Today we begin a week and an half pondering a work of N.T. Wright called Evil and the Justice of God (versions these posts were first published in 2012). In this book, Wright is working with the perennial question: “Why is there evil?” and “What is God doing about it?” The lectures that provide the basis were first TV shows on the BBC. (See the intro on YouTube). The lectures came in response to 9/11, the tsunami in Southeast Asia, Hurricane Katrina and then the earthquake in Pakistan. One of his main thoughts is: “’The problem of evil’ is not something we will ‘solve’ in the present world…[O]ur 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 the Spirit, even in the midst of ‘the present evil age’” (p. 11). Let’s think along with him.
Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt from it
Read James 4:13-5:6
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Thoughts to ponder
It seems remarkable that the belief in progress still survives and triumphs. The nineteenth century thought it had gotten rid of original sin; of course, it had to find replacements, and Marx and Freud offered some, producing explanatory systems and offering solutions to match: new doctrines of redemption which mirror and parody the Christian one. And somehow, despite the horrific battles of Mons and the Somme during World War I, despite Auschwitz and Buchenwald, despite he truth-telling of Dostoyevsky and Barth, people still continue to this day to suppose that the world is basically a good place and that its problems are more or less solvable 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.
This state of affairs has led to three things in particular which I see characteristic as the new problem of evil. First, we ignore evil when it doesn’t hit us in the face. Second we are surprised by evil when it does. Third, we react in immature and dangerous ways as a result. – N. T. Wright in Evil and the Justice of God, pp. 23-4.
Suggestions for action
Hopefully, as you read the quote, you thought about whether you are brainwashed into believing the myth of progress. And you also doubted Marx’ and Freud’s god-less re-dos of a salvation narrative. Ponder the three reactions to evil that Wright finds beneath our dignity.
- Have you been hit in the face by evil and been forced to notice it, lately?
- Has any evil “surprised” you, lately?
- Did you “invade an Afghanistan” in response?
Try making a list of what you are thinking so you can see it. It is very easy to put the headphones on and cling to denial.