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Monday, May 9, 2016

"Between Pain and Grace" (Gerald W. Peterman and Andrew J. Schmutzer)

TITLE: Between Pain and Grace: A Biblical Theology of Suffering
AUTHOR: Gerald W. Peterman and Andrew J. Schmutzer
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016, (352 pages).

Suffering is one of the toughest, if not the toughest barrier to overcome with regards to people coming to faith. So people write songs, sing melancholic tunes, compose poems, and use artistic creativity to express themselves. Pain and suffering are real and often personal. The biblical writers are also well adapted and equipped to write about such things. The Psalms are filled with laments. The prophet Jeremiah has a whole book called "Lamentations." The apostle Peter acknowledges the suffering church and writes letters to encourage them to persevere. Paul himself is no stranger to suffering, having to endure an unknown thorn inflicted on his body. Job the righteous man also suffered tremendously. Of course, we have Jesus who suffered for all the world at the cross. Why then do we need another book on pain and suffering? Surely, lots have already been written about it. What is so unique about this book? In a nutshell, the authors in this book believe that we can learn a lot from the Bible with regard to pain, suffering, and of course the grace of God. The topics are wide-ranging. The contributors are many. All the Both contributors believe that pain and suffering are not something to be suppressed or repressed. Instead, it should be openly expressed.

The coverage is wide. Specific definitions are placed on pain and suffering; the former being objective, external, while the latter is more subjective and internal. Both are complex matters not easily answered by simplistic explanations. Every pain and suffering are subjected to various interpretations. The "Grammar of Suffering" looks into the Old and New Testament to look at the sufferings, persecutions, and the responses of the biblical characters. The "Relational Ecosystem of Sin and Suffering" looks at the way sin had corrupted the world and tarnished the image bearers of God. We learn about God being vulnerable in Jesus all the way to the cross. We learn about lament in which even readers of the Psalms can enter in and participate with the suffering person(s). In fact, the very structure of lament can restore a sense of compassion and humanness. There is the value of anger that rise out of pain and suffering. Instead of it being destructive, we can learn how to use it redemptively. The Lord's Prayer gives us a way of seeing the world from God's perspective. From a leadership angle, we learn not only to be sensitive to the pains and sufferings of the people we lead, we also recognize how to use tears to persevere through. Other matters include sexual abuse, mental illness, community concerns, and so on. The concluding chapter on "A Metanarrative Renewed" itself is worth the price of the book as it is that one chapter that truly lives out the title of the book. It compares suffering and grace from a biblical perspective.

The topic of pain and suffering is so big that there is always room for more materials on it. Just like there is an insatiable appetite for sad and melancholic songs, there is also room for all kinds of human expressions of what they are going through. With our lives commonly described as "ups and downs," there is a tendency in modern society to play up the positives and minimize the negatives. While it does some good to the emotions, it may not necessarily be truthful enough. When Jesus tells us that the truth shall set us free, it means the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. No puffed up happy moments all the time, but the full expression of what it means to be human, warts, and all. This book leads readers to look at pain and suffering, redemption and grace, divinity and humanity from a biblical perspective.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Moody Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

1 comment:

  1. For the record, "the contributors are [NOT] many"--just two profs, Dr. Peterman and myself.