Monday, March 19, 2007

Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright


When an "outsider" to the mishmash of our American politics mixed with our evangelical faith speaks to us, we can easily take offense. Unless that "outsider" is Nicholas Thomas Wright writing on the present day evil of our world. With none of "our" issues to defend, no senator or representative to vote for, no USAmerican evangelical cause to promote, N. T. Wright drags our country's conscience to the bar of biblical truth. He dares to do this in his book Evil and the Justice of God. He also engages his own country's conscience; even the Western world's conscience.


He dares to say that our country's reasons for our response to the evil of 9/11 were "immature and naive." What does he mean? He explains that it is immature to think that "they" are "evil" and "we" are "good." Evil runs right down the middle of every human heart. In this point Wright agrees with Jesus, not our politicians. All the evil of the world comes from the heart according to Jesus, not from a government style or a religion. It is immature to think that a style or kind of government (democracy) will eradicate evil from the world. We are told that if we bring democracy and freedom to the Middle East, evil will go away. That is biblical foolishness. Who is the largest exporter of pornography in the world? The democratic republic called the USA. Is that evil?
Wright does not try to divine the origins of evil nor does he rehash all the philosophical/theological conundrums associated with "the problem of evil." His task is more simple and practical. Wright asks, "What is God doing about evil?" With this question he surveys the Bible and comes to the fine point of the identity and task of Jesus and his mission. He then explores the task of the church in a world wrecked and terrified by evil--a church that is now participating in "new creation" on the resurrection side of Jesus' redemptive work.
I found the book unselttling at times. Wright presses me to state my loyalty. Am I more loyal to God and his work in the world or am I a loyal American who blindly believes everything I'm told by those in power in Washington, DC?
Evil is too serious a topic to turn into political slogans and shallow promises. Evil must be dealt with the way God dealt with it. This is the real "war" of the church.

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24 Comments:

At 3/19/2007 8:52 AM, Anonymous Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Excellent review of an excellent book on a crucial issue. Thanks!

Peace,
Jamie

 
At 3/19/2007 9:16 AM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

John, Thanks so much for giving us your take on this book. I look forward to reading it. And really find myself in strong agreement with what you're saying here.

 
At 3/19/2007 12:38 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

Jamie,
Thanks for the kudos, brother. The book really is an intriguing presentation of evil and God's answer to it.

 
At 3/19/2007 12:38 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

Ted,
I think this book by Wright goes well with your series on "the Christian and war." Good series. Thanks.

 
At 3/19/2007 1:55 PM, Blogger Ronster the monster said...

I see that you picked up some of the same books as I did at the National Pastors Convention. I've got Wright's Evil and the Justice of God in a stack on my bedstand. I can't wait to get to it. Thanks for your thoughts

Ron

 
At 3/19/2007 2:17 PM, Anonymous Cheryl said...

Hi John,

I don't mean to turn your review of the book into a political post, but it amuses me that we all (and I include myself in this), tend to only "hear" and believe something if it's said from a speaker we are willing to listen to.

Liberals have long cringed at the president's assignations of certain countries and people as being "evil" and then applying political strategies for dealing with it. When liberals say it, the conservatives rail against it... as in NO WAY being a cogent observation. However, when someone like Wright says it, many will tilt their heads and think, "Hmmmm, maybe he's right." Of course, Wright starts his premise from a different point, but the truth of the matter ends up in the same place—that we all hold the potential for good and evil in our hearts.

Like I said, I do it too. I'm far more likely to be open to things said by people who hold similar viewpoints to mine, but I'm trying hard to be open to hearing what is in the best interest of all...the greater good.

 
At 3/19/2007 6:33 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

Ronster,
I'd be interested in your take on this book by NT Wright.

 
At 3/19/2007 6:37 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

Cheryl,
You've made some good observations and I agree with you. I know the "Liberals" in US have said similar things to Wright, but they have an agenda (should I say axe to grind) far different than Tom Wright's purpose. It is NT's starting point and conclusions that make me sit up and listen. I appreciate you stopping by.

 
At 3/19/2007 7:01 PM, Anonymous Cheryl said...

John,
Absolutely, Wright and the "liberals" have different agendas, but their conclusions are the same.

It's like no one listens to WHAT is being said anymore, but mostly dismissing or agreeing on the basis of WHO said it. That was my point, if I didn't say it very well.

Enjoying your posts, as always.

 
At 3/20/2007 4:56 AM, Anonymous Jay Piper said...

Excellent review, John. I'm sharing your thoughts with some friends from work. I'll let you know their reactions when I see you Wednesday.

 
At 3/20/2007 6:31 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Cheryl,
Perhaps the lack of integrity in so many who are "in authority" creates the skepticism of WHO said it. However, that does not detract from your point that the conclusions are the same. I appreciate your interaction on this.

 
At 3/20/2007 6:32 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Jay,
Great. I am glad that the blog is useful to you. Good meeting last night, eh?

 
At 3/20/2007 9:36 AM, Blogger andre said...

Just stopping by - by way of recommendation by Ted Gossard. I posted on Just War Theory and Ted thought this was interesting to the discussion

I have never read anything from NT Wright - this one looks very interesting though. Thanks for sharing the review.

 
At 3/20/2007 10:16 AM, Blogger Adam Gonnerman said...

Thanks for the great review. This book continues on my shopping list. So much to read, so little time....

 
At 3/20/2007 10:45 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Andre,
I am glad that Ted recommended you to stop by. Thanks for your comment. I think you will enjoy NT Wright's book on evil as well as many of his other books.

 
At 3/20/2007 10:46 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Adam,
I know the feeling---so many books---wouldn't be great to be paid to just read?!

 
At 3/21/2007 11:46 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Thanks for your helpful words and insights about Wright's book. He is a formidable force in a number of important discussions and well worth reading and hearing. Indeed, what is God doing about evil?

I'm doing a Monday walk through of the book on my blog and would love to have your thoughts.

 
At 3/22/2007 10:40 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Greg,
Thanks for coming over to this blog. I'll visit Switzerland via your blog. I really enjoy Wright's works.

 
At 3/22/2007 3:13 PM, Blogger Rustin S said...

John,
I've just read this book for a teaching I'm preparing this week on the subject of evil - particularly how 'evil' is thought of by Jesus as he models in his prayer 'deliver us from evil'.
I found it challenging as well, but Wright has a way of being so intensely practical in his presentation (despite the lofty subject) that the book is quite compelling.
Thanks for the post.

 
At 3/22/2007 4:47 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

Rustin,
So many these days are finding Tom Wright's teachings to express what they sensed is an improvement over the evangelical status quo. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

 
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