Wednesday, July 31, 2013

HAUERWAS ON NATURAL THEOLOGY AND THE CHURCH: A BOOK REVIEW

With the Grain of the Universe: The Church’s Witness and Natural Theology. Stanley Hauerwas. Baker Academics, 2013. 263 pp. $24.99. ISBN 978-0-8010-4898-2.

            Stanley Hauerwas is the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke University. His work cuts across many domains of research, including philosophical theology, philosophical ethics, and politics. Influenced by Karl Barth, he is not uncritical in his usage of Karl Barth’s theology. This book is the edited version of the Gifford lectures that he delivered at the University of St. Andrews in 2001, with a new afterword that was written 12 years after he first presented his lectures. The book includes an index, and a plethora of footnotes that provide the reader with a wealth of references for further study. It is unfortunate that the book does not come with a bibliography.

The Gifford lectures, established by Lord Gifford, have the purpose of engaging, teaching, critiquing, or promoting knowledge of God that can be gleaned from nature by the unaided human intellect. Some of the greatest thinkers, from the late 1800s to the present time, have been invited to give the Gifford lectures. Stanley Hauerwas, in his Gifford lectures, makes two controversial claims, and then sets out to show the truth of these claims by considering, through a survey of the Gifford Lectures of William James, Reinhold Neibuhr, and Karl Barth, the story of theology in the last century.[1] In this book review I will begin by explaining the argument that Hauerwas is presenting, how he argues it, and whether or not I think he is successful. In explaining how he presents his argument I will give a brief outline of the book.

            Hauerwas sets out to show, first of all, that Karl Barth was the greatest natural theologian to give the Gifford lectures, and secondly, that natural theology, as a domain of research, is impossible without a full doctrine of God.[2] In order to demonstrate, or rather illustrate, his two theses, Hauerwas proposes to tell the story of the development of theology in the twentieth century. It is obvious that in order to achieve such a grand experiment, by considering every step in the development of theology, would require more than the 263 pages that contain Hauerwas’s Gifford lectures. As such, Hauerwas proposes to narrate the story by considering the work of the thinkers that he considers to be the three most influential natural theologians of the twentieth century, William James, Reinhold Neibuhr, and Karl Barth, and how they approached the question of natural theology in their Gifford Lectures.[3] Hauerwas explains, in his introductory lecture, chapter 1, that in order to accomplish his purpose he will need to demonstrate that Christians can be no more than witnesses to the only true God, that the modern conception of natural theology resulted from losing a true notion of what the church is, and that ethics cannot be separated from Christian theology.[4] In other words, no true knowledge of this world is possible without the cross of Christ. “In fact, the God we worship and the world God created cannot be truthfully known without the cross, which is why the knowledge of God and ecclesiology – or the politics called church – are interdependent.”[5] Having established what he will be arguing, he spends the rest of his first lecture explaining why the modern conception of natural theology is erroneous. He calls upon Thomas Aquinas as a witness to the limits of human reason and the relation between reason and revelation. In so doing he makes the controversial claim that natural theology, understood as “a philosophical defense of ‘theism’ as a propaedeutic for any further ‘confessional’ claims one might want to make” is an “enterprise that Aquinas would not recognize.”[6]     

