by John G. Stackhouse, Jr.
IVP Books, 2009, 219 pages, $16.00 (paperback),
ISBN-13: 978-0-8308-2886-9

There are many approaches to the problem of human suffering. Why would an all-powerful God allow His creation to experience all of the pain and evil that we see around us? The Does God Exist? ministry has attempted over the years to deal with this question with booklets and video presentations, but our approach has been very simplistic and practical, and for many people too shallow. John G. Stackhouse is a professor of theology and culture at Regent College in Vancouver. This book is an in-depth look at the existence of evil and why we suffer.

The first 113 pages of this book review what theologians and philosophers have proposed over the centuries about the existence of evil and of God. All world religions are explored as well as a wide variety of philosophers and theologians. Stackhouse deals with some important insights in this section, such as the fact that love is vital and cannot be forced. There is also some useful discussion about the purpose of life and the nature of God.

The remaining 100 pages of the book focus on the Christian system and how pain and suffering fit into the Christian approach to life. One statement in the book is a good summary of the book’s thesis: The world “is not ... a world merely to escape ... It is a world to engage and embrace. It is a world that, damaged as it is, will do us sick people good if we see it clearly, and live in it wisely” (page 100).

The book’s argument is that pain and evil in the Christian system makes sense and only promises in this life to make life progressively better, not perfect--and only to faithful practitioners, not just claimants. The weaknesses of other faiths in this regard are pointed out in contrast to Christianity, and how pain and evil mold and shape us to be what God wants us to be is demonstrated.

This is a good book for those who wish an in-depth study of the question of evil, and pain and suffering. We recommend it to teachers, church leaders, and preachers, but it would be over the head of most high school students.

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, SepOct09.