Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Book Review -- Evil and the Justice of God

Evil and the Justice of God (N.T. Wright)Bishop N.T. Wright has the remarkable ability of communicating the fruits of his Biblical scholarship to both academics and laymen with equal effectiveness. In the wake of calamitous events of recent years (including 9/11, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, to name a few), Wright has released Evil and the Justice of God, a popular-level overview of evil in light of the claims of the Christian Bible. The result is a compelling look at how evil fits into the larger story of a good God and the lengths to which He went to restore His fallen Creation.

Wright adapted Evil and the Justice of God from a series of five lectures. Chapter One examines the "new problem of evil." As Wright explains, the so-called "problem of evil" dealt with the question of how a good God could allow suffering and injustice to happen, seemingly unchecked. Over time, philosophical musings on evil were overtaken by the Enlightenment ideal of progress, which would sweep evil into the background. The modern age, argues Wright, has presented us with a "new problem of evil," with three distinct characteristics: 1) we ignore evil when it doesn't directly impact us; 2) we are surprised by evil when it does; and 3) we react to evil in dangerous and immature ways. However, the rise of postmodernity has brought a much-needed critique of arrogant modernity, a "preaching of the Fall," that forces us to come to terms with the reality of evil in the world and also in ourselves. But, although the postmodern critique brings us to a more nuanced view of evil, it offers no real solutions.

In Chapter Two, Wright surveys the ways in which the Old Testament demonstrates God's dealings with evil. Although the origins of evil are mostly shrouded in mystery, God's actions are not. He calls Abraham (among others) to undertake the work of dealing with evil, but a second-order issue quickly arises: God's chosen people are all too often part of the problem, not the solution. In Chapter Three, Wright proceeds into the New Testament's treatment of evil. Again, God's people are incapable of providing a remedy due to their own corruption. Onto the scene comes Jesus, who alone can deal decisively with evil. Jesus' death on the cross is the climactic event where God judges evil, as the forces of darkness expend their full fury against Jesus. Wright argues that the atonement is best described in terms of "Christus Victor," which encapsulates the various strands of satisfaction, penal substitution and propitiation, among others, in the victory of Jesus over the forces of evil. The Scriptures never deal with evil in the abstract, but instead highlight how God has acted in judgment against it, primarily in the atoning death of Jesus.

The final two chapters provide an overview of how Christ's victory over evil is implemented in the interim period before God ushers in a new heaven and a new earth. Wright explains that the Church can never duplicate what Christ did on the cross, because it is a once-and-for-all achievement. But the atonement allows Christ's people to model out His victory in such disparate areas as prayer, holiness, politics and empire, penal codes, and international disputes. Wright notes that we often can't envision what this implementation looks like, because our imaginations have shriveled: they need to be educated. One of the key aspects of living out this victory over evil is to firmly grasp forgiveness, both of self and of others. True forgiveness is never a simple passing over of wrongs. Quite the contrary, forgiveness begins with naming evil for what it is. Only then can there be reconciliation and restoration. This is the task set before the Church until Christ returns to complete the work of redeeming His fallen creation.

I really enjoyed this book. Some reviewers have expressed disappointment that Wright did not give some time to addressing the classical forms of the problem of evil, but honestly, I think this is one of the book's main strengths. Rather than engaging in abstract speculations about evil and its origins, Wright takes us directly to the Scriptures and its overarching narrative structure. We may not get a better grasp on the mysteries of where evil came from, but we can rest confident knowing what God has done and continues to do about it. Most importantly, Wright's treatment intentionally demonstrates that evil is the backdrop for the cross of Jesus.

Admittedly, the book has a few weaknesses. For instance, I'm not entirely sold on Wright's depiction of "the satan" as a "quasi-personal force." I think I get what he means by not wanting to ascribe full personhood to him (it?), but it'd be nice to have a more detailed treatment. Similarly, although Wright argues that "Christus Victor" contains a host of other themes, I would like to have seen a more detailed treatment of evil in terms of sin, an affront to God's holiness. But these aren't necessarily disagreements, just wishes that this popular-level book offered a little more in a few areas. These few quibbles aren't nearly enough to detract from the book.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Flags in Church?

Coinciding with various Memorial Day weekend church services, the iMonk has some good thoughts on the presence of the American flag in church sanctuaries. Good stuff, especially his attempt to understand both sides of the issue.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Thank you for an awesome season finale. I'm sorry I doubted you earlier this season. Let's never fight again.


More Coming From Indelible Grace

Great news! Kevin Twit has started work on the next Indelible Grace CD. (Release date yet to be determined.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Interesting article

Colleges deal with furniture and more that students leave behind

(At Tech I was always amazed at how much stuff -- much of it in good shape -- got tossed at the end of the year. Good to see that some schools are coming up with creative approaches to deal with the problem.)

