ICS Calendar Title: Facing the Darkness: The (Human) Nature of Evil

ICS Course Code: ICS 120801/220801 F13

Instructor: Dr. Nik Ansell

Term and Year: Fridays, 9:30am–12:30pm, Fall 2013

Last Updated: September 24, 2013  


1. Course Description

2. Course Learning Goals

3. Course Requirements

4. Required Readings

5. Recommended Readings

6. Reading Schedule

1. Course Description

We shall discuss the origin and nature of evil by engaging various biblical, theological, and anthropological resources. Topics will include natural evil, lament literature (e.g. Job), idolatry and the demonic, original sin and the correlation between victim and agent, and the relationship between justice and mercy. The course will consist of seminars in which participants will engage key readings relevant to the practice of interdisciplinary theology.

2. Course Learning Goals

a. a deeper understanding of the nature of evil that does not legitimate evil

b. ability to pursue interdisciplinary theology in a critical and creative fashion

c. ability to reflect on the nature of evil as a challenge and not simply as a philosophical-theological problem

3. Course Requirements

a. Total reading:  1250 pages total, including research for paper, of which approximately 60-70 pages per week is required to prepare for class

b. In-seminar leadership:  Written overview of at least two required readings, identifying key issues and questions, to aid class discussion; oral contribution to discussion

c. Description of course papers:  One paper of 3000-4000 words (Master’s students) or 5000-7000 words (Ph.D. students), due by relevant ICS/TST deadline

d. Description and weighting of elements to be evaluated:

         Paper:  60% [50% TST]

         Class presentations:  20% [25% TST]

         Oral contributions:  20% [25% TST]

4. Required Readings

Nicholas Ansell, “The Call of Wisdom/The Voice of the Serpent: A Canonical Approach to the Tree of Knowledge,” Christian Scholar’s Review 31/1 (Fall, 2001): 31-57

Nik Ansell, “Commentary: Job 1.1ff & 42.12-15,” Third Way 19/7 (Sept 1996): 20

Nik Ansell, “Commentary: Job 40:15-19, 42:1,6,” Third Way 26/9 (Nov 2003): 19

The Book of Job. In a biblical translation of your choice.

Stephen T. Davis, ed., Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy. Second revised edition (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001 [1981]) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BT160 .E53 ; BT160 .E53 2001ed]

Fyodor Dostoevsky, “Rebellion,” in The Karamazov Brothers, trans. Ignat Avsey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), Pt.2, Bk.5, 4 (pp. 296-309) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: PG3326 .B7A87 2008]

Terence E. Fretheim, Creation Untamed: The Bible, God, and Natural Disasters (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BT 161 .F74 2010]

Cornelius G. Hunter, Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2001) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: B818 .H855 2001 ; ROBA: B818 .H855 2001X]

Alice Miller, “Adolf Hitler’s Childhood: From Hidden to Manifest Horror,” in For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-rearing and the Roots of Violence, trans. Hildegarde and Hunter Hannum (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1983), 142-197 [ROBA: HQ769 .M531613 1983]

M. Scott Peck, “Towards a Psychology of Evil,” in People of the Lie: the Hope for Healing Human Evil (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983), chap. 2: pp. 36-84 [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: RC455.4 .R4 P4 1998]

FILM: Creation: The True Story of Charles Darwin, dir. Jon Amiel (2009)

5. Recommended Readings

Marilyn McCord Adams, Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999) [ROBA: BJ1401 .A435 1999X]

G.C. Berkouwer, Sin, trans., Philip C. Holtrop (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971) [this combines the 2 Dutch volumes] [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BT715 .B413a  ; KNOX: BT715 .B413]

Henri Blocher, Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997) [ROBA: BT720 .B561 1997]

Gregory A. Boyd, Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BT160 .B665 2001]

David J. A. Clines, Job 1-20. Word Biblical Commentary 17 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1989) [ROBA: BS1415.3 .C54 1989]

David J. A. Clines, Job 21-37. Word Biblical Commentary 18A (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006) [ROBA: BS1415.3 .C542 2006]

David J. A. Clines,  Job 38-42. Word Biblical Commentary 18B (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011) [Emmanuel Library: BS1415.3 .C543 2011]

Willem B. Drees, ed., Is Nature Ever Evil? : Religion, Science and Value (London: Routledge, 2003) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BD581 .I5995 2002]

