Books: Bad Things Still Happen
A concise, clear argument for how God can be both good and omnipotent.
July 13, 1998
Can God Be Trusted? Faith and the Challenge of Evil, by John G. Stackhouse, Jr. (Oxford University Press, 196 pp.; $25, hardcover). Reviewed by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, who teaches literature, history, and women's studies at Emory University.
If God is all good and all-powerful, how can evil exist? The problem, known to theologians as theodicy, has haunted Christianity from its distant origins in the Old Testament. Why should God have visited untold miseries upon Job, his most exemplary and faithful servant? How may we explain, much less accept, the death of "innocent" babies? The destruction of "good" people and their homes through tornadoes or earthquakes? The indiscriminate ravages of famines, floods, and plagues?
If anything, human impatience with pain, suffering, and destruction seems to have increased with the passage of centuries, perhaps because we moderns have become more arrogant about our ability to judge the good and the bad in human affairs and more presumptuous about our ability to control so many of life's normal vicissitudes. Increasingly reluctant to recognize either sin or suffering as inherent in the human condition, we grow rebellious against a God who could subject us to either. In this slim volume, John Stackhouse, Jr., sets the daunting challenge of evil within the context of Christian faith, recasting the problem of God's willingness to tolerate evil as the question of whether God can be trusted.
Throughout, Stackhouse's language is deceptively direct and accessible, and he more than fulfills his self-imposed task of translating the work of philosophers and theologians into terms that ordinary Christians can understand. His admirable avoidance of intellectual pretension and technical jargon should not ...
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