Is God Good When We Suffer?

This book is the inaugural book in a new series that will seek to do theology in a context of community. What this primarily means is that each book will be written by a team of authors. It is based on the idea that theology should be done by the church for the church. I must say that this is not only intriguing as an idea, but I believe necessary if the church is going to reclaim the theological academy. The first book does not disappoint.

The introductory chapter is by Robert Yarbrough and lays out the book as well as some of the large-scale problems when dealing with suffering. There are four chapters on biblical studies, two by Walter Kaiser on the Old Testament data, and two by Dan McCartney on the New Testament data. Then follows a biblical theological study tying together the biblical studies. John Frame contributes a good chapter on theodicy, followed by a more apologetic chapter by Bill Edgar. The last two chapters tell individual stories of suffering and how God works through suffering, one by David Calhoun, who has suffered cancer for many years, and John Feinberg, whose wife was diagnosed with a debilitating disease that could have been diagnosed earlier.

All the chapters provoke thought. I found the last chapter the most compelling. The chapter by John Frame had some excellent philosophical-theological points. I found the chapters by Kaiser mostly good, although I strongly disagree with his assessment of God suffering (p. 66, 73). He does not take into account the nature of anthropomorphic language concerning God. Systematic theology has had little impact on Kaiser’s formulation here.

The chapter by Calhoun was also very helpful in bringing together many wonderful poems and hymns that deal with the question. Calhoun rightly notes that sometimes poetry has to be the language of suffering. All in all, I would recommend the book as being a very compassionate, pastoral, and biblical account of suffering (with the caveat mentioned above). The book is a very nice hardcover, bound in signatures.

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