Monday, March 4, 2013


God and Evil: The case for God in a world filled with pain. Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr., eds. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013. 360 pp. $20.00. ISBN 978-1-8308-3784-7

            The problem of evil, as Peter Kreeft mentioned in his book touching on this very problem, is the only good argument that can be brought against the existence of God.[1] As such, it is a problem that deserves the attention of every Christian thinker, and it is a problem that has been given the attention of almost every great Christian thinker throughout the history of the church. This book is an interesting and unique addition to the long list of writings that already address the problem of evil in that it compiles the work of a number of contemporary Christian thinkers into one volume. Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr. have worked together to edit and compile 19 different essays, and the transcript of a debate between William Lane Craig and Michael Tooley, all of which prone different approaches to the problem of evil. The proposed purpose of this book is “to provide reasonable answers to these kinds of questions [questions concerning evil and God] and to present various ways evangelical Christians have wrestled with the issues.”[2] The various essays are divided into four different groups. The first group looks at the different kinds of evil that are considered by the problem of evil, and suggest responses to these particular problems. Part two considers two different manners of approaching the problem of evil, with articles that offer either defenses or theodicies. Part three considers different subjects that interact with the problem of evil and God. Finally, part four puts gives different perspectives on different ways of approaching the problem of evil. The Craig-Tooley debate is in the appendix.

             Due to the nature of this book (a compilation of 19 articles and a debate transcript) I will not be interacting, in this book review, with the views expressed by each of the authors. As far as the organization and purpose of the book is concerned, this book is impeccable. The editors effectively presented a number of contemporary approaches to the problem of evil, and organized them appropriately. The book includes articles by some of the most important contemporary evangelical thinkers, including Gregory Ganssle, Garry DeWeese, R. Douglas Geivett, Paul Copan, Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig and William Dembski. The book contains a table of contents, an index of proper names, and an index of subjects which makes this a book a great reference tool for further research, as well as a great choice for required reading in a course on Christian apologetics or the problem of evil. The only possible drawbacks, which is probably not any fault of the editors, is that some very important contemporary views on the problem of evil, such as those advanced by  Alvin Plantinga and John Hick, were not represented (though they are mentioned in some of the articles), although we are introduced to Augustinian and Irenaean theodicies, we are not introduced to Aquinas’s answer to the problem of evil (though, as with Plantinga and Hick, Aquinas is mentioned in passing) and some of the articles that were included in the book seemed to be weak and difficult to follow. Even with these critiques the book is still one of the most complete books concerning contemporary evangelical views of the problem of evil and related subjects that can be found.

            The book begins with an interesting article by Gregory E. Ganssle and Yena Lee that gives an interesting response to the evidential problems of evil posited by Rowe and Draper. Ganssle and Lee base their critique upon what is called skeptical theism, and arguments about probability. James K. Dew Jr. gives an analysis, exposition and refutation of the main, and most well-known, logical arguments from evil against the existence of God. Bruce Little presents some interesting critiques of the way that the Greater good theodicies attempt to resolve the problem of evil, and attempts to outline a more appropriate way of explaining evil that is able to take gratuitous evil into consideration. This is followed up by an article by Garry DeWeese in which he presents an argument that attempts to explain natural evil in the same way that the free-will defense explains moral evil. He calls it the Free-Process defense and founds it upon the concept of a dynamic world and the phenomenon of chaos systems. We are then introduced to the different solutions to the problem of evil that have been advanced by Augustine, Irenaeus and Leibniz. Paul Copan addresses, in two chapters, the related problems of where moral evil came from, and original sin. The next couple of articles in this third section all address issues that create what we might call the personal problem of evil.[3] They include articles touching on the hiddenness of God (C. S. Lewis notes this uncomfortable reality in A Grief Observed, when he says that “But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become.”[4]), Prayer and evil, and the psychological problem of evil in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The section is completed with a number of interesting articles touching on how other worldviews deal with the problem of evil, how the New Atheists deal (or don’t deal) with the problem of evil, and how the fact that we recognize the reality of evil is actually a good reason to think that God exists.

            The final section contains two articles that discuss, from two different perspectives (Craig presents an argument for a form of exclusivism, Blanchette and Walls argue for a form of Inclusivism) the question of Hell (and eternal punishment) and how it contributes to the problem of evil, and the question of evolution in its relation to the problem of evil. William Dembski argues that evolution does not help answer the problem of evil, and Karl W. Giberson and Francis S. Collins argue that it does. This section is followed up the by transcript of the Craig-Tooley debate which includes a summary analysis of Tooley’s own argument against the existence of God from the evidential problem of evil.

            All things considered this book is a wonderful addition to the library of any contemporary apologist, pastor and philosopher. Furthermore this book provides material that could be used in any number of introductory courses, including a course on the problem of evil, or Christian apologetics.

[1]Peter Kreeft, Making Sense Out of Suffering (Ann Arbor, MI : Servant Books, 1986), 30.

[2]Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr., eds. God and Evil: The case for God in a world filled with pain (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), 9.

[3]C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (1940; repr., New York: HarperCollins, 2000), preface. Though he doesn’t use these exact terms, Lewis, in his preface, distinguishes between the intellectual problem of evil, which he will be answering, and the problem of evil when it is experienced by the individual person.

[4]C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (1961; repr., New York : HarperCollins, 2000), 6.