Book Review: If God is Good by Randy Alcorn
September 25, 2009
Ok, I actually get the opportunity to review books for a couple of publishers. This one is from Multnomah publishers. It's entitled If God is Good. It's by Randy Alcorn, who has a decent track record of writing both fiction and non-fiction.
This book is Alcorn's attempt to tackle the problem of evil. The theological term for this is “ theodicy,” attempting to justify God's existence and reconcile it with the existence of evil. The normal person term for this is “ life,” as in, “If God is good, why does bad stuff happen?” Sometimes our questions come from big bad stuff like wars and abortion, sometimes it's personal bad stuff like cancer and AIDS, job losses and car accidents. All through, Christians are taught and teach to others that God is good, that fundamentally, good wins out over evil in the world.
Well, a 200-word or so book review cannot adequately deal with the philosophical issue, and shouldn't. My question is “Does Randy Alcorn provide a reasonable response to these questions?”
I would say that yes, his responses are adequate for the Christian reader. He reinforces his points with both Scripture references, historical examples, and literary references from other Christian writers. His application of Scripture is not ground-breaking, but this is a strength rather than a weakness, as he is not pushing a radical shift in theological thinking. His historical examples and literary references go to reinforce his points well and give him credibility by citing the words of those who have suffered what he has not. All told, what he has constructed is a well-illustrated (word illustrations, that is) example of the general evangelical viewpoint: God is good is not up for discussion,but how God's goodness allows evil is discussed.
Will this work stand as an apologetic work, to explain to non-believers what God is up to with suffering? Probably not. Yet I don't think that's quite his intention. Rather, I think his intention is to strengthen believers in the face of these arguments.
One last word is due here. While I think that some in crisis will find comfort in this work, it's also not a book to wait for evil to hit before you read. In my opinion, this book is better read first in the calmness of everyday chaos, before the waves of major catastrophe strike. Mark it up, highlight, use the little Post-it Flags I love so much to highlight major points, and then refer back in times of crisis.
In all, this is not a must-read, but it is definitely a should-read book. If you want to make sense of suffering from a Biblical perspective, start here. Randy Alcorn's If God is Good is worth the read.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Multnomah Press in exchange for the review.