Speaking of Derek Webb

Here's a photo from the upcoming Caedmon's Call album, due in August.

Yes, that's Derek with the band. The long-swirling rumors are apparently true. Frankly, the prospect of a Caedmon's lineup featuring both Derek and Andy Osenga just makes my head asplode. In a good way.

UPDATED: Here's a press release from Caedmon's new label.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Music Review -- Derek Webb, The Ringing Bell

The Ringing BellDerek Webb can certainly not be accused of resting on his musical laurels. Since leaving Caedmon's Call in 2003, he has released four studio albums, each having a distinctly different sound from his previous work. With The Ringing Bell, his latest, Derek proves that he is not afraid to rock and/or roll. Caedmon's fans shouldn't be surprised, as Derek frequently brought a bit of rock to the mix (for examples, see "What You Want" off Long Line of Leavers or live renditions of U2's "In God's Country?"). Although The Ringing Bell is more in the vein of pop/rock (a la the Beatles, one of Derek's stated influences) rather than something harder, Derek has created a solid and satisfying album.

Thematically, The Ringing Bell has some continuation from Mockingbird, his previous effort, in that it discusses how the Christian faith plays out in a "real-world" setting -- that is, as Derek asks, if Christians have been saved from our sins by Jesus, what exactly have we been saved for? Particularly, the issue of peace predominates the songs of The Ringing Bell. Although some of the lyrics are a bit more opaque than the storytelling of his previous albums, Derek does conjure up some vivid images. After two slightly-mellow (but good) opening tracks, "A Love That's Stronger Than Our Fear" cranks up the distorted guitar and unleashes the rock, with lyrical allusions to topics ranging from Christian martyrdom to the alleged abuses at Guantanamo Bay. "Name" decries the perils and drawbacks of using labels to summarize -- and marginalize -- people and groups. "A Savior on Capitol Hill" raises questions about whether our loyalties ultimately rest with Caesar or with Jesus. As Derek noted in a recent interview, The Ringing Bell was intended to be "a better Trojan Horse," using the up-tempo musical arrangements to smuggle in weightier themes. On the slower end of the spectrum, "I Don't Want To Fight" is Derek's jangly recanting of his personal tendency to pursue arguments at all costs. The album also has a couple of songs concerning his wife Sandra, including "I Wanna Marry You All Over Again," truly one of the album's standout tracks. The album closes with the sparse "This Too Shall Be Made Right," which offers a hopeful refrain in response to the multitude of wrongs that pervade our existence.

I've been listening to the album for a few weeks now, and I'm still not sure where The Ringing Bell ranks among the Derek Webb discography. It's definitely near the top of the list, though, and is a must-have for fans of quality music. And if the music alone wasn't enough, Derek teamed up with Portland Studios to release a graphic novel for the album -- and it's actually pretty cool, too. The graphic novel contains all the lyrics, presented with various images inspired by/related to the songs. The result is kind of neat, in that both the album and the graphic novel enhance each other.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Arroz con Pollo with Apples

I made this delicious recipe from realsimple for the first time last night and wanted to share!

I substituted what I had on hand--
I used chicken breasts instead of thighs (which meant cooking them a bit longer), Golden Delicious instead of Granny Smith (not as tart, but still good), and extra green bell pepper instead of yellow bell peppers.

Not only did it taste good, it looked good, too! My mom and grandmother taught me that a colorful plate is a healthy plate, so this meets all requirements. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Natalie's Story

Though they may not realize it, this adoptive parents' story is a picture of the Father's love for His children.

Monday, May 14, 2007

This is Jacob's response to our infrequent blogging as of late.

Monday, May 07, 2007

I won! I really won!

I just won $50 cash from! (If you check this out within the next few minutes, I'll probably still be listed as a recent winner!)

Blingo is a search engine just like Google except you can win free stuff just by using it regularly whenever you need to look something up. I've had it as my homepage since last fall and now I finally won something!

I've never won anything in a contest like this, and yes, it really happened. I'll let you know when I get it in the mail. Maybe I'll use it to buy a new babywearing sling or pouch, since that's what I was searching for when I won. Woo-hoo! Happy Early Mother's Day to me!

I think kristen won because of me, so Happy Early Mother's Day to her, too! Click below and sign up now and I'll be added as your friend and we can win together!


The End Is (Sort Of) Near

Interesting news for fans of "Lost."

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Calling All Moms

There are a number of great giveaways over at 5minutesformom, most notably an iPod nano and a custom handmade mei tei baby carrier from all natural mommies, so don't forget to enter!


thanks to kristen for reminding me (and congrats on the new job!).

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Action Shots!

Rock Star Wannabe

Training To Face Drago