Off the Bookshelf
I've been cataloging many beloved books as I've been packing them at home and then unpacking them in my new office at Lindenwood. In some cases, I've filled my bookshelves to the point that I have two rows of books — one in front of another — on a shelf. To my fellow bibliophiles, that's probably nothing remarkable, but I mention that because it leads to some interesting discoveries when one starts removing some of the books from those shelves. In one such cases I stumbled across one of my very favorite books from my philosophy classes in college: Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy.
Consolation is a famous text from medieval philosophy and yet I have found it is not nearly as well known as it deserves to be. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful attempts to wrestle with the problem of evil ever penned. Significant evil was not merely theoretical for Boethius. He stared it down very directly as he found himself confined to a prison cell as an enemy of the state. As he put it at the beginning of Book IV:
But here is what is perhaps the greatest cause of my sorrow: the fact that evil things can exist at all, or that they can pass unpunished, when the helmsman of all things is good.
The existence of evil in a world under the control of a good, loving God is a problem that Christians have always had to wrestle with and one that many skeptics continue to raise today. While philosophical arguments can only complement — not replace — the revelation of God in Christ and the witness of Scripture, still their complementary role is one worth more study within the church today.
If you are looking for something to read this winter, maybe my old friend Consolation would be worth visiting with.
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