Eye Of The Storm: Where Is God When Life Hurts?, by Alexander Kumpf
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/WestBow Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
As someone who reads a lot of books on the justification of God’s ways, the subject of theodicy, this book hits most of the high notes and covers many of the familiar passages in seeking to explain the seeming absence of God from our worst trials . Given the fact that such books are relatively common and this book is not short enough to give anything like an exhaustive discussion of the subject, and given the fact that the author appears to approach the subject from at least a moderate Calvinist opinion in that he puts the blame on human sin far more than acknowledging the difficulties of wrestling with divine providence, which is blaming the victim, this book nevertheless manages to offer something worthwhile and distinctive in its approach to the subject of God’s presence and absence by comparing such scenes to literal or metaphorical storms and by providing a great deal of personal commentary and storytelling. This storytelling makes the book a far better one.
As might be expected, the author approaches the subject of theodicy in a systematic way, but one which is far heavier in storytelling than in scriptural exegesis. To be sure, the author includes a substantial amount of scripture in this book, but that scripture is cited far more than it is analyzed and explained. To his credit, the author attempts to convey a sense of the storms that he has dealt with in his own life as a way of building rapport with the reader, and the stories included are quite interesting, not least because the author has a lot to share about life in Florida, something I know more than a little about, providing commentary on 9/11, the terrible hurricane season of 2004, and other related details that I was able to identify with. Each of the nine chapters has a particular connection with the storm and how we deal with the trials of our lives, and at the end of the book there is a set of discussion questions to spur the reader on to deeper thought and reflection about the justice of God and the reality of living in a fallen world.
Nevertheless, although this is a good book and the author gives a brave effort at seeking to demonstrate himself as compassionate, or at least more compassionate than some commentators on the subject, the author’s approach falls flat largely because of the worldview of the author. Once one comes down to it, a Calvinist approach simply fails to answer the question of evil because it makes God out to be evil, and because it attacks the questioner by claiming that given our total depravity that it is not reasonable for us to expect anything good. Yet although the problem of evil is certainly vexing, we do not get to the bottom of it either by attacking the goodness of God or by condemning those who have good reason to ask–if we are like Job seeking to make covenantal lawsuits against God, it is better to wrestle with God and seek to understand what He is about than it is simply to give pat answers about why people suffer. If we fail to understand the reasons why we suffer in life, at least we may be better people by wrestling with the truth of our existence. This book is more about explaining than about wrestling, and so ultimately it falls short of the pinnacle of its field.
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