Evil   /   Summer 2000   /    Articles

Evil Lost and Found

Jennifer L. Geddes

St. Michael Defeating the Devil (detail), c. 1525, Miquel Esteve, Museu de Belles Arts de Valencia, Spain; Wikimedia Commons.

Evil is not something that we will “figure out.”

The number of books on evil has been increasing rapidly, especially in recent years. Choosing which ones to highlight in this review was a challenging task, but I decided on two very different works, each exemplifying a distinct facet of the study of evil—in fact, the two books under consideration could hardly be more different: One suggests that we have lost the sense of evil; the other argues that an answer to the theological problems raised by evil can be found. One is a book of history, narrative, and cultural analysis, written from a secular, liberal perspective; the other a combination of analytic philosophy and Christian theology. One focuses on how a culture understands evil; the other on how individuals who have suffered evil might come to understand their experiences. At issue in one is the spiritual health of a culture; at issue in the other is the possibility of individual belief in God in the face of evil. And yet, despite these major differences, both books suggest that how we think about evil is fundamental to the ways we understand our selves, our communities, our societies, and our world.

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