As I’ve read through some of the recent books & articles by the anti-God folks like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and others, I’ve been considering the possibility that the real issue isn’t necessarily dealing with the existence of God, but rather it is dealing with the problem of evil. A belief (or non-belief) in God seems to relate to our ability or inability to deal with the issue of evil and perhaps even the personification of evil (aka Satan). I refer to Dawkins, et al., as “anti-God” rather than skeptics or non-believers, because they’re not really skeptics or non-believers. They do believe in something, just not a non-material god. And, their apparent willingness to accept the gaps and other problems inherent in a Darwinist or materialist worldview shows that they are not skeptics (at least to the same degree) all of the time.
One of the big obstacles in belief in God appears to be some version of, “if there is a good, all-powerful God, why does he allow, or why doesn’t He do something about, evil?” Pages and pages have been dedicated to such topics, including sub-topics dealing with the flaws in Creation, the apparent flaws in design, the evil in mankind (especially in God-believers), and so forth. None, however, ever seem to deal with what the religions teach about the problem of evil. The Bible is decried as a poor example for a morality guidebook, without ever considering the explanation the Bible itself provides for why evil exists, and why God continues to allow evil to exist.
People (both atheists and believers alike) do scream when people like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell declare evil to be God’s judgment on some specific sin. But again, no one – at least in the mainstream media – ever seems to deal with the real issue. There is a new book out, however, which apparently tries in a scholarly way to support the “judgment” theory. Author Steven Keillor, in God’s Judgments: Interpreting History and the Christian Faith, argues that yes, God did use terrorists to judge America’s sins. Whether he’s right, to any extent, remains to be seen. According to a review in Books and Culture, Keillor’s “aim is to ‘find some answers’ and ‘not a worldview answering everything.'”
In an interesting coincidence, the same publisher, IVP, has also recently published N.T. Wright’s Evil and the Justice of God, which does attempt to find the worldview, as expressed in the Bible. While not, perhaps, explaining everything (Wright is not afraid of raising the various “ambiguities”), Wright’s theory of evil does provide a worldview for understanding not just the evil in the world, but also the evil within us. I had purchased the book some time ago, but only picked it up the other night as I (for the first time all summer) found myself without at least one book that I was in the midst of reading.
Now, many of you know that if NT Wright were ever to leave the Anglican Church and start his own movement, I’d seriously consider joining. That being admitted, I will say that this book captivated me as very few books do. Wright’s first chapter is revelational, as it explores Western Enlightenment and Postmodern thinking and how it has failed to deal with the problem of evil in any real way. Those suspicious of “Christian” ultra-conservative politics will be particularly pleased with his analysis. He then proceeds through some key Biblical books and themes, the true nature of evil and how God indeed deals with it.
I’ve read through a little over half the book (I’m amazed at how Wright can take such an enormous issue and so thoroughly deal with it without reducing it, in so few pages), and will no doubt write a bit more on the subject when I’ve finished.
And, yes, I really will deal with Dawkins, soon. I planned to have taken vacation this week and should have had more time, but alas, it wasn’t to be…