Read: as a review copy from BookSneeze.com (Thomas Nelson, 240 pages)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (finished 3/7/10)
Synopsis: Theodicy — why God allows suffering and evil — is one of the thorniest problems Christians and other theists face. Psychologist Townsend has eschewed an academic perspective and written a commonsense volume, specifically for those suffering hard times and asking about God’s purposes, sovereignty and even goodness. Supporting his ideas with personal anecdotes and multiple biblical citations, the author argues that suffering and destruction are a result of our freedom to choose God’s ways or our own ways. God’s intentions for humankind are good; God is present in all circumstances; God is compassionate; and God wants us to seek help from each other, asserts the author. Most of all, God (and the author) offer the suffering hope, founded in God’s promises for this life, Christian community and the life to come.
Overall Impression: Like Coraline (review), this book had such a neat cover. It’s impossible to tell in the cover photo, but the words “Where is God?” are only printed with a shiny varnish coating — so at certain angles you can’t tell there’s a title on the book at all. It’s a wonderfully appropriate cover for this book — kudos to the design team at TN.
The content of this book, I felt, was nothing new. People have been struggling with theodicy (the problem of evil/pain) since the beginning of time. But Townsend avoided the headier academic theological discussion in favor of a more lay-person approach. This book would be readable for pretty much anyone wondering “Where is God?” He combines both theology and his medical knowledge (he’s a psychologist) into a easily digestable book. There are also a lot of anecdotes and scriptural references, all which help make the book very understandable.
Townsend offers his view of why we struggle through life, and how God is there with us for this journey. I was mildly surprised at how much he focused on human relationships. Other books I’ve read on this subject have highlighted the different ways that God participates and helps us through our suffering. White Townsend does touch on this quite a bit, he really emphasizes our need for community when we are going through tough times. One of the things that really stuck with me (something that I’ve seen, but not actually put words to) is that we grow closer to the people around us when things, well, stink. By suffering with others, we really connect with people on a different level. God designed us for relationship and community (He himself being relational in Father-Son-Spirit) and we build that community when we deal with our difficulties alongside those in our lives.
M0re than anything, the book encourages the reader to draw closer to God and to people who can help work through the pain. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but it’s probably a good book to give someone if they are really struggling through a difficulty in their life.
Pros: Makes a formidable theological problem easy to read and understand; highlights the need for relationship with other people
Cons: Nothing altogether new; might turn off some readers looking for a more God-only solution
Other books I’ve read by John Townsend: none (but I’m vaguely familiar with his Boundaries book — must get to that someday)
Other blogger reviews: none — have you reviewed this? I’ll link you!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”