Archive for May 9th, 2014

How did Evil Come into this World Edgar

(This booklet is available from Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore)


This is a book by the Christian apologist William Edgar who teaches at Westminster Theological Seminary.  I must say that I had high expectations even before I read the book for the following three reasons:  1.) Other works in this series (Christian Answers to Hard Questions) has been helpful such as The Morality of God in the Old Testament and Did Adam Exists? (our review can be accessed here and here respectively) 2.) I find most writings by the faculty from Westminster Theological Seminary to be theologically stimulating and 3.) I enjoyed the author’s previous work on Francis Schaeffer.  Perhaps due to my high expectation the book was not what I anticipated.

From previous advertisement of the book the booklet was originally titled “Science and the Problem of Evil” though at present the title is How Did Evil Come into the World?  I was disappointed since I presumed that the book was merely renamed but it was still going to deal with the interaction of science and the problem of evil.  Discussion of science and the intersection of theodicy, specifically with the claim that science challenges the Biblical account of evil was only mentioned in passing towards the end of the book.  What was said was very meager.  Edgar made the point that scientific theories continues to be challenged and modified so one should not base much on current scientific conjecture to dismiss what Scripture clearly teaches.  I concur with Edgar but wished he could have expounded more on the subject.

The book rightly point out that there are a lot of areas that remain mysterious for man concerning the origin of evil.  For instance, concerning the role of God’s sovereign ordination and how God could remain “not guilty” in ordaining them, Edgar writes that this is a mystery.  The book is helpful in setting up orthodox and Reformed boundaries in addressing the problem of evil.  Yet more could be said.  I wished the author could have articulated a compact form of the Ex Lex approach towards theodicy as advocated by Gordon Clark and Jay Adams as I find it personally helpful.

I must also say that the book’s proposal of a distinction between God’s metaphysical attributes and His covenantal qualities is not as helpful when it is used to address the difficult subject of the origin of evil.  I do think that as a concept for theology-proper the metaphysical-covenantal attributes of God is helpful as Edgar’s colleague Dr. Scott Oliphint wonderfully demonstrate in God With Us.  But there’s less mileage for theodicy.  The metaphysical attributes here deals with God as He is in his asiety while the “covenantal” attributes is concerned with God’s characteristics in special relationship to man.  After making this distinction the author noted that God ordain all events from all eternity but covenantally he abhors evil.  However I would add that God‘s ordination of events must be covenantal as well, since there is nothing that must necessarily come to pass in human affairs other than God’s free decision that it be so.  God’s ordination of events is the working of God’s covenantal attributes since it involves the relationship of Him to man.  We are back to the same problem where we started with.

I would recommend the book for an introduction to the discussion of the problem of evil and for Christians to know the theological boundaries one must embrace in conversations about the origin of evil.  Digging deeper require one to study other Reformed writers on this subject.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by P&R Publishing and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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