Reta Halteman Finger, “How Can Jesus Save Women? Three Theories on Christ’s Atonement,” Daughters of Sarah 14 (November-December 1988): 14-18

Thomas N. Finger, Christian Theology: An Eschatological Approach, vol. 1 (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1985), (especially pp. 303-348 on Atonement models) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BT75.2 .F55 1985 v.1]

Terrence E. Fretheim, The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BS1199 .S82 F74 1984]

René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightening, trans. James G. Williams (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2001) [REGIS: BT736.15 G55613 2001]

Bob Goudzwaard, Idols of Our Time, trans. Mark Vander Vennen (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BV4638 .G6813]

Gustavo Gutiérrez, On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, (1987) [ROBA: BS1415.2 .G8713 1987]

Martin Beck Matuštík, Radical Evil and the Scarcity of Hope: Postsecular Meditations (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008) [ROBA: BJ1401 .M27 2008X]

Adam Morton, On Evil (New York: Routledge, 2004) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BJ1401 .M67

2004 ; ROBA: BJ1401 .M67 2004 ; also ebook through UTL]

Susan Neiman, Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BJ1401 .N45 2004]

Stephen F. Noll, Angels of Light, Powers of Darkness: Thinking Biblically About Angels, Satan & Principalities (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BS680 .A48 N65 2003]

Sydney H.T. Page, Powers of Evil: a Biblical Study of Satan and Demons (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1995) [ROBA: BS680 .D56 P34 1995X]

D.Z. Phillips, The Problem of Evil and the Problem of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BT 160 .P485 2005]

Alvin C. Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BT102 .P56 1977]

Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not The Way It’s Supposed To Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BT715 .P58 1996]

Paul Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil, trans. Emerson Buchanan (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BT715 .R5313]

Paul Ricoeur, “Evil, A Challenge to Philosophy and Theology,” in Paul Ricoeur, Figuring the Sacred: Religion, Narrative, and Imagination (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), chap. 14 (pp. 249-261) [reprinted from Journal of the American Academy of Religion 53/3 (1985): 635-648] [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BL51 .R43225 1995]

Amélie Oksenberg Rorty, ed., The Many Faces of Evil: Historical Perspectives (London: Routledge, 2001) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BJ1401 .M26 2001 ; ROBA: BJ1401 .M26 2001]

John Sanders, ed., Atonement and Violence: A Theological Conversation (Nashville: Abingdon, 2006) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BT265.3 .A86 2006]

Flora Rheta Schreiber, Sybil (New York: Warner, 1973) [SMC: RC555 .S37 1973]

Christopher Southgate, “God and Evolutionary Evil: Theodicy in the Light of Darwinism,” Zygon 37/4 (December 2002): 803-824

Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness (New York: Doubleday, 1999) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BR1450 .T88 1999]

George Vandervelde, Original Sin: Two Major Trends in Contemporary Roman Catholic Reinterpretation (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1981 [1975]) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BT720 .V3]

Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BV4509.5 .V65 1996]

Miroslav Volf, “The Final Reconciliation: Reflections on a Social Dimension of the Eschatological Transition,” Modern Theology 16/1 (January 2000): 91-113

Simon Wiesenthal, The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness, With a symposium edited by Harry James Cargas and Bonny V. Fetterman. Revised and Expanded Edition (New York: Schocken Books, 1998) [ROBA: D810 .J4 W5313 1997X]

Walter Wink, The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium (New York: Doubleday, 1998) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: HN90 .E4 D6]

N.T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006) [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BJ1401 .W72 2006X]

6. Reading Schedule





Sept. 13

Introductions; Dostoevsky (in class)


Sept. 20

Job 1–37


Sept. 27

Job 38–42; Ansell (wisdom/serpent)


Oct. 4

Roth, Hick  [in Davis]


Oct. 11

Davis, Griffin  [in Davis]


Oct. 18

Phillips, Cobb, Adams, Sontag  [in Davis]

Reading week

Oct. 25

(see below)


Nov. 1 Creation, dir. Jon Amiel  [film in class]

Hunter 1–5


Nov. 8

Hunter 6–9


Nov. 15

Miller, Peck


Nov. 22

Fretheim 1–2


Nov. 29

Fretheim 3–4


Dec. 6

Fretheim 5–6; JM presentations


Dec. 13

JM presentations

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