We come to the 3rd chapter of Christopher Wright’s book, The God I don’t Understand(2008, IVP). Poking a little fun at theologians he tells us that while they want to explain evil, God intends and will destroy it. He reminds us that in the 1st chapter he called us to accept the mystery of evil and in the 2nd to protest and lament it. In this chapter he calls us to rejoice over evil’s final destruction.
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. (56)
Wright wants us to look at 3 ways the cross helps us understand God’s response to evil. “They are: the utter ‘evilness’ of evil; the utter goodness of God; and the utter sovereignty of God” (p. 57). The cross holds these 3 things together and Wright argues through the chapter how each of these things must be part of our understanding of how God defeats evil.
1. If evil isn’t that evil or rather was necessary, then God is somehow stained by it
2. God is utterly good. And his sovereignty over evil people and his use of their acts of evil does not stain him either.
3. God is sovereign and whether or not you try to distinguish between God’s permissive will and his declarative will, he is sovereign over all things.
Wright then recounts the Joseph story to show these three truths. Evil is evil in the life of Joseph. God is good to him and the whole area. God is sovereign, even over the evil behavior of his brothers.
And then he moves to the cross,
First, the cross exposed the utter depths of human and satanic evil–in hatred, injustice, cruelty, violence, and murder…
Second, the cross happened fully in accordance with God’s sovereign will from eternity…
Third, the cross also expressed the utter goodness of God, pouring out his mercy and grace in self-giving love. (62-63)
Finally, he finishes the chapter with an exploration of Revelation as it illustrates the centrality of the Cross in the defeat of evil. “Christ’s power to control these evil forces [the horsemen in Revelation] is the same power as the power he exercised on the cross.” (p. 67). And so, Rev. 21 tells us of the evils that will be banished (sea, death, pain, sin, darkness, shame, strife, curse, etc.).
This is a short but nice chapter on the power of the cross over evil–how God brings evil and righteousness together in one act in order to destroy all evil. Whenever human goodness and evil combine, the result is impurity. But God’s weakness/innocence on the cross results in the destruction of all that is evil.
From here we’ll move to questions about all the killing in the OT, of the destruction of the Canaanites to give Israel a land. How are we to understand that?