“What Shall We Say?: Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith” by Thomas G. Long

Posted: February 8, 2013 in Book and Article Reviews, Pastoral Ministry
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Thom Long is a well known preacher.  His writing does not disappoint.  In this short book, Long tackles the issue of theodicy.  Theodicy essentially is the question that wonders if a loving God could really allow evil to exist.  After highlighting that many pastors and theologians often counsel not to tackle this issue, Long says that it is often not a luxury that a pastor has.  Pastors are asked these questions when suffering arises.  That does not mean that we should offer pat answers, but we can’t ignore the question either.

Long begins by tracing the history of the question through the Enlightenment period.  How has this question come to fill the minds of people?  It is often the argument that many atheists or agnostics bring up to disprove God’s existence… at least a loving God’s existence.  Long undercuts the argument by noting that a great deal of this mentality is based on certain notions of God’s power.  Perhaps we need to revisit our definition of God’s power.  For more thorough analysis, I would definitely suggest reading Long’s book.

The final chapter is an attempt to wrestle with the theodicy question without diminishing suffering but sustaining God’s character.  Matthew 13, the wheat and the weeds, is the text Long chooses to use as a sermonic demonstration of ways that we can wrestle with the theodicy issue.  It is very well done and very tasteful.  It is not apologetic in nature, nor does it seek to be.  I actually think this is a strong point because God is not let off the hook for evil.  Mystery is maintained.  However, simultaneously, Long’s sermon upholds the fact that God is still working for good (wheat) to come to fruition, even though there are undoubtedly “weeds” in the field.

I would definitely suggest reading this pastoral approach to the issue of theodicy.  Again, it doesn’t explain away evil.  In fact, it acknowledges it as a part of this world.  Yet, there is hope that is highlighted through the Scriptural text of Matthew that helps re-focus us on the source of our Hope rather than the source of our hurt.

  1. cataract eye drops says:

    Weekend Fisher,The Isaiah text has to be read way out of context to be interpreted as predicting the crucifixion. Yes, the tradition has long done so, but it is at least dishonest exegetically.The Gethsemane prayer is hardly a definite proof that God wanted Jesus to suffer – actually since Jesus is God we have clear indication the other way around. What seems to be at issue here is whether Jesus is going to continue his revolutionary kingdom-announcing ministry, which is the reason for his persecution or give it up in order to avoid suffering and death. Yes, crucifixion is the consequence of Jesus life, but it is not the GOAL of Jesus life. The cross is the sign of our own sin, not the sign of God’s justice. It is the fallen world that crucifies God, not God who crucifies her son.

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