One of the perennial questions asked of Christians goes something like this: “If God is good and powerful why does he allow suffering?” Answers to that questions have varied from the helpful to the heretical. For those outside the Church, this is often an apologetic question–an essential element of convincing people that God is worth believing and worshiping. Yet, for those inside the church, the struggle is often the same. Through the pain of life, God’s people are often stumped with evil. Is God really good? Is he worthy of my love? Can he do something about evil if we wanted? In the book, If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil, Randy Alcorn seek to provide an answer to those questions.
At first glance, Alcorn’s work is a tome! Five hundred pages might mean an academic treatise, but isn’t what you get in this book. For sure, Alcorn has done his homework. It’s clear that he has been through the Scriptures, not only pulling together the relevant passages, but synthesizing the Bible’s teaching from these texts into a coherent theology of faith and suffering. Beginning with why the question itself is important to the origin and consequences of evil to answers to the questions, he sets the stage for the rest of the book. Here, Alcorn seemingly leaves no stone unturned as he shows that Jesus himself is the only answer to the questions and argues that we should continue to live a life of faith, trusting God, as he explains the providential relationship good and evil.
Through the book, Alcorn provides a rich, biblical theology of God, evil, and faith. But he also writes with the tone of a pastor. He isn’t writing an academic treatise. With an easy of voice and many examples of real people living in the midst of these tensions of faith, Alcorn sounds every bit the pastor offering counsel and advice, born out of a genuine concern for God’s people–real people who experience real suffering.
Furthermore, the arrangement of the book makes it easy to track with. Alcorn gives us eleven topical sections broken down into forty-five chapters. Within those chapters, we are also given extensive subheadings. All of this means one can either dip into the book at some key points, if one wants to fill in the gaps in his own thinking, or one can follow the line of thought easily if he wants to read straight through the book.
So, who should read this book? Well, everyone. If you’re in the midst of suffering and struggling to believe, Alcorn’s words will likely be a balm for your soul–advice from a seasoned pastor to a needful parishioner. If you’re in a position of leadership, tasked with counseling people asking these questions, this book will serve to sharpen your tools and better understand how to minister to God’s people. And if you’re outside the Church looking in, wondering about God and evil, Alcorn points to the cross and the One who hung there as the centerpiece of the questions you probably have. Seeing Jesus will, I hope, lead you out of uncertainly to faith.
*Disclaimer: I was given this book by the publisher for review. However, this did not affect the content of the review.
EDIT: If you found this review helpful, please go to Multnomah’s site and rate my review.