Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

Pain_SufferingI read this one slowly because it’s so rich:

Timothy Keller. Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. New York: Dutton, 2013. 12-page PDF sample.

It’s probably the best overall book on suffering because it shrewdly addresses the issue from three angles:

  1. cultural
  2. biblical-theological
  3. practical

As with Keller’s other books, this brims with wisdom from decades of fruitful pastoral ministry. [Read more…]

Ben Witherington: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away” is “not good theology”

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21b).

The daughters of two well-known theologians recently died, and both theologians publicly reflected on the tragic events. One is an Arminian, and one is a Calvinist:

  1. Ben Witherington (an Arminian), “What Good Grief Looks Like When a Daughter Dies: Walking the Way of Grace in the Midst of My Grief” (April 11, 2012)
  2. Fred Zaspel (a Calvinist), “Reflections on the Loss of Our Daughter” (November 13, 2013)

(HT: Tony Reinke)

Losing a daughter in the prime of her life must be unimaginably painful! But my jaw dropped when I read what Ben Witherington asserts about Job 1:21 (bullet points added):

[Read more…]

Spurgeon: A Living Theology of Suffering

9781781911228v3Tom Nettles, “Sickness, Suffering, Depression,” ch. 17 in Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Fearn, Scotland: Mentor, 2013), 594:

Spurgeon never doubted that his exquisite pain, frequent sicknesses, and even despondency were given to him by God for his sanctification in a wise and holy purpose. [Read more…]

Don Carson on the Providence of God

tinkerD. A. Carson, “Foreword,” in Melvin Tinker, Intended for Good: The Providence of God (Nottingham, England: IVP, 2012), 9–10:

Fewer than two hundred years ago, a student writing an advanced paper in most history departments in British or American universities might well include some reflections on what his or her historical treatment implied about divine providence. Today it is unthinkable to include such reflection. At a more mundane level, reflections on divine providence continue to surface in trivial conversations. Not long ago I was flying home after speaking at a conference somewhere, and it appeared that our plane was going be delayed by an hour or two because of bad weather, or perhaps forced to land at another airport. Suddenly the pilot announced that there was a small break in the weather, and we were heading straight in with minimal delay. The passenger in the next seat smiled and muttered, ‘Someone up there loves me: I’ll make my connecting flight.’ I confess I smiled back and asked him, ‘If you missed your flight, would that constitute evidence that he doesn’t love you?’ [Read more…]

Carson: The most painful things I’ve ever borne are betrayals by Christian friends

Here’s how Don Carson recently replied to a question about suffering during a Q&A. (This is a lightly edited transcript from 13:37 to 14:40 in the audio file.)

  • We grew up in some of the suffering of French Canada.
  • I’ve had typhoid because I went to Africa and came within death’s door.
  • I’ve had two or three other diseases that have almost taken me out.
  • My wife’s had cancer that has almost taken her out. She didn’t expect to live to 50; she just turned 59.
  • But that’s part of the stuff of life, isn’t it? And if you’re a Christian leader, then sooner or later you go through situations in churches and relationships that are really tough. The most painful things I’ve ever borne are betrayals by Christian friends.
  • [Read more…]

Carson: How Do We Know If God Is Disciplining Us?

Don Carson answered that question recently for TGC’s blog.

He draws three inferences:

  1. We are likely to make exegetical and theological mistakes when we take any one of these passages and treat it as if it explains all suffering.
  2. In any suffering, or in any other event for that matter, God is doubtless doing many things, perhaps thousands of things, millions of things, even if we can only detect two or three or a handful. [Cf. Piper’s tweet.]
  3. It follows that when we face suffering of any kind, we should use the occasion for self-examination.

Conclusion: “We sometimes observe that hard cases make bad theology. But easy, formulaic answers to questions of suffering are invariably reductionistic — and they make bad theology, too.”

Read the whole thing.

Whomever He Wills: A Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy

whomeverIn 2010, B&H published Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism (ed. David L. Allen and Steve W. Lemke). It arose from the 2008 “John 3:16 Conference.”

This book is much better:

Matthew Barrett and Thomas J. Nettles, eds. Whomever He Wills: A Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy Cape Coral, FL: Founders, 2012. 401 pp.

Here’s the lineup: [Read more…]