If God Is Good: Faith In The Midst Of Suffering And Evil, by Randy Alcorn
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Multnomah WaterBrook Press in exchange for an honest review.]
There are some people who might think that it is blasphemous to even imply, via the conditional title of this book, that God may not be good. Yet this book honestly and exhaustively (in about 500 pages of text) deals with the complexity of God’s role in the evil of this world. Yet anyone who reads this book will recognize quickly that the author is particularly harsh on the arguments and worldview of the famous but fatuous New Atheists who argue against God using smuggled and unrecognized moral standards and arguments that depend on the existence and goodness of God. Likewise, on the other side, the author takes a strong aim at health and prosperity gospels and their superficial agreement with Job’s friends that physical blessings equate with spiritual and moral wealth in a straightforward way. Nevertheless, although this book spends a fair amount of time dealing with the arguments over the justice of God, it does not spend a great deal of time (except in a few chapters towards the end) in comforting those who are struggling with the problem of evil in a real way.
To be sure, a book this large is going to have some flaws. Among the flaws of the book, some are worldview-based, such as the fact that the book is written by a moderate Calvinist. Although the book does at least attempt to present a biblical worldview, and manages to avoid some of Calvinism’s more obvious and lamentable extremes, such as total depravity . That said, this particular work, like many other works written by Calvinists, has a harsh tone that cuts against its ending, which urges compassionate and gentle listening. A book written by a Calvinist cannot seem to help pushing the idea that God ordains and predestines suffering and torment for children, and as this book spends a lot of time talking about horrors like rape and child abuse, it cannot help but feel more than a little uncomfortable for those who are survivors of child abuse or rape or other similar evils. In addition to this, there is the author’s unbiblical views about heaven, which are conflated with biblical beliefs about the Kingdom of God and the new heavens and new earth, as well as the author’s frequent comments about his career as an anti-abortion activist . Additionally, there is the author’s unbiblical belief in the Trinity as well, which is very common in such books.
Even with the book’s flaws, though, this book has much to offer, at least as a reference book. Because the work offers so many different strands of the explanations for why evil exists, ranging from the fact that good is in fact the majority and that we notice evil (mostly) as an exception to the rule rather than the rule itself to the fact that evil results from freewill as well as from the real enemies of humanity (namely the demonic world), there are many chapters here that are worthy resources to go to, with often reasonable scriptural exegesis to back them up. If this book is not exactly comforting on a tone level or emotional level, it is a very excellent book on an intellectual level and a reasonably good book on a scriptural level. Most of the hard edges of the book seem to be due to the fact that the book is written by a fairly tough-minded Calvinist (as if there was any other kind), and as a result, the book seems much harsher than it actually is on a theological level. Given the fact that the book seems to go out of its way to provide a broader perspective of suffering, and points out that those who have suffered a lot are often the most understanding and gentle and patient with others, there is much to ponder and reflect in this book, and a lot of encouragement to focus on the larger picture when it comes to suffering and not merely ourselves. Additionally, on the plus side, the book manages to quote thinkers such as C.S. Lewis , Scott Peck , and Nick Vujucic, who are generally more sympathetic in their prose style than the author himself is. It is a wise move that improves the book immensely.
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