In the following chapters Hauerwas considers the work of James, Neibuhr and Barth. Hauerwas begins his consideration of each of these great thinkers by presenting an objective exposition of their thoughts on theology. This positive exposition is then followed by a chapter in which he presents a critical analysis of their views, and how they affected Christian theology in the twentieth century. As such, in chapter 2 he presents William James’ view of Religion, and how his pragmatism influenced his interaction with Christian theology. Chapter 3 is a critical analysis of James’ theories which seeks to show that James’ natural theology only fournishes a reductionist view of Christianity, and religion in general. Chapter 4 gives us an objective survey of Niebuhr’s theological work and influence. In the following chapter Hauerwas demonstrates that Niebuhr’s dependence on James is the primary cause of his liberal and almost idolatrous Christian theology. Hauerwas approaches Barth, in chapters 6 and 7, with great care, as it is difficult to engage all of Barth’s work. He shows that one cannot divorce Barth’s person from his work, and, interestingly, shows some similarities between Aquinas’s and Barth’s work. He concludes with a call to true Christian witness in a post-modern world. The purpose of this narrative of the development of Christian theology in the twentieth century was to demonstrate the negative affect that natural theology, divorced from a robust doctrine of the Christian God, has on Christian theology. If this thesis had been demonstrated, then Hauerwas would have been able to demonstrate the preliminary thesis, that Barth was the greatest natural theologian to give Gifford Lectures.

In my humble opinion, though he demonstrated that by accepting the naturalistic pragmatism that was latent in William James’ religious psychology Reinhold Neibuhr ended up developing an emasculated natural and Christin theology, and that Barth attempted, somewhat successfully, to bring Christianity back to a robust biblical theology, Hauerwas did not, in any meaning of the word, demonstrate that we must presuppose a full doctrine of Trinitarian Theism in order to engage in any meaningful natural theology.[7] As such, his thesis, that Barth was the greatest natural theologian was not, in my opinion, successfully demonstrated. Rather, an admission that he makes in his introduction essentially predicts the impossibility of proving his thesis that in order to engage in the enterprise of natural theology one must adhere to a full doctrine of God. “The existence of God, then, which can be known by natural reason, is rightly understood as a preamble to the articles of faith, but ‘preamble’ does not mean that the truthfulness of the articles of faith must await for such preambles to be established before their truth can be known.”[8] If the existence of God can be known by natural reason without the aid of divine revelation (the essential claim of natural theology), and thus, without presupposing a full doctrine of God, then it is not necessary to hold a robust doctrine of God in order to do natural theology. If such is the case, then, he did not prove his second thesis, that Barth was the greatest natural theologian.

Though Hauerwas does not succeed, in my humble opinion, in proving his two theses, this does not diminish the value of his book. This book is a joy to read. He gives interesting explanations and critiques of the lives and work of William James, Reinhold Neibuhr, and Karl Barth. Furthermore, this book fully demonstrates the great mind of Stanley Hauerwas, who interacts freely and easily with numerous philosophical and theological traditions. His footnotes are so robust that if he had added them into the main text, the book would have doubled in size. Finally, Hauerwas, in his conclusion, advances notions about the application of Christian theology in our contemporary world that must be considered by anybody who calls themselves a Christian. I would, in fact, highly recommend this book as necessary reading for anyone who is interested in the three great minds that Hauerwas treated, in the natural theology, or in applied Christian ethics.




[1]Stanley Hauerwas, With the Grain of the Universe: The Church’s Witness and Natural Theology (2001; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 9, 22.

[2]Ibid., 9-10, 15, 20, 39.

[3]It may be a bit of a stretch to call William James a natural theologian, however, his Gifford lectures The Varieties of Religious Experience, as Hauerwas points out, have been extremely influential in the formation of contemporary theology.

[4]Though he distinguishes, in passing, the modern and the ancient notions of natural theology, this distinction does not seem to play a role in his argument. In my humble opinion, once that distinction was made he should have made clear that he was considering primarily the modern conception of natural theology. As his argument is presented we are given the impression (which may, in fact, be the truth of the matter) that he is considering natural theology as an intellectual enterprise, both modern and ancient.

[5]Ibid., 17.

