Monday, August 8, 2016

Nonfiction Review: Between Pain and Grace

"Between Pain and Grace" is an interesting textbook-style read, but it's not exactly what you might expect from a book on pain and suffering. Authors Gerald W. Peterman and Andrew J. Schmutzer touch briefly on God's overall narrative and His desire to involve mankind in the process, but beyond that readers do not get much of a theological debate on why God allows evil to exist. Instead, "Between Pain and Grace" is the "Biblical Theology of Suffering" - or systematic theology on suffering - that its subtitles says it is.

The authors define suffering and look at specific instances of pain and suffering found in the Bible, spending time on a few random topics like mental illness, toxic families and sexual abuse, and more often than not bringing the reader back to the idea that suffering flows out of a context of a broken communal ecosystem.

More specifically, the authors address:

- What is sin?
- Does God suffer?
- Is the church engaged as it should be in misery and lament?
- How should the church respond to suffering?
- What is the role of righteous anger, tears and so on?
- Does suffering come from a biological or spiritual cause?
- What is the proper Biblical response to suffering?

Peterman and Schmutzer write that the three part task of the Christian is to help alleviate suffering, facilitate godly suffering, and prevent future suffering. They conclude that - just like the disciples who questioned the role of the cross in Christ's ministry - we must struggle to understand the role of suffering in God's plan.

Overall, "Between Pain and Grace" did not quite come together for me, especially since I am not a part of its target audience - pastors and those going into ministry. There is some great material here, though - even with a few sections that seemed irrelevant or confusing. I didn't make a lot of underlines, but I did get a few takeaways. But I would caution the potential reader to know what they will be reading to avoid false expectations.

*Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

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