November 19, 2010

Evil & Suffering: Book Recommendations

My thesis on Theodicy which is a vindication of the divine attributes, particularly holiness and justice, in establishing or allowing the existence of physical and moral evil is now complete. In the process of completing my thesis for theology I used a large number of books as my resources. The ones below are quite thorough and highly recommended. Since there are multiple I will not be doing detailed reviews of each.

What I will say is that I compiled a resource list in excess of 40 sources and whittled it down to approximately 30 that I actually cited. Of those thirty the three below were the most clear, easiest to understand and closest to my presuppositions. I strongly recommend them to help people get a grasp on why there is evil in God's creation. To some extent they help grasp why there is suffering and pain also (that may or may not eventually lead to death). Since I have just gone through watching my father suffer greatly before his death last week, these books help give perspective of a painful and hard to understand subject.

How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil by D.A.Carson

Good comprehensive overview of evil and suffering from an evangelical point of view. Carson is an excellent author and explains himself well. Does a great job of explaining things from different points of view such as the eschatological (last things, the end). He also has a lengthy portion on social evils such as poverty and war and how they do indeed coincide with a biblical worldview

The Many Faces of Evil: Theological Systems and the Problems of Evil by John S. Feinberg

This book is more theologically and philosophically dense than the other two posted here but it is still readable. Author posits most of the legitimate and internally consistent arguments in existence that explain how evil could exist in a creation ruled by a omnibenevolent and omnipotent God.

Sunsets: Reflections for Life's Final Journey by Deborah Howard

Generalized outline of pain, suffering and things like death and bereavement. Written by a certified hospice and palliative nurse with gut-wrenching sincerity but done so compassionately. Writing style is easy to read but topic is difficult to stomach emotionally as it deals with painful topics and issues close to those that have lost a love one(s).

Most of the other references that I used were too dense or complex for an easy read on such a tough subject so I avoided other books in this post. Start with these. If you do not get a broadened view of sin's roll in our fallen world and why God allows evil and suffering after these reads, I will be surprised.

When researching and writing on this topic I needed to do it in a measured and incremental basis. Dealing with a topic like this is like handling radioactive materials that can radiate and kill or disfigure a person. It can only be endured in limited exposures without being poisonous to it handler. The problem with this topic (especially the evil) is it might actually be more damaging to a person’s health than radioactive waste as it can also permanently alter or affect one’s mind if they are exposed for too long a time frame. The evil and suffering pondered upon during my writing had the potential to mutate (or transform) my soul for good or bad. When I needed to acquire information I used theological grappling tongs and tried to insulate myself in prayer to pull from sources that could be potentially toxic. From some of them I took what I needed and dropped them as quickly as possible to avoid exceeding the fatal limit or exposure that causes deformation until I understood fully what the outcome of these mutations would be.

I personally needed to restore myself in Christ every single time I dealt with this paper and did so for my spiritual, mental and physical well-being. I knew doing this topic would leave be exposed to spiritual attacks and prepared accordingly. In the end I believe my faith is stronger for it and that is a residual effect or permutation that I had not counted nor had I been assured of at the start.

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