[6]Ibid., 25. He bases most of his claims concerning Aquinas’s view of natural theology on the Summa Theologiae, and commentaries on the Summa Theologiae. Though he presents what seems to be a proper understanding of the arguments concerning God’s existence as they are used in the Summa Theologiae, he does not do justice to the way that these same arguments are used in the Summa Contra Gentiles (which certainly seems to present a true natural theology and rational defense of Christian theism), as well as the metaphysical argument that demonstrates the existence of God in De Ente et Essentia. It is true that, for Aquinas, divine revelation is more certain than human reason, however, it is unfair to Aquinas to present this claim without also keeping in mind that, according to Aquinas, it is frequently necessary to use human reason to convince unbelievers of the truth of the Christian faith, and that this is partially due to the way in which humans acquire knowledge (Cf. SCG, tome 1, ch. 2 & 3).

[7]He did demonstrate, quite well, that in order to engage in any meaningful Christian ethics one must presuppose Christian theism.

[8]Ibid., 30.

By the way, check out Stanley Hauerwas's blog at : 
http://stanleyhauerwas.blogspot.ca/

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Some recent thoughts on Van Tillian Presuppositionalism

I had some interesting thoughts last night as I was driving in my car, and have attempted to reproduce them in the two short thoughts that I have posted below. As I am preparing to teach a course on Natural Theology, I am considering a number of different views about natural theology. One predominant view in Christian circles is some form of presuppositionalism. They are not in any type of final format, I'm just throwing them out there for discussion.

One point to keep in mind. Van Tillian presuppositionalism relies on the notion that you either hold to a world view, interpretative system, or you do not. It is a well-known fact that Van Til severely criticized anybody who held a different opinion from his. People that fell under Van Til's sword include Karl Barth (who also claimed to hold to the only true version of Christianity and criticized anybody who disagreed with him), Charles Hodge, C. S. Lewis (that horrible arminian! cf. Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 39), Herman Bavinck, Edward C. Carnell and Gordon Clark. This is while I refer to Van Tillian reformed theology, and not just reformed theology. Hodge's and Barth's different versions aren't true, they accept the viewpoint of fallen man.

Thought # 1:
If presuppositionalism is true, then which version of Christianity must we presuppose? The assumption is that in order to understand anything one must presuppose the truth of biblical Trinitarian Christianity. For Van Til, reformed theology is the true model for biblical Trinitarian Christianity. He laments the prostitution of truth at the hands of other reformed theologians who allow for some point of contact between those who don’t presuppose Van Tillian reformed theology and those who do. The difficulty is as follows: If Van Tillian presuppositionalism is true, then anyone who deviates from Van Tillian doctrine is either: (1) deviating from the truth, or (2) unsaved, and therefore, not holding the appropriate interpretative scheme. What does this imply for “non-reformed Christians”? or for “reformed non-Van Tillian Christians”?

Thought # 2:
One of the main points of Van Tillian Presuppostionalism is that unless you presuppose Van Tillian Reformed theology you cannot truly understand or know anything.[1] This general claim is augmented by the following claims: “The proper way to begin with facts is therefore to claim that unless they are what Christianity says they are they are unintelligible.”[2]  “Applying this to the question of man’s knowledge of facts, it may be said that for the human mind to know any fact truly, it must presuppose the existence of God and his plan for the universe.”[3] “Our knowledge rests upon the ontological Trinity as its presupposition.”[4] “the only conclusive argument for Christianity is precisely the fact that only upon the presupposition of the truth of its teaching does logic or predication in general touch reality at all.”[5] Unless you presuppose the truth of Van Tillian reformed theology you might be able to obtain some truths but you will never understand the meaning of those truths, or understand them truly; you will not even be able to speak (predicate) properly of reality, or properly apply logic to reality. These are extreme claims. Consider for a moment the following situation. An atheist friend and I are discussing the existence of God with a Van Tillian. The Van Tillian commits a logical error. The atheist friend notices the error and corrects him on that error. I happen to notice that the atheist is right and side with our atheist friend in pointing out the atheist error. According to Van Til such a situation is not possible, for unless we presuppose the Van Tillian interpretative scheme, “logic or predication in general” do not “touch reality at all.” In the above situation what has just happened? One of the following circumstances would seem to be necessarily true: (1) the atheist and I are both closet Van-Tillians, (2) the atheist and I are both Van-Tillians without knowing it, (3) the atheist and I were both wrong (which in the above circumstance would be an impossible state of affairs), or (4) Van Tillian presuppositionalism is wrong in claiming that unless we presuppose Van Tillian reformed theology our predications and logic will not touch reality at all. Perhaps we can view this dilemma in a different way.

