We are still surprised by evil. From Auschwitz to the events of September 11, we have been shocked into recognizing the startling capacity for evil within the human heart. We now know 9/11 revealed that our country was unprepared in terms of national security, but it also showed we were intellectually and morally unprepared to deal with such a barbaric act. Our language to describe evil and our ethical will to resist it have grown uncertain and confused. Many who speak unabashedly of evil are dismissed as simplistic, old-fashioned, and out of tune with the realities of modern life. Yet we must have some kind of language to help us understand the pain and suffering at the heart of human experience.
Author and speaker Os Guinness confronts our inability to understand evil let alone respond to it effectively by providing both a lexicon and a strategy for finding a way forward. Since 9/11, much public discussion has centered on the destructiveness of extremist religion. Guinness provocatively argues that this is far from an accurate picture and too easy an explanation. In this expansive exploration of both the causes of modern evil and solutions for the future, he faces our tragic recent past and our disturbing present with courageous honesty. In order to live an examined life, Guinness writes, we must come to terms with our beliefs regarding evil and ultimately join the fight against it.
Guinness frames his study by exploring several questions:
Where does evil come from?
What are the questions raised by evil that we cannot ignore?
Has the modern world made evil worse?
How do the different ways ofexplaining evil affect how we respond to it?
What must we do to fight evil effectively?
What does the existence of evil tell us about our ultimate beliefs?
Addressing individuals as well as a traumatized culture, Unspeakable is an invitation to explore the challenge of contemporary evil, a call to confront our culture of fear, and a journey to find words to come to terms with the unspeakable so that it will no longer leave us mute.
Os Guinness is an author, a social critic, and Senior Fellow of the EastWest Institute in New York. Great-great grandson of Arthur Guinness, the Dublin brewer, he was born in China in World War Two where his parents were medical missionaries.
Guinness, one of evangelical Christianitys few public intellectuals, matches his usual seriousness of purpose with exceptionally lucid prose as he explores the nature of evil-a topic he was scheduled to address at a dinner in Manhattan on September 11, 2001. That was not Guinnesss first brush with suffering on a geopolitical scale: he was born in China to missionary parents, and while he and they barely escaped with their lives during the 1949 revolution, Guinnesss two brothers did not. This personal dimension authenticates, but never dominates, the book, which focuses on seven questions that evil raises for those seeking to live "an examined life." The scope is ambitious, from the ancient "trilemma" of how an all-powerful, benevolent God can permit evil to the technology that makes us all witnesses to far more suffering than we can respond to. Guinnesss answers are rarely predictable. He argues strenuously against the contemporary reticence to call evil by name, yet he also warns against the hypocrisy that sees evil only in others-singling out Americas torture of prisoners in Iraq. His Christian convictions are evident, but he engages respectfully with those who do not share them. This book makes a compelling case for faith, and courage, in the face of evils dark reality.
- Publishers Weekly