The first chapter is an exercise in cultural interpretation. Here, Wright uncovers several inadequate responses to evil that stem either from modern optimism or postmodern nihilism. Chapter 2 expounds the problem of evil in biblical perspective. Wright finds that biblical evil is that which sidetracks the Creator’s purpose by corrupting the creatures charged with creation’s care. The biblical solution to evil, then, is the historical redemption of humanity through Israel and, ultimately, Jesus Christ. Accordingly, Wright in chapter 3 turns to the cross where God’s redemptive purposes with Israel reach their climax and fulfillment. The Gospels, according to Wright, narrate the ways in which God in Jesus Christ draws evil onto himself, ‘exhausts’ its power in the cross, and inaugurates the new creation of the world through the resurrection. Christus Victor is for Wright the root metaphor of the atonement after which ‘all other theories [of atonement] come in to play their respective parts’ (p. 59), and new creation is God’s solution to evil. Interestingly, ‘forgiveness of sins’ is interpreted by Wright as ‘release’ from the corrupting effects of evil and thus is synonymous with ‘resurrection’; both are acts of new creation since both purge evil and restore creatures to their original dignity.
How might the church participate in God’s solution to evil? Wright argues in chapter 4 that since God’s solution to evil is the new creation in which evil is absent then believers are to "imagine" this new world. Such, says Wright, will provoke Christians to positive social action. Chapter 5 explicates forgiveness as the present mode of participation in God’s solution to evil for forgiveness anticipates the new creation by releasing both victim and victimizer from the alienating effects of interpersonal evil. Salvation and forgiveness, not conceptual clarity and answered questions, is the real solution to the real problem of evil.
Wright’s proposal here is provocative, refreshing, and rooted in pastorally sensitive canonical exegesis. And while his attempt to supplant the philosophical problem is probably more distracting than satisfying to the philosophers, it can hardly be denied that his biblical account of evil and its salvation-historical solution helpfully redirects the philosophical debates and refocuses them upon the Bible (a testimony to Wright’s commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture). Given philosophy’s monopoly on the subject, this biblically-oriented approach is a significant addition to the literature.
For a fuller review, see my review forthcoming in Heythrop Journal.
James R. A. Merrick
King’s College, University of Aberdeen