Book review: Evil and the Justice of God

by N. T. Wright


Wright tackles the age-old problem of evil (why does God allow evil to happen?), but with a little bit of a twist. Wright does not discuss natural evil, and there is little attempt to explain or justify personal evil. No wishy-washy explanations, such as the typical argument that God allows evil because it creates circumstances in which virtue can flourish. Rather, Wright focuses on what God is doing about evil. Remember: the prophets repeatedly promised a coming age when the world would be rid of evil. Can we even imagine such a world?

First, if you’re tempted to pronounce judgment on God for all the evils in the world, you’re too late; God has already served his sentence on the cross. But the gospels tell us more; they insist that Jesus overcame evil on the cross. That is some strange theology, no matter how you approach it. How does succumbing to evil prove victorious over it, and why doesn’t it feel like evil has been conquered?

The key to the whole topic is understanding the role of forgiveness. Both the forgiveness of God and our own forgiveness of others. The justice of God is not vengeance; it is granting us a measure of the forgiveness Jesus showed, so that the evil of others cannot hold us hostage. A perfect age is coming, but we cannot embrace it until we have outgrown our bitterness over what others have done to us, conquering evil in the same manner as Jesus.

Dang, that’s deep. I really was hoping we could just hunt evil down and kill it. Good book, by the way, though not as scholarly as I’ve come to expect from Wright.

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