Evil and the Justice of God takes on the huge question of "What is evil?" as well as "What's God's response to Evil?" Through this book, Wright takes simply 5 chapters to exegete these theological questions as well as their implications. Although it is a small number of chapters, don't be fooled. It is deep, explanatory as well as rich in content.
I will briefly summarize each chapter so you can get a taste of this book and want more, because it is that good.
Chapter 1- Evil is Still a Four-Letter Word- Wright defines out that evil is still among us, despite the attempts to fool us into thinking it is not. He says: "...people still continue to this day to suppose that the world is basically a good place and that its problems are more or less soluble 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" Thinking that these certain things can be the "hero" that fights evil is simply looking for a Saviour in the wrong place. He then concludes this idea with this: "The big question of our time I have argued, can be understood in terms of how we address and live with the fact of evil in our world." Evil is among us, we can see it, we get hit with the effects of it and it is hard to deal with an understand. How will we live having this knowledge? Can we ignore it and live our lives in purposeful ignorance so we don't need to do anything? This, says Wright is the challenge.
Chapter 2- What Can God Do About Evil?- Here, Wright undertakes a quick overview of the entire Old Testament to show how God dealt with evil then, and how God began to unveil His ultimate plan of crushing evil altogether. Wright says of the Old Testament: "It's written to tell the story of what God has done, is doing and will do about evil." Throughout the entire OT, we see evil people oppressing the Israelites and God coming to their defense by crushing the evil pagans who would stand against the Israelites, but Wright reminds us that laced within the whole of the OT is a story of evil that is much deeper than an "us" vs. "them". We have within ourselves this evil that must be crushed, it's not merely those "against us". Wright also shows with great skill how in fact the Old Testament sheds light on God's ultimate goal for evil, and God's ultimate plan for dealing with it.
Chapter 3- Evil and the Crucified God- This, the crescendo of the entire book and Wright's answer to how God will deal with it is amazing. I noticed that Wright, having used 5 chapters, placed this (the most important chapter) dead center...with 2 chapters before it and 2 chapters after it. I don't think this was a mistake, Wright wants the reader to understand that this is the crux, the center of this entire idea of evil and God's justice. You can't ask the question about evil and the justice of God without talking about the crucifixion. N.T. says: "...the story the Gospels are trying to tell us is the story of how the death of Jesus is the point at which evil in all its forms has come rushing together. Jesus' death is the result both of the major political evil in the world...and of the dark, accusing forces which stand behind those human and societal structures, forces which accuse creation itself of being evil, and so try to destroy it while its Creator is longing to redeem it." God's ultimate goal is to redeem this fallen world and he does this through the cross! He goes into much more detail that you have to read. This chapter alone is worth the read; because it is so rich with content.
Chapter 4- Imagine There's No Evil- These next two chapters, I will summarize more quickly. This was simply a chapter getting the picture in their head of a world without the evil that is so prevalent today. Wright defines out the Biblical understanding of the new world and how it applies to us today. It was a chapter of looking at how all of creation corporately will be redeemed in the end and how evil will be broken.
Chapter 5- Deliver Us From Evil- This chapter surrounded the individual. How do we personally deal with evil? How does it effect our lives? Wright says that through forgiveness, all these things can be wiped away. In fact, to quote him, he says: "When we understand forgiveness, flowing from the work of Jesus and the Spirit, as the strange, powerful thing it really is, we begin to realize that God's forgiveness of us, and our forgiveness of others, is the knife that cuts the rope by which sin, anger, fear, recrimination and death are still attached to us."
This is a great book and a poignant read during these evil days. N.T. Wright has much to say about evil, God's plan to deal with it and Jesus' defeat of it. I enjoy how readable this book is, yet without diminishing the deep quality of the thoughts presented. I hope to be able to somehow transform this book into a series for my teens...it's just that good!