About the book: Pain and Grace
About the author: Gerald W. Peterman
About the author: Andrew J. Schmutzer
Purpose: “Our discussion is biblical and textual; that is, we spend most of our time looking at particular passages of God’s Word that help us understand suffering-his suffering and ours. Beyond understanding our suffering we are concerned with what Scripture says about suffering well and helping others in their suffering.” (Introduction)
“God’s Word has not left us without hope, illustration, or theological instruction.” p. 11
“Suffering people cry out because God is mighty, not in challenge of it.” p. 28
“People with hearts crippled by profound pain are forced to stand and clap week after week with little if any mention of the dark trials that fill their hearts. Is this a moral way of treating the hurting in our midst? Wounded people among us “smell” a form of pretense that is programmed and insincere as the canned laughter of sitcoms. They are correct. Shunned grief is spiritual hypocrisy.” p. 105
“Clearly, God values words and tears far more than we do.” p. 113
“The sovereignty of God is not seen in what he prevents but in his majestic ability to take the broken pieces of our lives and make something beautiful with them.” p. 201
“Typically we find that God gives enough gladness to make life bearable or even enjoyable, and enough pain, sorrow, and trial to remind us that we are just passing through. The new earth will be our real home; this cursed planet, even with its immense beauty, will pass.” p. 277
“Truly, the Christian life means to exist between two worlds: the old world of sin, alienation, and death and the new world of righteousness, holiness, and life.” p. 281
“The cross of Christ does not culminate redemptive history. Rather, it enables the renewal of the Creator’s world, one called “very good.” p. 300
The beginning of pain and grace is written in a technical and academic context, but halfway through the book the information shifts to a pastoral context. In the first chapter the authors identify the difference between pain (objective, external, and typically social as opposed to personal and mental) and suffering (subjective, internal, and typically mental and emotional as opposed to physical or social). p. 14 The authors spend the first few chapters defining important concepts found within a biblical theodicy. They coin a new term, or at least a term that I am unfamiliar with, relational ecosystem. Schmutzer defines relational ecosystem, “Like the roots of a massive tree, we are forced to to recognize sin’s amazing ability to penetrate deep into the crevices of human life, especially the relational tissues of our lives. Suffering is intrinsically woven into the fabric of our relationships… So the salvation that God provides in Christ has more to do with helping and restoration than mere rescue and deliverance.” p. 37-38
Between Pain and Grace includes some complex concepts, but there are also some very important practical helps for every believer. Whenever I began to read a book on suffering I always wonder where the author will take me. I was not disappointed with the amount of research that was necessary to write this book, nor was I disappointed with the massive amount of Scripture that was included. The authors are very well read and have put forth great effort. However, the book is not comprehensive. Despite the lack of some important information (hell, war in the OT), I was pleased to see that the authors included topics such as the suffering of Jesus, the suffering of God (divine passibility), community suffering, sexual abuse, and mental illness. The previously mentioned topics are very important discussions for our local churches and very few spiritual leaders are discussing them. Within the book there is also a chapter discussing family (toxic families), the patriarch Joseph is the center-point of the chapter.
Between Pain and Grace is an excellent read for anyone interested in suffering or theodicy, but like most other books on the topic I was left wanting. It seems that each writer of theodicy focuses on several specifics, and since that is true, there is always something missing. I commend any writer, theologian, or pastor who tackles the difficult and complex topic of pain and suffering. The topic of suffering remains vast and diverse, continue reading my blog for more theodicy reviews.
In exchange for an honest review Moody Publishers Blogger Review Program has provided me with a copy of Pain & Grace. I have written an honest review.