Friday, January 31, 2014

Philip Yancey and the Problem of Pain and Suffering

Philip Yancey: The Question That Never Goes Away, 2013

This short book is an excellent address to the problem of horrific tragedy and catastrophe. Yancey faces the issue head on, talking about his experiences at Virginia Tech, in Denver and at New Town Connecticut. He speaks of the shallowness of easy answers, especially answers such as “God needed X in heaven,” and on the other hand, “how could a good God allow this?” and rightly trashes them.

If there are weaknesses in this book they primarily grow from its strength which is Yancey’s ability to draw us into the scene, to sense the pain and thus to viscerally face the questions. But, because of that, the answers seem to be left shivering in the cold, present, but are they a match for the storm? So these very foundational truths are given:  there is hope, and the presence of God, the identification of God with suffering in Jesus, and finally, the resurrection which is God’s true answer. These answers are a match for the storm, but they need to be given traction, and I would suggest that such traction comes from the center of faith, the cross.

Not beyond these truths, but with them, I would like someone to say: God hates suffering, pain, and death. He hates it, and like his love, his hatred of it is eternal and infinite and beyond our understanding, it is a consuming fire and I so long to hear that this eternal and infinite hatred of evil, like his eternal and infinite love of people, is shown to us in Jesus Christ at the cross.

We need to say this so that we might be robust in calling for justice, in working to help the suffering, and in repenting of our sins.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Books Read: The Unity of the Bible

Fuller's Unity of the Bible, 1992, is a grand overview of the story of redemption. Fuller wrote this to speak to the growing trend to deny unity, looking only at the individual writer's perspective. Fuller writes from what I might call a modest Reformed perspective. I hold to the concept that the Bible has unity, that it is a presentation of the unfolding work of redemption, but I think that Fuller did not see redemption enough from a Christological perspective. For him, the work of God, and this is where the Reformed perspective dominates, is the glory of God, which is not to be denied, but is not the glory of God his love? God does not need to magnify sin so that we will somehow understand his mercy. Fuller emphasizes mercy, which is powerful to be sure, but unless we grasp the love of God in sending his Son I do not think we grasp the unity of the Bible.