Saturday, March 5, 2011

An Indepth Answer To an Age-Old Question: Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering?

A Review of Randy Alcorn's Book,

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

At first glance, a Christian might wonder why it was necessary for Randy Alcorn to write almost 500 pages to address the question “why” for God’s purpose in allowing evil and suffering.  After all, if the Christian is grounded in Biblical truth, the answer should be obvious.  Right?

But as I quickly discovered, even the most seasoned and mature Christian will most likely face a trial, a death, a disease, or a tragedy in his life that will bring the question to the forefront and cause him to question his faith.  It will also compel him to question God’s true nature, to falter in his belief that God is sovereign over all creation, and that God has a purpose for allowing evil and suffering to come upon him.

Randy Alcorn effectively builds and supports the foundation of history’s generational struggle with this question and the depth to which it affects the entire world.  Drawing on his and others’ personal experiences, he pulls his readers deeply into the book.  Sparing no words, Alcorn transitions his argument into the basis of understanding the nature of God and the faith that is necessary to withstand the reality of what the world may bring.

By comparing the different worldviews with what Holy Scripture reveals, Alcorn is successful in tearing down those naïve or heretical viewpoints and doctrines that minimize God’s wisdom, holiness, and perfect form of justice, thus encouraging us to understand Who God is in order to fully understand why He permits evil and suffering.  Taking us into the very core of the question, Alcorn defines the differing moral standards in regard to the question of evil and God’s goodness and the resulting consequences one brings upon the other through a fallen world’s sinfulness and disobedience.

As one reads through the book, Alcorn continually poses thought-provoking and soul-searching questions that drives his reader to become interactive and honestly answer them.  To those with a sincere desire to fully understand why God has permitted such horrors and so many atrocities to continue throughout history without stopping them, he will find the answer within these pages.  The reader, through the tireless efforts of Randy Alcorn, will arrive at the realization that God, through His sovereign, holy, and just nature, uses suffering and evil to refine His children, to humble them and break them of self-dependence, to deepen their faith and trust in Him, and to bring them into a deeper intimacy and understanding of His mercy, His grace, and why He allows evil and suffering to bring about His greater good..

“Death is life’s greatest certainty.”  As Randy Alcorn demonstrates through 500 captivating pages of exhortation and encouragement, it is what we do with our short life here and Who we believe God to be between our first breath and our last that will determine whether or not we understand the answer to the question he poses and what our final and eternal destination  will be.

I recently watched a short video produced by a young man named Zach Smith just prior to his death.  As he described his fight with cancer and the heartbreaking inevitability of leaving his wife and three young children behind, he knew his suffering was limited in the here and now, that it was only temporary, and that his eternal reward for the suffering he had briefly endured here awaited him in his eternal home.  His voice echoed Randy Alcorn’s conclusion in this book:  “In the end, Jesus Christ is the only satisfying answer to the problem of evil and suffering.”

As Zack looks into the camera, we are able to see resolve with the reality of his disease, hope, and peace in his face because of his strong faith and understanding in a sovereign God.  If he had been given the time to read “If God Is Good” and write this review, Zach would have done a much better job than I with his final penetrating words:

“This I do know.  If God chooses to heal me, then God is God and God is good.  If God chooses not to heal me and allows me to die, God is still God and God is still good.  To God be the glory.”

I highly recommend this book to anyone, believer or unbeliever, who is seeking answers and struggling to understand their own trial, pain, tragedy, or heartbreak, or those who just want a better understanding of the goodness of a merciful and just God Who permits the worst in us to ultimately bring about His greater good.  As Randy Alcorn so eloquently points out throughout this book, He will have the glory, in spite of  the way we perceive Him.

(Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. Please visit their website and rank my review. Thank you!)

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