Recently I read Dr. Ingrid Faro’s new book Demystifying Evil (IVP Academic). It is a bit of a personal account thoughtfully blended with biblical, theological, and pastoral insight. If you wonder and worry about how to dispel the darkness in the world, this is the book for you. Dr. Faro graciously wrote up a bit about the topic for my blog.
Removing Evil’s Mask
by Ingrid Faro
Evil comes at us from many directions. We often feel blindsided when we’re hit. Therefore, we tend to react in harmful and hurtful ways. In my own life, I struggled to make sense of the world. Life felt random, cruel: like a 10,000 piece puzzle shaken up and dumped on the floor. I developed a flinch reaction, expecting more bad things to happen—a Whack-A-Mole view of life, with me as the mole and God holding the hammer.
The church of my teens became a cult. When I decided to leave, they tried to convince me I was becoming mentally unstable. I finally escaped but didn’t understand the damage they had caused. I joined another unhealthy, controlling church that taught the only way a woman could be in ministry was to be married to someone in ministry. Since I wanted to be in ministry, I married a member who was training to be a pastor. He had one-third of the New Testament memorized and was leading Bible studies and local evangelistic outreaches. At home, he was unfaithful and increasingly violent. After he broke my nose, I finally called our lead pastor, whose only response was, “Go home and love your husband.” I obeyed as I had been taught and didn’t escape until my husband tried to kill me.
We tried counseling. His only complaint was that I was too nice. I later learned that it’s neither good nor nice to let someone run over you. He admitted to his affairs but not to his physical abuse. When we divorced, I was told I could never be in ministry, so I poured myself into business. My work was successful, but hardships continued to overwhelm me. I quit church. The only reason I still believed in the existence of God was because I knew I had encountered him as a young Christian. But I didn’t know if God was good. I didn’t know if God was just. I didn’t know if God loved me.
After working myself into a disability, I began to take the time to listen to my own thoughts and allow myself to feel my pain. I realized that if I could feel this much pain, perhaps it was possible to feel that much happiness. I began to ask questions about life, myself, and God that previously, I was taught I wasn’t supposed to ask. My questions led me to seek understanding from Scripture for myself, from the Greek and the Hebrew while I continued to work full-time and care for my children.
I completed a MDiv (Master of Divinity) degree, but still had lots of questions and confusion. I continued seeking answers and pursued a PhD focusing on Old Testament and Semitic Languages. During these years of study, the shattered pieces of my life began to come together. I focused on the question, “Why is there evil and where is God in all this mess?”
The raw honesty of the Old Testament, the connections made from the Hebrew, and the contrast of Scripture with the writings of other cultures from the ancient Near East to modern reframed my thinking. The hyperlinks in the biblical text unfolded a history and faith that I had never seen before. I came to understand the Gospel as “good news.” As I studied and reconnected with God and people, I began to see the causes behind each loss and hardship. The 10,000 pieces of my life, along with the history of humanity, began to take shape.
My book Demystifying Evil: A Biblical and Personal Exploration is the culmination of fifteen years of research and nearly a lifetime of losses, traumas, and abuse. I walk through the processes that I took toward regaining life, health, and meaning. I’ve walked alongside many other courageous people from different parts of the globe as they face the evil and begin to hope for goodness. However, this is not a “how to” book. I don’t have pat answers because those don’t work.
We each have our own journey. Each of our stories and our paths are unique. The framework I offer seeks to nudge us out of paralysis, passivism, or rage toward evil. Asking questions helps distinguish between evils, suffering, and pain. There are no simplistic answers. Defining good leads to clarity about what is evil. These preliminary steps move to empower us to discern what held us captive and hindered our flourishing.
From there, evaluating major causes of good and evil guides us to recognize the ways evil operates to blindside us and knock us down. Many forces are at work, including natural causes, human causes, and unseen spiritual entities. Through these lenses, we look at the work of Christ: how he approached evil; laid down his life to bear human evils; took authority over spiritual forces of wickedness and handed his authority to us.
The problem of evil is not just a philosophical, theological, or social issue—it’s personal. At the core, wrestling with evil is the attempt to make sense of the world. My goals in writing this book are to challenge simplistic or purely intellectual responses to the problems caused by evil, to overcome passivity or resignation, to restore a vision of the goodness of God, and to offer tools and hope for our participation in the transformation of evil into good.