Thursday, January 29, 2015

If God is Good~

If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil

"All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well..."

This song kept coming to mind as I finished Randy Alcorn's "If God is Good."
Our world exists in a strange tension.

On one hand, there are voices clamoring all around us saying that God cannot possibly exist and that faith is for fools.
These people make their case by pointing to dying children and raped women and the wars that decimate nations.

And I- and probably you too- don't know how to answer them.

In my small voice, I'd say:
"But He says He's here, and He promised to draw near to the brokenhearted.
And there are people in the middle of all those terrible things, who believe He's with them.
They say they see His hand, they know His love, and they have His hope.
How can we argue with them? You say that I can't account for evil in a world belonging to God.
I say you can't account for faith in the midst of the hospice, the war zone, the waiting room, the funeral parlor, and the jail cell.
Yet it lives there, and people say they live by it, and it must have something real at its heart to survive."

Randy Alcorn wrote this book because he's convinced that Christianity reveals truth and provides comfort as we deal with the world here and now, and because he's convinced that one day the risen Christ will provide not just explanation but restoration.

If you read this book, you'll be asked to think about Suffering and Evil- and you'll get to think about Courage, Trust, and Redemption.

There is so much in this book, so many different nuances.
Holding it feels like holding a textbook, but Randy Alcorn never forgets that he's addressing whole people.... this is more than mere arguments.
Each of the eleven sections reads as its own unit, with its own purpose and tone.

Some sections would comfort in a hard season. Some are for reading now, to build the foundation of truth before you need to rest on it.

One section addresses God's attributes.
Can we account for evil and death by saying that God has limited goodness, limited love, limited power, or limited knowledge?
(Don't most of our faltering explanations at least hint at these ideas- as insane as they sound when we state them baldly?)
These chapters include a discussion of "Open Theism" and its impacts on the church as it grows in popularity.

Another talks about God's sovereignty and human responsibility.
Here he writes about free will and meaningful choice and "hard" and "soft" determinism.
This section ends with the powerful chapter- The God Who Brings Good Out of Bad.
That chapter is worth reading, again and again.

Later sections bring it all together, becoming personal and pointing to hope- addressing how suffering can birth compassion, conform us to Christ, and build God's joy and kindness into our character.
And always, always, Heaven is placed before our eyes. Not as pie-in-the-sky, but as the fulfillment and resolution for all that we're experiencing here.

This is a book I expect to return to.

Thank you to Randy Alcorn for writing this, and to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing me with a Blogging for Books review copy.

Randy Alcorn is the founder of Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM), a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching biblical truth and drawing attention to the needy and how to help them. EPM exists to meet the needs of the unreached, unfed, unborn, uneducated, unreconciled and unsupported people around the world.

"My ministry focus is communicating the strategic importance of using our earthly time, money, possessions and opportunities to invest in need-meeting ministries that count for eternity," Alcorn says. "I do that by trying to analyze, teach and apply the implications of Christian truth."

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