Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Book Review: If God is Good

If God is Good

If God is Good
by Randy Alcorn

Trade Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: Multnomah
First Released: 2009

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
Every one of us will experience suffering. Many of us are experiencing it now. As we have seen in recent years, evil is real in our world, present and close to each one of us.

In such difficult times, suffering and evil beg questions about God--Why would an all-good and all-powerful God create a world full of evil and suffering? And then, how can there be a God if suffering and evil exist?

These are ancient questions, but also modern ones as well. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and even former believers like Bart Ehrman answer the question simply: The existence of suffering and evil proves there is no God.

In this captivating new book, best-selling author Randy Alcorn challenges the logic of disbelief, and brings a fresh, realistic, and thoroughly biblical insight to the issues these important questions raise.

Alcorn offers insights from his conversations with men and women whose lives have been torn apart by suffering, and yet whose faith in God burns brighter than ever. He reveals the big picture of who God is and what God is doing in the world–now and forever. And he equips you to share your faith more clearly and genuinely in this world of pain and fear.

Randy Alcorn delves deep into a profound subject, and through compelling stories, provocative questions and answers, and keen biblical understanding, he brings assurance and hope to all.

If God is Good is an excellent God-focused, Scripture-based book. It gives a comprehensive and balanced look at what the entire Bible says about evil and suffering. If you have any question about why an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing God allows evil and suffering, this book thoroughly answers it. Some parts got a bit heavy and a few chapters weren't as convincing as others (like chapter 20), but most of the book was excellent and very easy to understand.

The major drawback to this book is it's sheer size. Five hundred pages is daunting enough for the average reader. When I realized that the small font makes this book equal to about 850 normal pages, I began to wonder just who the target audience was. Most people I know wouldn't have the time or interest in reading such a large book, no matter how good the material. This is too bad since the information is excellent.

However, part of the length problem is that there was a lot of repetition. I wonder if this book was really meant to be a debate reference book rather than a book read from beginning to end. In each section, he answers the question of evil and suffering from a slightly different angle and often repeats previous material in the argument. Yet you can't skip any part without potentially skipping the bits of excellent new material woven into it.

If you get into debates about evil and suffering and need to know all of the possible questions and answers, this is an excellent book to read. If you want to understand the idea of free will better, this is an excellent resource. If you're a pastor or ministry leader, you owe it to those you lead to know the information in this book. However, if you're suffering deep sorrow, I'd suggest reading Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow by Nancy Guthrie. It gives many of the same points in a sympathetic, caring manner and with much fewer words.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter 5, page 41
As frequently expressed, the problem of evil assumes that an all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God cannot have good reasons for creating a universe in which evil and suffering exist. But shouldn't this assumption require some proof?

We may not understand why a good God would allow terrible suffering. But this merely establishes that if there is a God, we do not know everything he knows. Why should this surprise us?

Suppose we add only one premise to the argument that God is all powerful, all knowing, and all loving, and yet evil exists: God has a morally sufficient reason for permitting evil. You may disagree with this premise, but it does not contradict the others.

We've all seen people say or do things that we considered unjustifiable. When we later learn why they did them, everything may change. The man who passed us on the freeway, honking his horn, was driving his injured daughter to the hospital. Realizing he had compelling reasons, we say, "I get it now; I misjudged him."

To disprove the God of the Bible exists, someone must demonstrate there can be no moral justification of an all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God to allow evil. Has this been proven? No. This doesn't mean the question isn't valid, only that a question is not the same as proof.

Read from chapter one.

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