Bought by the Blood

January 24, 2009

Tough Question of Faith – Chapter 3

This chapter is entitled “The Defeat of Evil” and honestly, I believe that this chapter is worth the price of the book alone.  I love the quote that Wright uses to start this chapter.  As you will see from this quote, he does redemptive theology as well as anyone else out there today.  Picking up from where he left out in the previous chapter about lament he goes on to say:

But the Bible takes us further, much further, and calls us to rejoice at the prospect of the defeat and final destruction of evil.  Evil will be eradicated from God’s creation.  This is the hope and promise of the Bible.

The whole Bible, indeed, can be read as the epic account of God’s plan and purpose to defeat evil and rid his whole creation of it forever.  That, it can be argued, describes everything between Genesis 3 and Revelation 22.  We cannot here retell or even summarize that great narrative, but we can unequivocally say that the cross and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth stand at the centre of it.  Here is the central and decisive moment of the victory of God over evil and the guarantee that it will ultimately be destroyed.

Wright goes onto state that when wrestling with the problem of evil there are three Biblical truths that we must hold in our ends.  Those truths are  1)the utter evilness of evil, 2)the utter goodness of God and 3)the utter sovereignty of God.   After explaining these three truths Wright proceeds to use two examples of these functioning in the Bible.  One from the Old Testament with the story of Joseph and the other from the New Testament with Christ being crucified.  Wright’s prose is prolific, so instead of summarizing, I will quote him extensively below:

Three truths applied to Joseph

There is no softening of the evil intent and action of the brothers or of their moral responsibility.  Their actions are inexcusably evil.  Yet the goodness and sovereignty of God not only overruled their intentions but used them for the ultimate good of saving life.

It is important to not suggest that God “turned evil into good”, or that because it all worked out in the end, it wasn’t really so bad after all.  The actions of the brothers were evil.  Period.  Evil in intent and evil in execution.  But God demonstrated his sovereignty by showing that he can take what is done as an existing evil in the world and use it to bring about h is own good purposes (emphasis mine). God remains good, and God remains sovereign.

On the cross:

The cross exposed the utter depths of human and satanic evil in hatred, injustice, cruelty, violence, and murder.  All of this was hurled at Jesus, with no justification or excuse.  Jesus died at the hands of  “wicked men.” At the cross, evil is seen at its worst for what it is and does.  

Second, the cross happened fully in accorandance with God’s sovereign will from eternity.  It is the supreme moment in history (which defines and enables all other such moments) in which God caused the wrath of human beings to praise him, somehow building the evil intent and actions of free creatures into his own sovereign purpose of loving redemption.

Third, the cross also expressed the utter goodness of God, pouring out his mercy and grace in self-giving love.  At the cross God drew the worst sting of human and satanic evil and concentrated it on himself in the person of His son, in order that it should be borne in the full depth of all its consequences and thereby release forgiveness.

Wright then goes onto to exposit Revelation 4-7.   Because Christ is the crucified one who is at the center of creaton and God’s saving plan He is worthy to open the scrolls.  When Christ opens the scroll he summons the four horsemen of apocalytpic terror.  The four hoursemen represent conquest, war, famine and disease.  Wright quotes George B. Caird on the horsemen in the following, “They are the result of human sin…The point is that, just where sin and its effects are most in evidence, the kingship of the crucified is to be seen, turing human wickedness to service of God’s purpose.”  Christ governs the universe and the evil of this present age cannot trump His sovereign and good purposes.

Revelation 5-7, then, affirms this awesome paradox that is crucial to the way we should think about evil.  All evil, disaster, and suffering stand under the sovereign control of God in Christ — and specifically under the authority of the crucified Christ (The lamb who was slain, who is in the centre of the throne, sharing in the government of God over all creation).

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