In one of the quotes given above Van Til claims that the human mind cannot know any fact truly unless it presupposes reformed Trinitarian theology. What could Van Til possibly mean by “know any fact truly”? That one grasps the fact or understands it? That one understands it’s relation to the whole of all truths? That one understands the consequences that follow from it? That one understands the meaning of that truth for yourself – what it means to you? Taking Van Til literally, it seems that the one of the following consequences follows necessarily, if one must presuppose the truth of Van Tillian reformed Trinitarian theology in order to know any fact truly, then no non-Van Tillian can truly know any fact. This, however, seems to be contradicted by reality. The unsaved children (0-10 years old) of Van Tillian theologians truly know who their parents are. If any non-Van Tillian (some other branch of Christian though, atheist, or a believer in some other religion) truly knows any particular fact (mathematical equations, the distance of the sun to the earth, the theory of gravity, the size and rotation of the earth, etc.), then either (1) the non-Van Tillian (atheist or otherwise) is in fact (without knowing it) a Van Tillian, or (2) the claim of Van Tillian presuppositionalism, that in order to truly know any fact one must presuppose Van Tillian reformed theology, is false. What happens if this claim is false?



[1]Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, vol. 5 of In Defense of the faith (1974; Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1982), 12, 13, 17, 18.

[2]Ibid., 18.

[3]Ibid., 22.

[4]Ibid., 23.

[5]Ibid., 39.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A REVIEW OF NAUGLE’S STUDENT’S GUIDE TO PHILOSOPHY

Philosophy: A Student’s Guide. David K. Naugle. Crossway, 2012. 125 pp. $11.99. ISBN 978-1-4335-3127-9.

            There are many ways of introducing philosophy to beginners. Some authors give a historical introduction, while others give a thematic introduction, a few do both. In this book, Naugle gives thematic introduction to philosophy from within a Christian worldview. It is my humble opinion that the best way to honour a philosopher’s work is to approach it as a philosopher, that is, to interact with his claims, to ask questions of the author, and to give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves otherwise. In this review I will do just that. I will begin by noting the purpose and limitations of this book, as described by the author, followed by a brief outline of the book. I will finish by explaining what are this books greatest merits and difficulties.

            This book is part of the “Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition” series that is edited by David S. Dockery and published by Crossway. The books in this series are to be written primarily for college students, professors and other readers who are active in university campuses. The purpose of this particular book in the series is to help Christian students to reconnect with a particularly Christian philosophy. Though the author does not interact with Heidegger’s claim that Christian philosophy is a contradiction and confusion of terms,[1] he does challenge, indirectly, that claim by defining Christian philosophy as faith seeking understanding (p. 15). The author informs the reader, from the very beginning, that he approaches philosophy from a distinctly Augustinian position (p. 15, 106). That being said, the well-informed reader gets the impression, all throughout the book, that Naugle is borrowing many of his claims from Van Til and Vern Poynthress Sheridan, though he never refers to them explicitly. Naugle sets out to accomplish 5 goals in this book: (1) “to highlight the importance of prolegomena for philosophy (p. 16)”, (2) to note the relationship between a Christian worldview, Christian philosophy and regular philosophy (p. 16), (3) to outline ways in which a “canonical Trinitarian theism” should interact and inform the different domains of philosophical thought (p. 16-17), (4) how a Christian should interact with regular philosophy (p. 17), (5) and how a biblical worldview should shape the lives of Christian philosophers (p. 17). Naugle also limits his book in the 2 following ways, first of all, he will not be giving an introduction to the various views in each of the domains of philosophical study (p. 17), and, secondly, the length of the book does not permit him to cover every Christian view in each of the domains of study. What, then, does he intend to do with this book? He is, primarily, setting out to show how Christian philosophers (who believe in the canonical Trinitarian Christian faith) should interact with regular philosophy in each of the domains. As such, he is more worried about explaining what Christian philosophers must maintain in these different domains, as they do their research and writing, than with the actual discussions that are going on in these different domains. As a preliminary remark, Naugle sticks to his purpose very well. He does exactly what he sets out to do. That being said, one is frequently impressed, especially in the chapters on metaphysics, epistemology and human nature, with the notion that his version of Canonical Trinitarian theism is very presuppositionalist, and that it sounds a lot like Van Til and Poythress. At the same time, any true Van Tillian presuppositionalist would disagree with many of Naugle’s claims.

