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A Unique Theodicy
The book was a fairly light read, easy to get through, yet deep and informative at the same time. I would recommend this to those who are somewhat familiar with modern cosmology, geology, and theological exegesis. If you are an adamant young earth creationist you will either dislike this book or be engaged to find more answers (which ultimately he believes to be untenable). To state the theodicy in a nutshell, both natural and personal/moral evil is a result of the Fall and God acted in anticipatory manner, though retroactively, to show the gravity of sin. I appreciate Dembski's attempts to reconcile evil with sin and to exalt God's grace and glory in the midst of suffering and evil.
The only objections I had:
1. Dembski continually refers to the pre-fall creation [or prior to the effect of sin] as "perfect." I don't find this to be a biblical description of creation, rather God calls physical creation "good" (i.e. the end of the fourth day Gen. 1.25). The best thing God labels in creation is the creation of man, that creation is "very good" (Gen. 1.31). I constantly took note of this throughout the book. I would be interested to see if this would effect his theodicy at all.
2. I disagree with Dembski's philosophy of time (though I can't be certain from reading this book). Dembski seems to align himself with the [seemingly] majority of Evangelicals by claiming God is "outside of time" [B-theorist, static theory]. I may part way with this as I am an ardent A-theorist [dynamic theory]. I don't see this as effecting his theodicy at all though. He uses it to show the retroactive effects of sin from the initial beginning of the universe. That doesn't seem to necessitate an omnitemporality of God, rather middle knowledge [or even mere foreknowledge].
3. I disagree, exegetically, with his interpretation of Romans 5.12. I believe that "death" only refers to human death. I think to read in all death [to plants and animals] one must do leaps and bounds.
In the end, I find Dembski's theodicy to be plausible (no need for exegetical gymnastics either!). I find it complementary to a free will defense, and appropriately so (I appreciate his dismissal of Hick's soul-making). I hope that Dembski writes another book expounding on more details behind the core argument (as well as incorporate anything related to my three objections, though not pertinent to the actual argument).The book is also seeker-friendly in the sense that those who hold the problem of evil as an intellectual or emotional hurdle in believing in God or allowing a closer relationship to him may find answers.
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Posted August 11, 2009
The Problem of Evil in Full View
The mental climate in which we live has embraced a scientific and naturalistic explanation for just about everything. In that climate, the problem of evil is a compelling reason to refuse belief in God. Dembski sets out to address both the climate and the problem. "The challenge of this book is to formulate a theodicy that is at once faithful to Christian orthodoxy and credible to our mental environment." (From the Introduction.)
The reader unwilling to follow Dembski's line of reasoning will quickly run into trouble. This book will pique the indignation of those for whom any variance from Young Earth Creationism is a drift into wrong theology. Readers insistent on staying clear of anything that smacks of "evolution" will be tempted to put it aside (but probably form a judgment about it anyway). Minds unwilling to explore what it might mean that God's thinking and acting transcend time, will probably doze off before getting to the good part.
So, what's in it for those who see it through?
. Continuity in understanding the comprehensive impact of sin on the creation and the comprehensive efficacy of Christ's atonement across all time,
. A credible understanding and articulation of current scientific thinking without abandoning sound evangelical, theological basics, and
. A breadth of theological, philosophical, and scientific reference that seems to leave no stone unturned in pursuit of his objective.
What you won't find is a necessarily easy read, or a proposal that will instantly find its way into your comfort zone. No reader is obligated to agree with his conclusions, but unless you grasp the core of Dembski's reasoning, I'm confident you won't fully understand your own view very well either.
Reviewed originally for Pulpit Helps Magazine & Online
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Posted December 18, 2009
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