Thinking Out Loud

October 9, 2019

Review: Worldviews and the Problem of Evil

Every so often, one needs to challenge themselves by reading something that is one level above what they might normally peruse.

I’m not entirely sure how a copy of the just-released Worldviews and The Problem of Evil: A Comparative Approach ended up in my mailbox. Lexham Press — home to bestselling apologist Dr. Michael Heiser — doesn’t normally send me review copies, and so I figured this one had arrived unsolicited and tossed it on the ‘unread’ stack.

Neither was I familiar with the author. Dr. Ronnie P. Campbell has lectured as Assistant Professor of theology at Liberty University’s Rawlings School of Divinity. His bio states that his “research interests include God’s relationship to time, the problem of evil, the doctrine of the Trinity, and religious doubt.” He’s also one of the contributors to the recently-released Zondervan Counterpoints title, Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews Worship the Same God? Four Views.

I placed the book off to the side for a few weeks, and then intentionally returned to it this week to give it a brief mention — they had mailed it after all — as an academic title that was ‘beyond my pay grade,’ a phrase I am given to using rather frequently.

But surely, even though my criteria is to not offer something as a formal review unless I’ve devoured every single word. While that’s not the case here, an attempt to give a cursory overview of the table of contents drew me in, and before long, I had covered well over half of the book’s 298 pages. (Not 352, as one popular Christian book retailer states.)

Campbell begins by presenting four dominant worldviews:

  • Naturalism
  • Pantheism
  • Panentheism
  • Theism

and I must confess the third of these was new to me; which sent me running a rabbit trail back to Kirk Macgregor’s Evangelical Theology, in order to brush up on process theology. But I digress.

With each worldview, Campbell looks at how it deals with life, consciousness, good and evil, and human responsibility.

He then settles in for a longer treatment of theism, exploring the implications of a God who loves beyond himself (though a trinitarian view allows for an internal love), a God who takes action, and a God who defeats evil, now and in the future.

The thing above about it being an ‘academic title?’ Instead, I found this accessible, and even delved into many of the exhaustive footnotes.

The publisher’s back cover blurb states the book’s approach integrates apologetics and theology, but I would argue that the book is also very much a work of philosophy, or if you prefer, Christian philosophy. I personally found some exposure to symbolic logic was additionally helpful…

Too much time had passed between receiving this book and not mentioning to my readers, so I decided to make amends today with the goal of continuing to read later today and tomorrow. While theologians may never cease considering the problem of evil, Campbell makes his point well that the Christian worldview is best suited to understanding pain, suffering and evil in our world.

A glossary of key terms — also highlighted in bold throughout the book — and extensive bibliography completes the book.

9781683593058 | Paperback | $22.95 U.S. | In Canada: Parasource

Title webpage at Lexham Press

January 20, 2014

The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

For several months, the book’s working title was Tomorrowland.

Eventually, it was ruled that ‘The Mouse’ would never stand for that, and so the title of Skye Jethani’s third book became Futureville: Discover Your Purpose for Today by Reimagining Tomorrow, and while another Disney property, EPCOT, is mentioned, the major motif in Futureville is the great promise that was held out for mankind in general, and America in particular in the 1939 World’s Fair.

Futureville - Skye JethaniWhile Jethani is not entirely a household name in the Christian community, his voice is as unique as his ability to weave a subject — in The Divine Commodity it was the art and life of Vincent Van Gogh — into his writing as an ongoing talking point. The middle book of the current three takes a different approach; elsewhere I described his book With as The Preposition Proposition.  His audience is widening through friend Phil Vischer’s podcast, but he is probably best known for his work on Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal, and its highly ranked blog, Out of Ur, relaunched this past weekend as PARSE.  As I’ve said elsewhere — and in reference to other authors — I think his books are best enjoyed after you’ve had exposure to some visual media; some clips are currently available at his blog Skyebox.

The premise of Futureville is that “our vision of the future is what determines how we understand the present. In a very real sense today is defined by tomorrow… what lies ahead.” The book looks at the wide arc of Biblical history through a lens that is both somewhat philosophical and agnostic-friendly. This is a title that meets the giveaway criteria.

He also offers some fresh insights for insiders. Example: We tend to think of the Biblical narrative beginning in a garden and ending in a return to a garden (which owes more to Crosby, Stills and Nash) while in fact the story ends in a city. If you live in Philadelphia or Detroit or Gary, Indiana, the idea of city may suggest that perhaps God could do better. But Jethani uncovers the rationale behind the imagery.

Social activism, environmentalism, politics, etc. all come under the microscope as does the effect current affairs have on shaping theology. Yes, the Bible can be thought of as somewhat clear on matters, but theological thought trends in ways not unlike celebrity fixations on Twitter. We may know what the text says, but the book points out the ways in which the capital ‘C’ Church will spin it differently and slowly drift from its mission.

Much of the book’s purpose is to help refocus us by freshly acquainting ourselves with the key images of scripture and of worship, and to re-purpose us to realigning our priorities. In many respects, Futureville is prescriptive, it gives the Church a mandate for 2014 not unlike Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock did for a broader society in 1970. While parts of Futureville may leave you disturbed, overall, the book offers assurance that God has orchestrated things to lead toward a conclusion of his choosing, and one that, to borrow from Jeremiah, offers us a future and a hope.

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