            The book is definitely prepared with scholars and students in mind. The series preface, and the author’s preface, are followed by chapters that cover each of the main areas of philosophy, as well as an absolutely wonderful chapter that discusses how Christian philosophers should engage in the philosophical enterprise. The first six chapters deal with the main areas of philosophical research in the following order: Prolegomena, Metaphysics, Philosophical Anthropology, Epistemology, Ethics, and Aesthetics. The book also includes questions for reflection, a glossary of important terms, a list of resources for those who wish to pursue these questions further, and a decent index. Furthermore, there are a wealth of footnotes on almost every page for the reader who wishes to pursue any given reference. As such this book is easy to use, and provides a wealth of references for those who would pursue this subject further.

            In this final section I will list what I see as the advantages and disadvantages of this book. In my humble opinion, the best part of this book is chapter 7 which is somewhat of a philosophy of Christian philosophy. Even if there were no other merits to this book, it would still be worth buying just for chapter 7, which gives encouraging and wise advice to those who would be Christian philosophers. As such I would recommend this book to all students and professors who wish to engage in philosophy as Christians. Naugle also demonstrates an in-depth knowledge of many of the most important philosophical schools and trends, as well as with Christian tradition in general. Thirdly, whether or not one agrees with the way in which he explains and relates the specific Christian doctrines to the philosophical domains of study, the fact that he attempts such an endeavour, is, in itself, a worthy exploit, and warrants further study. Fourthly, he introduces his work with a chapter on prolegomena (which is not common practice in philosophy) in which he discusses the relation between faith and reason. Such a discussion is a welcome, and necessary, part of any book on Christian philosophy. Finally, this book will be easy to read for a novice to philosophy.

            The only way to truly honour the work of any philosopher is to interact with it both positively and negatively. As such, it seems that I must, at very least, mention some of the disadvantages of this book, and some of the claims that did not seem warranted. One of the major difficulties of this book is that, in attempting to describe how Christian philosophers, holding to Canonical Trinitarian Theism, should interact and inform the different domains of philosophy, Naugle simply assumes the truth of CTT. This, however, brings up two major questions. First of all, which canon and what how would we determine which canon? Secondly, the truth of Trinitarian Christianity is simply assumed. How do we know that Christianity is true and that the Christian trinity exists? Why Trinitarian Christianity? Why not another form of Christianity that does not adhere to Trinitarianism? Why not Islam, Buddhism or Atheism? We might say, “because we’re Christian philosophers!” What if you were a Muslim philosopher? Though proving the validity of Christian Trinitarian Theism might be beyond the scope of this book, it would have been salutary for the author to at least discuss this important issue. This first major difficulty is where the author seems to be most in line with Presuppositionalism.

