Some of the most helpful books in the field of biblical and theological studies have come in the form of multiview dialogs. These books are especially useful for laity looking to survey the landscape of ideas, and the format is exceptional for argument analysis. The most recent of these books, from the Spectrum Multiview Books series, seeks to address an age-old problem with a bit of modern flare—God and the problem of evil.
God and the Problem of Evil: Five Views edited by Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr. brings together five theological minds with very different views of God and the reconciliation of such to the existence of evil in the world. The book is comprised of two parts. Part one is a positive presentation of each of the five views. Phillip Cary represents the classical theist view, arguing that no evil takes place unless God permits it, and in doing so, his purpose is for a greater good to be brought about in the world. William Lane Craig represents the Molinist view, arguing that divine middle knowledge essentially becomes the solution to the problem. William Hasker represents the open theist view and argues that God created humanity as free creatures. Thus, it is impossible for him to know with certainty what they would do in any given situation. Thomas Oord represented a modified open theist view which he refers to as an essential kenosis view. Oord argues that God, for the sake of love, emptied (kenosis) himself of the ability to control the actions and effects of free creatures, and thus, is unable to stop evil from taking place. Lastly, Stephan Wykstra represents a more philosophically abstract approach to the problem of evil which is labeled the skeptical theism view.
The second part of the book comprises the responses of each contributor to the other contributors’ essays. Each response essay is brief and curated into a single chapter. For example, Cary’s response essay interacts with Craig, Hasker, Oord, and Wykstra in a single chapter. In my experience, the format of the book hasn’t provided as much room for interaction, and actually, makes the book more difficult to navigate then if the each response followed the positive presentation in the first section (e.g. each contributor interacts with a single view immediately following the positive presentation). Consequently, while the content of the interaction between the views is helpful, it is rather brief and sometimes seems outright dismissive (e.g. Hasker’s interaction with Carey). That said this is the biggest shortcoming to an otherwise excellent display of scholarly engagement on a very important and far reaching theological topic.
God and the Problem of Evil: Five Views edited by Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr. offers an up-to-date engagement with the current landscape on one of the most theologically problematic questions to meet the modern age: if an all-loving and all-powerful God exists, then why is there so much evil in the world? Despite the lackluster organization of the response section, the book shines with deep theological reflection and worthwhile interaction. It’s a well-done primer that I wouldn’t have any problem recommending to others interested in the topic. Trust me, its worth the reflection!