I recently had the chance to read and review If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil by Randy Alcorn. He’s truly a gifted communicator…I’ve never read a book by him, fiction or nonfiction, that hasn’t powerfully affected me. If God Is Good follows in those footsteps. What a rich resource! I found myself wanting to continually highlight and make notes on nearly every page!
In this volume, he tackles the tough questions of suffering and evil. While covering much of the same material as Trusting God by Jerry Bridges (another excellent book!), If God Is Good also goes far beyond it in scope. An incredible amount of ground is covered; from questions about the existence of God and the origin of evil, to the tension between God’s sovereignty and our free will, to the reality of heaven and hell.
Randy Alcorn clearly shows how our beliefs on these issues affect every area of our lives…our entire worldview. He has extensively mined the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation to dig out every relevant passage and pull them all together into a comprehensive theology of evil and suffering. That’s not to say that he answers every difficulty and presents a neat little package of answers with a pretty bow on top. He’s quick to acknowledge that the answers aren’t always cut and dried. And yet he convincingly shows that the biblical worldview is utterly unique and the only one that deals adequately with these problems.
The breadth of subject matter makes for a hefty book…nearly 500 pages…but don’t be intimidated by the size! The layout is very logical and clear. 45 short chapters are divided into 11 sections progressing from the basic issue of evil and it’s source to various possible solutions and conclusions about the nature and role it plays in our world and lives. I didn’t find the book at all cumbersome to read straight through and would recommend doing this, but it would be possible to benefit simply by turning to the section that most interests you also.
Here are the 11 sections:
- Understanding the Problem of Evil and Suffering
- Understanding Evil: It’s Origins, Nature, and Consequences
- Problems for Non-Theists: Moral Standards, Goodness, and Extreme Evil
- Proposed Solutions to the Problem of Evil and Suffering: Limiting God’s Attributes
- Evil and Suffering in the Great Drama of Christ’s Redemptive Work
- Divine Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice: Accounting for Evil and Suffering
- The Two Eternal Solutions to the Problem of Evil: Heaven and Hell
- God’s Allowance and Restraint of Evil and Suffering
- Evil and Suffering Used for God’s Glory
- Why Does God Allow Suffering?
- Living Meaningfully in Suffering
The issue in a nutshell:
We live between Genesis 3 and Revelation 20, between Eden and the New Earth. Things are not all right with the world. But does that mean that God is not in his Heaven, after all? This is the enormous question the problem of evil poses…
If God is all good, then he would want to prevent evil and suffering. If he is all knowing, then he would know how to prevent it. If God is all powerful, then he is able to prevent it. And yet…a great deal of evil and suffering exists. Why?
What, after all, is more universal to human experience than suffering? And what is more important than the perspective we bring to it? How we answer this book’s central question will radically affect how we see God and the world around us.
After years of study, Alcorn concludes:
Too many people, Christians included, view the Christian faith in bits and pieces. We should see it as a holistic worldview, a large-scale belief system based on the unfolding of redemptive history.
The Christian worldview concerns far more than the spiritual salvation of individuals. It touches on every aspect of human existence and extends beyond humanity to the very nature of God.
Everyone has a worldview, inconsistent and superficial though it might be. Worldviews invite contemplation and comparison. As I have compared the Christian worldview to others, I have found it both comprehensive and satisfying. I believe the greatest test of any worldview is how it deals with the problem of evil and suffering. And Scripture’s redemptive story passes that test with remarkable depth and substance.
If God Is Good attempts to explain how he arrived at that conclusion. It’s impossible to do justice to the book with a brief synopsis, and I just can’t narrow down my favorite quotes enough to share only a few, so I’ll just say that this is the most comprehensive treatment of the biblical perspective on all aspects of suffering and evil that I’m aware of. Couple that “comprehensiveness” with Randy Alcorn’s gift with words, ability to clearly explain difficult concepts, and solid biblical foundation and you have an incredibly powerful book! If you’ve ever struggled with the issue of evil and suffering (and who hasn’t!) and you’d like to see exactly what we can glean from Scripture about it, along with clear discussion and real life application, this book is an excellent choice.
Thanks so much to Waterbrook for providing a review copy of If God Is Good. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.