            Secondly, the author constantly distinguishes between the Greek way of doing philosophy and the Biblical way of doing philosophy as between the bad and the good. This is especially evident in his comparison of what he calls the Hebrew approach and the Greek approach. Apparently the Hebrew approach is the Biblical approach. Such a distinction, however, flies in the face of psychological profiling (whereby some people are psychologically hotwired to be more “Hebraic” according to Naugle’s description on pages 30-31 and others are psychologically hotwired to be more “Greek” according to Naugle’s description on the same pages), and the research of James Barr as found in “Biblical Faith and Natural Theology”. This distinction seems to be both unnecessary and naïve.

            Though I noticed a number of other difficulties in this book, the final difficulty that I will mention, is that the book reads much more like an introduction to Christian theology than a handbook to philosophy. The author spends more time interpreting scripture (in ways which are open for debate), than discussing philosophy. In reading the chapter on Metaphysics one is impressed by the quantity of biblical references to the nature of God, a defence of the Trinity, an exposition of the biblical doctrine of creation, yet one finds almost no philosophical discussion of the nature of God (as one would expect) that would be reminiscent of some form of Natural Theology (as found in Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, etc.), no philosophical discussion of creation, and very little mention of the actual difficulties that are typically related to the domain of Metaphysics. The same tendency is seen in the chapters on Philosophical Anthropology, which turns out to be more of a Biblical Anthropology, and Epistemology. This is, in my opinion, a huge drawback for this book, as we are more informed about a particular strain of Christian theology than about how Christian philosophy.

            This book evidences a great deal of research, and is a short, easy-to-read, summary of what the author sees as being important theological elements that must not be neglected by Christian philosophers as they seek to honour God in their research. This book is worth buying, in spite of some of the major drawbacks mentioned above, even if it is only to read chapter 7 about the vocation of Christian Philosophers. I would not use, nor recommend, this book as the main textbook in an introductory course to Christian philosophy, however, I would highly recommend using chapter 7 as required reading in such a course.



[1]Cf. Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Gregory Fried and Richard Polt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 8[6].

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A REVIEW OF EVIL AND THE JUSTICE OF GOD BY N. T. WRIGHT

Evil and the Justice of God. N. T. Wright. InterVarsity Press, 2006. 176 pp. $15.00. ISBN 978-0-8308-3398-6.

            In this short, masterful, book on the problem of evil, N. T. Wright proposes to approach the problem of evil in a way that, even amongst Christian philosophers and theologians, is rarely seen. This book, whether you agree or disagree with its main tenets, is a joy to read. In this book review I will begin by explaining the main purpose and intended audience of this book. This will be followed by brief outline of the book. Finally I will give my personal opinion concerning the advantages and disadvantages, the pros and cons of this book.

            This book is, in part, a side-effect of N. T. Wright’s magnificent work on the Resurrection of Jesus-Christ,[1] and, in part, a response to a number of major tragedies that have recently struck our world. This book is the compilation and edited version of five lectures that he gave on the subject at Westminster Abbey in 2003, and, the expanded version of a short documentary that appeared on TV in the U. K. in 2005.[2] This book seems to be primarily intended for popular audiences, though it would definitely be of interest to philosophers of Religion who deal with the problem of evil, and Christian theologians, for reasons that I will explain later. N. T. Wright begins, in his preface, by noting the limitations of his book. He is not addressing the philosophical problem of evil; which he tends to see as being more of a smoke screen, or a way of avoiding the true difficulties, than as a valid inquiry.[3] Nor does he pretend to fully treat, in this short book, each of the important Christian doctrines that he integrates into his response to the problem of evil.

At this point it is worth mentioning that he is seeking to give, not his own version of a response to the problem of evil, but what he sees as the Christian, and therefore biblical, response to the problem of evil.[4] He claims that Theologies that consider the importance of the cross in God’s plan to deal with sin rarely deal with the larger problem of evil in general, and philosophers who deal with the problem of evil have very rarely brought the cross of Christ into the equation.[5] Wright, in this book, proposes to reverse these trends. The Christian response to the problem of evil cannot remove the cross from the scenario. For Christianity, the cross of Christ, and all that was accomplished on that cross (and in His resurrection), is the final solution to the problem of evil. Final, not in that evil has been done away with (many great atrocities and tragedies have happened since the cross), but in that God has provided the means by which all evil will be ultimately destroyed, and by which justice will be given.

