Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Evil and the Justice of God- N.T. Wright

N.T. Wright answers the problem of evil in an unexpected, fascinating and glorious way. In the process, he answers why we often feel so empty and unsatisfied at modern Christian funerals. Christians have made peace with death, the enemy.

But death is defeated by the work of Christ on the cross, by the resurrection of Christ from the dead, by the promise of bodily resurrection for all of God's people, and finally by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in real time on the earth.

Modernity's promise that the world will simply gradually improve falls short. So does the typical Christian answer of a continual spiritual existence. It is not satisfying that the spirit leaves the body and lives on. If that is all there is, then bodily death still wins. But thanks be to God that that is not all there is. One day our bodies will rise and we will be able to laugh at our defeated enemy, death.

Note, I said, our bodies will rise. We do not merely believe in the immortality of the soul. That is a Platonic belief and of course, is true. The soul is immortal. But those Greeks also believed that the body, bodies, things, were essentially evil. The good thing was to escape this and get off to the world, the perfect world, of ideas. Ideas apart from bodies. That was ultimate.

Not so in Christianity. The ultimate ideal in our religion is the body raised a victor over death. Bodies need redeemed and perfected. The earth groans for this to happen. All creation waits for the glorious resurrection when death, evil and all sin will be made the laughing stock.

And yet, now, we still see sin, ugliness, death, persecution, senseless victimization, exploitation. Basically, we see all the results of sin, the very nature of sin, chaos in the world. And we wonder, what is the answer, NOW.

Wright posits that within the broader promise of eschatological hope in the bodily Resurrection is the present manifestation of Christ to the world. This is the body of Christ, His Church, acting like Jesus. The greatest manifestation of Christ on the earth is forgiveness.

Forgiveness disarms evil. Evil wants to hold God and His people hostage. Evil, sin, death, say that all is not right and cannot be right, as long as they exist. But forgiveness is the antidote.

Forgiveness does not shrug its shoulders hoping for a good time on a cloud. Forgiveness calls evil, evil and then disarms it by granting forgiveness. This brings healing to the forgiven but even greater than this, it releases the forgiver from bitterness that enslaves. Only in Christianity do we see the glory of forgiveness displayed in this way. Only in Christianity does forgiveness answer the demands for justice.

Jesus so gloriously simplified this for us in the Golden Rule, treat others as you would have them treat you.

For some, this book would be immensely disappointing. What? That is your answer to the problem of evil? But those who know the grace of God in Christ in receiving forgiveness will understand, that until the resurrection, this is the only thing that really disarms evil.

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