My new book If God Is Good addresses what is arguably the greatest issue in human history: the problem of evil and suffering.
The question is this: Why would an all-good and all-powerful (and all-knowing/all-wise) God create or permit a world with so much evil and suffering? This is not merely a problem, but the problem. Not only do atheists raise it, a poll of Christians revealed it is the question people would most like to ask God.
God promises to return and finalize his redemption of his once-good creation, to remove once and for all the evil and suffering under the Curse. In eternity he will reveal to us the riches of his grace in Christ, and we will see firsthand that the temporary evil and suffering will have yielded an eternal joy beyond what could otherwise have ever been known.
I labor hard on research and writing, and I made a commitment years ago never to waste my time writing a book if anything remotely close to what I wanted to write was already out there. But the more I studied the subject over the past two years, the more convinced I became that there was much I wanted to say, and in a particular way, that had not been said in one book.
I shaped the book to have a very distinctive approach and feel. I did this with my earlier books Money, Possessions and Eternity (a biblical and practical theology of money) and my big book Heaven (much of which is a biblical theology of the New Earth, then moving to imaginative aspects based on my biblical understanding). I sought in both books to say not just what had already been said, but what hadn’t been said, and to do it in a way that might reach readers who would normally not pick up a big book full of theology. In fact, If God Is Good is filled with theology, but my desire is to reach both those who love theology and those who can and need to learn to love it, and see loving it as part of loving God.
The structure of If God Is Good is reflected in its Table of Contents.
At first, I envisioned doing a short book on evil and suffering, built around a presentation on the subject I had done on a secular college campus, and later a modified one at my church. But because my book Heaven had surprised the publisher and the booksellers through its sales, it seemed to have proved that people were willing to read 500 pages full of Scripture and theology. This helped me decide to tackle a subject of such weighty and immense proportions as the problem of evil.
People live in a truth-vacuum, and I believe in the power of God’s Words to touch lives. I quote Scripture frequently in this book because God promises that his Word “will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). God never makes such a promise about my words or anyone else’s. I want this book to accomplish God’s purpose—and that will happen only if it remains faithful to his words.
Someone pointed out that we could cut a very large number of words from the big Heaven book simply by removing the Scriptures included, replacing them only with references. And we could cut more still by removing all the citations of theologians. But I believed the book would then be gutted of its power (in the case of Scripture) and its historicity as part of orthodoxy (in the case of the quotations). The publisher, and many others, have been stunned that the Heaven book has sold over 600,000 copies as a $25 hardcover. (By the way, 100% of the royalties are given to Christian ministries, not the one I direct, and Nanci and I couldn’t be happier about that arrangement.)
I don’t presume this book will sell as well as Heaven, but I do pray that many people will be touched by its biblical content and the insights of the theologians and faithful suffering Christians I quote.
In the process of research and writing I was continually aware that it was beyond me to pull this off, just as I had realized with the Heaven book and one of my novels (Dominion, which features an African American character in an African American context, and here I was, the writer, a white guy from the suburbs). But when you realize that apart from Christ you can do nothing, the continuous sense of dependence on the Holy Spirit yields benefits in your own walk, and hopefully in the book itself.
More about If God is Good in upcoming blogs.