56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2006
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.
113 of 123 people found the following review helpful
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."
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2007
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.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2006
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.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2011
In Evil and the Justice of God, N.T. Wright unleashes his customary powerful and insightful biblical prowess, combining it with a keen awareness of circumstances today. The book is no ivory tower analysis of a theoretical evil presence. Instead, Wright grapples with the appalling natural tragedies and shocking injustice that rock our world today. He even wrestles with the historical difficulties of genocide and murder that readers of the Old Testament encounter.
Evil and the Justice of God is divided into five chapters:
Chapter 1 -- Evil Is Still a Four-Letter Word: The New Problem of Evil -- Wright discusses the panorama of the problem of evil, including a survey of the postmodern understanding of evil.
Chapter 2 -- What Can God Do About Evil? Unjust World, Just God? Here is where Wright explores the Old Testament passages on evil, focusing particularly on Isaiah and Job.
Chapter 3 -- Evil and the Crucified God. Chapter three is a survey of the New Testament data, including the atonement.
Chapter 4 -- Imagine There's No Evil: God's Promise of a World Set Free. Wright emphasizes a restorative justice perspective when he deals with evil on a global scale.
Chapter 5 -- Deliver Us from Evil: Forgiving Myself, Forgiving Others. The book closes on a tone of personal application, encouraging forgiveness, and joy in the ultimate triumph of God over all evil.
Why I Nodded My Head When I Read Evil and the Justice of God
One of the helpful features of the book is the way in which Wright performs a biblical theology of evil. This biblical theology is quite selective. The selectivity, however, while possibly a weakness, may be one of its helpful features, since it brings to the fore some of the most important passages in a discussion of evil.
Also helpful is Wright's handling of evil both on a personal and global scale. In this section, unfortunately, some of his solutions and suggestions, particularly those dealing with global conditions, come across as a hasty addition rather than a thoroughly analysis. The book contains powerful personal application for every believer, as it brings up the issues of forgiveness and justice.
Why I Knitted My Brow When I Read Evil and the Justice of God
In spite of its many virtues, I did come away with some concerns. Here are some of them. Wright seems ambiguous on the status of Satan as a person. He wittily pointed out, that "the feminists never campaign that the satan should be referred to as `she'" But he ended up calling Satan a "quasi-personal force." My reading of Scripture seems to emphasize Satan's personhood, not his "it-hood."
Another knit-brow moment had to do with something that Wright did not say in his section on the atonement. A cursory reading of this chapter leaves the reader with the impression that Christ's death was a final capitulation, albeit a salvific one, to an evil world, rather than a planned, prophesied, and prepared-for sacrifice. I am not questioning Wright's atonement orthodoxy, but I am pining for more comprehensiveness on the from-eternity-past nature of Christ's sacrificial death.
One other features seemed to be missing in the final chapter: a mention of evangelism. If evil is to be truly and righteously confronted in this present world, then surely evangelism would be a part. I found it perplexing the he mentioned art, creativity, political influence, and poverty relief--all of which are good and necessary--but somehow forgot to include evangelism and verbal proclamation of the gospel.
If you read the book expecting to come to the end and breathe a sigh of relief now that you have a pat answer to the whole problem of the evil, you will be disappointed. Evil and the Justice of God is not an "Ah! Finally!" solution; it is instead a thought-provoking study on the topic of evil.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2007
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.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2007
Bishop Wright does an excellent job of explaining what God is doing about the problem of Evil. He does not get lost in the weeds of why there is evil to begin with, but accepts the fact that evil exists and that God is working through His creation to solve the problem of Evil. Bishop Wright takes us from the Old Testament through the Crucifixion and Resurrection and then asks us to consider what kind of world God wants us to help Him build - what would the world look like if evil wasn't a condition of our existence.
In short, buy this book!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2010
N.T. Wright is easily one of the most prolific and articulate Theologians and writers we have today. He has taken on huge tasks both for preaching and for writing and has made those tasks seem easy to understand. N.T. Wright has a passion for the Risen Christ and making that Christ known. This book is no different in it's depth, breadth and understandability.
Evil and the Justice of God takes on the huge question of "What is evil?" as well as "What's God's response to Evil?" Through this book, Wright takes simply 5 chapters to exegete these theological questions as well as their implications. Although it is a small number of chapters, don't be fooled. It is deep, explanatory as well as rich in content.
I will briefly summarize each chapter so you can get a taste of this book and want more, because it is that good.
Chapter 1- Evil is Still a Four-Letter Word- Wright defines out that evil is still among us, despite the attempts to fool us into thinking it is not. He says: "...people still continue to this day to suppose that the world is basically a good place and that its problems are more or less soluble by technology, education, "development" in the sense of "Westernization,: and the application, to more and more regions, of Western democracy-and, according to taste, of either Western social-democratic ideals or Western capitalism, or indeed a mixture of both" Thinking that these certain things can be the "hero" that fights evil is simply looking for a Saviour in the wrong place. He then concludes this idea with this: "The big question of our time I have argued, can be understood in terms of how we address and live with the fact of evil in our world." Evil is among us, we can see it, we get hit with the effects of it and it is hard to deal with an understand. How will we live having this knowledge? Can we ignore it and live our lives in purposeful ignorance so we don't need to do anything? This, says Wright is the challenge.
