Review: Evil and Creation

Evil & Creation: Historical and Constructive Essays in Christian Dogmatics, Edited by David J. Luy, Matthew Levering, and George Kalantzis. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020.

Summary: An essay collection considering the doctrine of creation and how theologians and others have grappled with the emergence of evil.

The doctrine of creation is foundational for so many other elements of Christian theology. That includes our understanding of evil. Often this is posed as a problem. If God is good and all-powerful, and God’s creation is very good, whence evil? This collection of essays considers first early Christian explorations, and then recent thinking from theology, literature and other fields. These are the essays included;

Introduction; Evil in Christian Theology, David Luy and Matthew Levering. Two of the editors frame the discussion, noting the trend in modern theology to modify either the classic understanding of God or the destiny of the unrepentant evil.

Evil in Early Christian Sources

Judgment of Evil as the Renewal of Creation, Constantine R. Campbell. Considering the testimony of Paul, Genesis, Isaiah, Peter, and Revelation, argues that evil is intertwined with creation both in its corruption of creation and the obliteration of evil in the new creation.

Qoheleth and His Patristic Sympathizers on Evil and Vanity in Creation, Paul M. Blowers. Outlines the patristic understanding of this book as simultaneous flourishing and languishing, wisdom and vanity pointing toward Christ as the true Ecclesiast.

Problem of Evil: Ancient Answers and Modern Discontents, Paul L. Gavrilyuk. A survey of approaches to the problem of evil from ancient to modern times noting six major shifts.

Augustine and the Limits of Evil: From Creation to Christ in the Enchiridion, Han-luen Kantzer Komline. Considers how the Enchiridion holds together creation, fall, and Christology in addressing evil.

Augustine on Animal Death, Gavin Ortlund. Augustine, it turns out, had no problem with animal suffering and death before, or after, the fall, seeing it “as a beauty to be admired–a cause for praising God more than blaming him. Ortlund assesses both the helpful and unhelpful aspects of this stance.

Contemporary Explorations

The Evil We Bury, the Dead We Carry, Michel René Barnes. Proposes that evil is an experience, is ineluctable for human beings, and the first evil, which we cannot escape, is the immediate evil of our personal experience.

Creation and the Problem of Evil after the Apocalyptic Turn, R. David Nelson. With the contemporary focus on the apocalyptic–the death, resurrection, and in-breaking kingdom-Nelson considers the shift in thinking about evil in light of the creation.

Creation without Covenant, Providence without Wisdom: The Example of Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing, Kenneth Oakes. A reflection on the Cormac McCarthy work, and the response of God to evil in the absence of his covenantal relationship with his people culminating in the incarnation, and a providence that is mere inscrutable purpose apart from wisdom.

The Appearance of Reckless Divine Cruelty’: Animal Pain and the Problem of Other Minds, Marc Cortez. Another essay on animal pain, considering the mental experience of suffering through the lens of the philosophical problem of other minds that finds the “no animal suffering view” untenable.

Recent Evolutionary Theory and the Possibility of the Fall, Daniel W. Houck. Reviews the traditional “disease” view of the fall in light of evolutionary theory, proposing a Thomist view of the fall as the loss of original justice.

Intellectual Disability and the Sabbath Structure of the Human Person, Jared Ortiz. Seeks to retrieve the distinction of person and nature in disability discussions and argues that the powerful impact the disabled often have on others reflects the “sabbath structure” inherent in all of us.

As is evident, this is a wide ranging collection of articles loosely tied together by the doctrine of creation and the existence of evil. Perhaps one other thread that connects a number of the articles is the movement from creation to Christ in our attempts to come to terms with evil. In some sense, we never quite find the emergence of evil explicable; it is only the hope of a new creation in Christ that can give meaning to the suffering that often attends evil. The essays on animal suffering and death are important in relating Christian hope to a world where animals are often afforded increasing dignity, as is the moving essay that concludes this volume on disability. Finally, the thread of how we hold ancient understandings in the light of modernity as reflected in philosophy, critical theories, evolutionary science, and literature recurs throughout this collection. Contrary to the tendency warned of in the preliminary essay, these writers do not jettison the scriptures, the councils, and the creeds, even as they grapple with modernity.

This is another valuable addition to the Lexham Press’s series of Studies in Historical and Systematic Theology.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

One thought on “Review: Evil and Creation

  1. Pingback: The Month in Reviews: July 2021 | Bob on Books

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