Prolific evangelical author Randy Alcorn, whose book HEAVEN took the Christian reading audience by storm, now offers fans another riveting read. This time around, he writes on the often misunderstood and seemingly incongruent idea that if God is good, how can He allow pain and suffering and evil to persist on Earth? This weighty question is full of even weightier theological implications. But true to form, Alcorn takes each argument and every supposition, and very carefully searches out Scripture for accurate, timeless answers. What he finds will bring great comfort to Christians and non-Christ followers alike. Alcorn, as is his custom, writes with humility and deep regard for his readers' personal pain and confusion.
Alcorn opens this 11-section text with a primer on understanding the problem of evil and suffering and then immediately delves deeper by looking at evil from various vantage points, including its origins, nature and consequences. First, he quite methodically works through beliefs that non-theists hold regarding moral standards, goodness and extreme evil. Then, he enters into the beliefs of Christians and how they must reconcile the existence of evil with their limited understanding of God Himself. Oftentimes, Christ followers, in an attempt to "excuse" God from worldwide suffering, will opt to believe He has limited power, limited knowledge, limited goodness, or even limited love as ready solutions. However, none of these options is biblical, as Alcorn details and dissects point by point.
Not to be daunted by difficult theological topics, Alcorn deftly explains with astute skill how divine sovereignty and meaningful human choice plays into evil and suffering as well. Readers will also find his discussion on the eternal solutions to the problem of evil --- Heaven and Hell --- to be thought provoking. Certainly, a study on such difficult subject matters would not be complete without a comparable and equally strong segment on the benefits of suffering; here again, Alcorn succeeds marvelously.
Careful readers will appreciate Alcorn's strong arguments recognizing that much good does derive from personal and corporate suffering, character development, righteousness and “Christ-likeness” that would not be attained in any other way. He systematically describes how from a biblical worldview God has always utilized suffering for His glory, His followers’ sanctification, to build character, to birth joy, compassion and hope, and as a means to bring good to others.
Closing up his meaty text, Alcorn offers substantial hope about finding God in the midst of suffering; finding help in the darkest of times, finding grace to ease others' suffering (while enduring one's own) and discovering death's curse and blessing.
If ever there was a friend to garner during a season of suffering, Randy Alcorn is the man to have by one's side. Readers from every side of the suffering argument will find something both intellectual and philosophical to draw from this well-documented and researched work.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on November 13, 2011