Evil: Satan, Sin, and Psychology
Terry D. Cooper and Cindy K. Epperson, Paulist Press, $26.95
This short book introduces a variety of perspectives on evil, defined as “that which destroys life and seems to prefer lifelessness”. The central chapters don’t really build this definition toward a consistent and approximately comprehensive understanding of evil.
For instance, the chapter on Satan talks about the “concept of Satan” and while it seems the authors want to make a claim for the actual personal existence of that figure, they never actually do — surely a book on evil ought to be clear about that!
The chapter on psychology begins with an effort to limit psychological explanation of evil with a crude and misleading conception of scientific inquiry as “simply a methodology”. The chapter on sin never secures just what connects evil and sin. And the chapter on fanaticism is more about psychological health than evil. In addition, the writing throughout is marred by poor editing.
The book can serve as a general introduction to thinking about evil and it might serve that purpose well by stimulating concerned readers to clarify their own questions and perspectives regarding evil, and then follow the authors’ direction to the more significant studies of evil on which they draw.
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