The book is composed of a preface and five chapters, seemingly corresponding to the five lectures that he gave in 2003. The book also comes with a detailed table of contents, a subject index which makes it easy to find just about any subject that the author deals with, and an index of biblical references. The main drawback to this book is the lack of references. Though he provides references, on a single page at the end of the book, to the main books that he refers to, a number of comments or paraphrases go unreferenced, such as the occasional mentions of Jurgen Moltmann and M. Scott Peck. The lack of complete references, however, is certainly made up for by the fact that this book is both easy to read and a joy to read. It can be read in just a couple of hours, but in that time the author has given the reader so much food for thought that it is well worth reading again.

In chapter 1 the author sets the scene for his exposition of the Christian response to the Problem of evil by noting how the modern world looks at evil, how postmodernism has restated the problem of evil, what we must necessarily keep before our eyes if we are to truly approach the problem of evil, and how the church needs to approach the problem of evil.

In chapter 2 N. T. Wright sets the stage for Christian approach to the problem of evil by explaining how the Old Testament, in its overarching narrative scheme, approaches the problem of evil. He looks first of all at the universal problem of evil, as it affects all of mankind; then at how the chosen people, who were to be God’s solution to the problem, became part of the problem; and, finally, at how the problem of evil is met with in the lives of Old Testament Individuals.

In chapter 3 Wright shows how the Gospels treat the problem of evil, by showing that they see all evil as climaxing at the cross. This allows him to propose what he sees as a richer theory of atonement, and a deeper understanding of evil, and what can be done about it today.

Chapters 4 and 5 suggest ways in which we can, as Christians, begin fixing a broken world that is drowning in all kinds of evil, in anticipation of that new world that will be without evil altogether. In chapter 4 he suggests a number of practical ways that this can be done in our societies, governments, and even our personal lives (such as prayer and personal holiness). In chapter 5 he suggests that by implementing the particularly Christian notion of forgiveness, properly understood, we can give this broken world a taste of heaven, even as we suffer evils ourselves.

This book is an enjoyable read. The reader gets the impression that they are sitting in the 2003 lectures that were given by Wright. His explanation of the Christian response to the problem of evil is masterfully woven together. Though some theologians may take exception to his claims about atonement, and some philosophers may take exception to his tendency to see Satan as a sub-personal being, and though scholars would prefer to have more footnotes, this book is, all in all, a great addition to the already enormous collection of works on the problem of evil.

            This is a small book that attempts to deal with a gigantic problem. As with David and Goliath, this book knocks the problem of its feet. This book is a refreshing look at the problem of evil. There are a few good books on the problem of evil, but the great majority of books or articles that deal with the problem of evil are either dense philosophical treatises, or the unsuccessful attempts of non-philosophers to deal with the philosophical problem of evil. N. T. Wright does not attempt to deal with the philosophical problem of evil, but, quite simply, presents the Christian solution to evil. Every worldview, from atheism to Hinduism, must deal with the problem of evil, or the problem of goodness, in the universe. Wright presents a clear and concise statement of how God, the God of the Christian Bible, has dealt with evil. I would highly suggest this book to anybody who is interested in the problem of evil, whether they are approaching it from a philosophical, theological, or apologetical angle. This book will be of interest both to scholars and popular audiences alike. If you don’t have it yet, get it! (I am not always this enthusiastic about books that I review, but, though I didn’t agree with everything Wright said, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book!)


[1]Cf. N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003).

[2]N. T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God (Downer’s Grove, IL : InterVarsity Press, 2006), 10.

[3]Cf. 11, 21, 40, 43-45, 77, 164, 165.

[4]Cf. 16, 77, 143.

[5]Wright, 77.