Chapter 2- What Can God Do About Evil?- Here, Wright undertakes a quick overview of the entire Old Testament to show how God dealt with evil then, and how God began to unveil His ultimate plan of crushing evil altogether. Wright says of the Old Testament: "It's written to tell the story of what God has done, is doing and will do about evil." Throughout the entire OT, we see evil people oppressing the Israelites and God coming to their defense by crushing the evil pagans who would stand against the Israelites, but Wright reminds us that laced within the whole of the OT is a story of evil that is much deeper than an "us" vs. "them". We have within ourselves this evil that must be crushed, it's not merely those "against us". Wright also shows with great skill how in fact the Old Testament sheds light on God's ultimate goal for evil, and God's ultimate plan for dealing with it.
Chapter 3- Evil and the Crucified God- This, the crescendo of the entire book and Wright's answer to how God will deal with it is amazing. I noticed that Wright, having used 5 chapters, placed this (the most important chapter) dead center...with 2 chapters before it and 2 chapters after it. I don't think this was a mistake, Wright wants the reader to understand that this is the crux, the center of this entire idea of evil and God's justice. You can't ask the question about evil and the justice of God without talking about the crucifixion. N.T. says: "...the story the Gospels are trying to tell us is the story of how the death of Jesus is the point at which evil in all its forms has come rushing together. Jesus' death is the result both of the major political evil in the world...and of the dark, accusing forces which stand behind those human and societal structures, forces which accuse creation itself of being evil, and so try to destroy it while its Creator is longing to redeem it." God's ultimate goal is to redeem this fallen world and he does this through the cross! He goes into much more detail that you have to read. This chapter alone is worth the read; because it is so rich with content.
Chapter 4- Imagine There's No Evil- These next two chapters, I will summarize more quickly. This was simply a chapter getting the picture in their head of a world without the evil that is so prevalent today. Wright defines out the Biblical understanding of the new world and how it applies to us today. It was a chapter of looking at how all of creation corporately will be redeemed in the end and how evil will be broken.
Chapter 5- Deliver Us From Evil- This chapter surrounded the individual. How do we personally deal with evil? How does it effect our lives? Wright says that through forgiveness, all these things can be wiped away. In fact, to quote him, he says: "When we understand forgiveness, flowing from the work of Jesus and the Spirit, as the strange, powerful thing it really is, we begin to realize that God's forgiveness of us, and our forgiveness of others, is the knife that cuts the rope by which sin, anger, fear, recrimination and death are still attached to us."
This is a great book and a poignant read during these evil days. N.T. Wright has much to say about evil, God's plan to deal with it and Jesus' defeat of it. I enjoy how readable this book is, yet without diminishing the deep quality of the thoughts presented. I hope to be able to somehow transform this book into a series for my teens...it's just that good!
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2007
Well written, but I would have to -slightly- agree with (although not entirely) another reviewer about this book being verbose... it is at times hard to follow, and I have found myself rereading a paragraph 2 or 3 times. Perhaps he intended this book to be much larger and in-depth but decided to condense it to 160-some pages.
I would have to commend Wright on his viewpoints on Evil, and he does manage to point out the problem of 'dualism' that is so common in our culture: that we see evil as an outside force, a clear yin and yang, an us and them. The clarity he brings, is that evil runs through all of us, on some level (not in the horror movie or politician derived evil).
Do not mistake this as Wright trying to say that evil is always there, so just accept it... or as an excuse or explanation... rather he points out our connection (each one of us) to evil, and therefore our responsibility to be aware of it and counter it.
"...it is a problem if and when a `Christian' empire seeks to impose its will dualistically on the world by labeling other parts of the world "evil" while seeing itself as the avenging army of God. That is more or less exactly what Jesus found in the Israel of his day. The cross was and remains a call to a different vocation, a new way of dealing with evil and ultimately a new vision of God.
What, after all, would it look like if the true God came to deal with evil? Would he come in a blaze of glory, in a pillar of cloud and fire, surrounded by legions of angels? Jesus of Nazareth took the total risk of speaking as if the answer to the question were this: when the true God comes back to deal with evil, he will look like a young Jewish prophet journeying at Passover time, celebrating the kingdom, confronting the corrupt authorities, feasting with his friends, succumbing in prayer and agony to a cruel and unjust fate, taking upon himself the weight of Israel's sin, the world's sin: Evil with a capital E. When we look at Jesus in this way, we discover that the cross has become for us the new temple, the place where we go to meet the true God and know him as Savior and Redeemer. The cross becomes the place of pilgrimage, where we stand and gaze at what was done for each one of us. The cross becomes the sign that pagan empire, symbolized in the might and power of sheer brutal force, has been decisively challenged by a different power, the power of love, the power that shall win the day."
There's much more to it than I have explained... and it is a very creative intriguing work. Other than the problem with ease of understanding, the reason I gave it 4 stars is how he condensed this work so small, and the way (although he admits it) he brushes over so quickly so many passages from the Old and New Testaments.
I recommend this for anyone, not just Christians, if just for his concept on evil if anything.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2007
...for thinking about evil in light of God's justice. While there is a lot of ambiguity regarding evil and justice, Wright does a great job of navigating through the issues. He does not shirk the tough problems, but with a nuanced understanding, helps to chart a path out the other side. In typical Wright-fashion, he gives broad overviews and then unpacks these dense ideas. A very timely topic: one that helped me to critically engage the issues in current US foreign policy better.