Friday, April 8, 2011

"If God, Why Evil" Book Review

Fresh from Norman Geisler, If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Problem is Geisler's attempt at answering why evil exists if there is a God who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfectly good. The book is a short read, clocking in at a mere 173 pages, which is surprising given the topic. However, I believe the length of the book is actually one of its strong points, as the Geisler packs quite a bit into each chapter without overwhelming the reader.

Much of the material in the book is rehashed from Geisler's Systematic Theology (such as his chapter arguing for the existence of hell). The "new way" to think about the problem seems to be in Geisler's argument that we are living (potentially) in the best possible world if we are truly free creature. While this argument might sound shallow to some, it really does help the reader appreciate the fact that God allows the evil he does for a specific purpose. Perhaps it is not the strongest apologetic argument out there, but it was both theologically and emotionally satisfying to me. Those who hold to a Molinist view of God's sovereignty will find much help here in Geisler's discussion of the best possible world.

Of interest to some readers will be the fact that Geisler spends one appendix discussing the theological shortcomings of The Shack. His critique feels somewhat dated considering the fact that The Shack is nearly four years old. Also, most of what Geisler critiques has been present on the internet for years. That said, some pastors might find the appendix a concise, useful critique of The Shack, that is beneficial for curious members of their churches.

In the end, Geisler's book is a short, interesting read on the problem of evil. Geisler, the philosopher, seems most at home. However, this reviewer cannot help but wonder if one really needs yet another book on the problem of evil. Geisler's "best possible world" approach is useful. Yet, it does not seem like this book advances the discussion any further. For those put off by Randy Alcorn's massive book If God is Good, Geisler's book is a solid replacement. However, for those who are looking for a truly substantial (and nearly exhaustive) treatment of the topic, pick up Alcorn's book instead.

*Thanks to Bethany House Publishers for providing a free review copy of this book for publicity purposes*

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