This is part of the DR Book Collection.
A couple months ago, I gave a talk on “trials and their purpose“, which basically become a discussion of the problem of evil in Mormon thought. I read a number of books in preparation for it, including David B. Hart’s The Doors of the Sea, Michael Austin’s Re-reading Job, and N.T. Wright’s Evil & the Justice of God. Two books that I didn’t finish prior to the talk was Jon Levenson’s Creation and the Persistence of Evil and Gregory Boyd’s God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict. The latter in particular I wish I had finished in time. Boyd, a Princeton-educated theologian and pastor, approaches the problem of evil from what he calls the warfare worldview: the perspective that this world is a battlefield between spiritual forces of good and evil. He argues that the
biblical authors generally assume the existence of intermediary spiritual or cosmic beings. These beings, variously termed “gods,” “angels,” “principalities and powers,” “demons,” or, in the earliest strata, “Leviathan” or some other cosmic monster, can and do wage war against God, wreak havoc on his creation and bring all manner of ills upon humanity. Whether portraying Yahweh as warring against Rahab and other cosmic monsters of chaos or depicting Jesus as casting out a legion of demons from the possessed Gerasene, the Bible as well as the early postapostolic church assumes that the creation is caught up in the crossfire of an age-old cosmic battle between good and evil. As in other warfare worldviews, the Bible assumes that the course of this warfare greatly affects life on earth (pg. 18).
Boyd traces God’s conflict with the forces of chaos and evil from the Old Testament (e.g., the hostile waters of creation, Leviathan, Rahab, the gods of Ps. 82, etc.) to the New Testament (e.g., Jesus’ exorcisms, Christus Victor atonement theology). According to Boyd, the evils of this world are not only caused by the free will of human beings, but the free will of demonic beings as well. The book is fascinating and certainly interesting for Mormons, whose own teachings and scriptures depict a pre-mortal “war in heaven” that continues today.1 Boyd’s analysis brings new meaning to Mormon’s words: “Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually” (Moroni 7:12).
You can see an interview with Boyd below in which he discusses some of these ideas.