, tragedy struck as 19 terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners and flew them into civilian targets on the Eastern seaboard of the US. Wright realized he needed to write a book on the problem of evil before he dealt with the cross. This thin (less than 170 page) volume Evil and the Justice of God is Wright’s contribution on the subject of evil and God.

Wright’s book is neither primarily a pastoral nor a philosophical reflection on the problem of evil. It deals with the problem primarily from a cultural and biblical perspective. Wright speaks with such ease, you feel as though you’re sitting with a cup of tea in hand in his living room. This both warmly draws the reader in, but can at times give one the sense that the material is ad hoc and is not as well thought out as one would hope.

The encroachment of evil in the contemporary world has been a significant problem, and yet, Wright notes, it “seems to have taken many people, not least politicians and the media, by surprise.” This is because our cultural philosophy has no answer for evil. Wright identifies that cultural philosophy in one word: progress. What is new, no, what is next holds the highest value (look no further than our cultural worship of youth).

And yet, we should have learned that progress provided no real answers for our hardest questions. How, in light of Auschwitz, could we still be anchored by a philosophical mooring as weak as progress? Our answer has been to project evil outward: to the other, to society, to politics. But a culture of blame is no real solution.

Enter postmodernity, where cynicism reigns: “nothing will get better and there’s nothing you can do about it.” But that is no solution. Worse still, “postmodernity allows for no redemption. There is no way out, no chance of repentance and restoration, no way back to the solid ground of truth from the quicksands of deconstruction.”

Modernism did away with Satan and evil, but the burden of proof lies on the modernist to defend their tenuous construal of reality.

What does the God of the Bible do about evil? Wright takes us on a biblical tour to answer that question.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       3-2-1 Animated Gospel Presentation: A simple five and a half minute gospel presentation by Glen Scrivener. It is clear, thorough, and compelling. I encourage you to watch it and consider using it yourself. 

2.       Why the Internet will Strengthen, Not Hurt the Church: Paul Alexander reflects that "When YouVersion launched there were 12 versions of the Bible available in 2 languages. Today there are more than 1,200 versions of the Bible available in more than 900 languages! YouVersion is working to make God’s Word available to every person on Earth, no matter where they live or what language they prefer."

3.       7 Things Evil is Not: What the Death of My Son Taught Me: This weighty piece by Khaldoun Sweis is worth reading whether you are struggling with suffering or in a time of peace. He shares, "I held my son Enoch’s little hand as he died, and went through a suffering that no words could express. A perpetually wounded heart that would not mend, a broken body for which there is no antidote, or a destroyed home that can never be the same…There are more books and articles on this topic than any other in theology. But because it is so personal, we need to be reminded of the simple truths about it."

4.       Lies About Cultural Awareness: Jared Olivetti, over at Gentle Reformation, elaborates on these four lies: Lie #1 – You can understand a complex subject in a very brief time; Lie #2 – You should understand as many complex subjects as possible; Lie #3 – Your opinion on those many and complex subjects is valid; Lie #4 – You are angry at all the right things. 

5.       Does "Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!" really belong in the Bible? Paul Carter with an excellent reflection on one of the most difficult passages in the Bible, Psalm 137. "They say that the Book of Psalms was the songbook of the early church – but how could anyone who knows and loves Jesus read or sing – let alone pray a sentence like that? We were told to love our enemies; we were told to turn the other cheek – how in the world does this go with that?"