Book Review -- By: Mike Stallard

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 13:2 (Fall 2009)
Article: Book Review
Author: Mike Stallard


Book Review

Mike Stallard

Dean of Baptist Bible Seminary

Professor of Systematic Theology

Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania

The God I Don’t Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith. Christopher J. H. Wright. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008. 224 pages. $19.99.

Tackling tough issues that all Christians face, Christopher Wright’s work brings together the scholar’s concern for details and a pastor’s heart for people. In readable fashion he deals with four issues: evil and suffering, the particular problem of the Canaanites, the cross of Christ, and end-of-the-world scenarios. He excels the most in his discussion of the cross. The most problematic area of the book is his treatment of eschatology.

In dealing with the problem of evil in the world, he introduces the prospect that evil is a theoretical problem for Christianity when it is not so for other worldviews such as atheism (25-27). To be sure, evil is a practical reality for all worldviews, even atheism. However, because of Christians’ belief that God is both good and all-powerful, Christians must give answers at every level of the question. Wright develops the Christian answer by discussing the mystery of evil, largely from the vantage point of its roots in sin. Wright takes seriously the biblical portrait of the origin of sin and suffering as sin’s consequence.

However, he tends to cast his definition of sin and the curse in functional terms. By this he tries to avoid the interpretation that natural events such as earthquakes are a result of the fall. Instead, they are part of the natural order of things (46-47). This approach does not do justice to the need for redemption of the entire created order as understood in Pauline thought (e.g., Rom 8:20-22). However, Wright correctly allows for the category of innocent suffering by noting that natural disasters in the lives of people do not necessarily reflect sin in their lives or a specific purpose for others. The fact of the matter is that we do not and usually cannot know all of the purposes God has for allowing certain events to occur. Wright appropriately ends his discussion of evil and suffering with a chapter on God’s desire and plan to destroy evil in future prospect.

In the second part of Wright’s book, he undertakes the specific problem of evil presented when God commands the destruction of the Canaanites in the OT. He rightly rejects three

dead ends that have been offered as solutions: (1) the NT corrects the OT (i.e., the OT is wrong), (2) the Israelites misinterpret...

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