An exploration of Christian attitudes toward evil, complete with hopeful predictions for the world.
Over the course of 30 chapters—with titles like “Evil: A Choice” and “Why Evil is Called Satan”—Poelman makes the provocative case that what the Bible says about evil has been misinterpreted by everyone from laity to Martin Luther. Through his close reading of several different translations, and with copious scriptural citations to support his arguments, Poelman purports to demonstrate the largely symbolic role of the biblical Satan and makes a case that as individuals accept greater responsibility for evil actions, the earth advances toward a “comforting, long-term restoration of humanity.” Unfortunately, 30 chapters is far more than these arguments need, and Poelman frequently finds himself deep in the weeds on esoteric issues, such as when he quotes eight different selections of scripture in a row to make a point about the form of Jesus’ holy being. The lack of a clearly stated thesis and the absence of summaries of Poelman’s arguments contribute to a sense that the theological tangents are more rambling than vital. For example, Poelman builds up to a claim that the interconnectedness of our modern world is a sign that the Kingdom of God appears on Earth several times, seemingly as if he’s lost track of the fact that he made the point already. Yet much of Poelman's thinking about the subject of evil is appealingly humanistic, and his attempt at a scholarly tone—though undermined by the use of nonscholarly sources, such as Parade magazine—brings an admirable restraint to potentially inflammatory topics. Poelman presents an optimistic vision for humankind: As we learn the true nature of evil, we are mastering it and eradicating it from the world, paving the way for a glorious and peaceable age. With a message like that, and a polemic perhaps a quarter of this manuscript’s length, Poelman could be a moderating voice in contemporary theological discussions.
Poelman’s weighty inquiry into the biblical origins of evil is at times hard to follow but is notable for its hopeful vision for humankind.