Readings in Theodicy
“The crust of the earth is soaked with the tears of suffering.” That is how philosopher Eleonore Stump once described the problem of evil and suffering. Suffering and pain are experienced by people the world over. No one seems to be exempt. It is part and parcel of the human condition.
Since all have suffered, and will continue to suffer, the problem of suffering and evil has been a constant subject of contemplation and discussion, not just by theologians and philosophers, but by all reflective people. Indeed, the problem is perhaps as old as mankind.
The perennial problems of suffering and evil have resulted in tens of thousands of books appearing over the centuries attempting to offer some clarity and resolution. I would have many hundreds of such volumes. What I offer here is only a tiny fraction of some of the literature on this topic.
Many of the volumes offered here are somewhat more popular in nature, although many do present scholarly and academic discussions as well. Theology, biblical studies, ethics, philosophy, and pastoral concerns are all brought to bear on this topic.
The 55 volumes presented here are amongst some of the better discussions of this topic, and all come from a Judeo-Christian perspective. If I were asked to pick my eight favorites – more or less for the average reader – I would suggest these, in order of preference:
-Carson, D.A., How Long O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil
-Geisler, Norman, If God, Why Evil?
-Lewis, C.S., The Problem of Pain
-Lewis, C.S., A Grief Observed
-Eareckson Tada, Joni, When God Weeps
-Yancey, Philip, Disappointment With God
-Yancey, Philip, Where is God When it Hurts?
-Dobson, James, When God Doesn’t Make Sense
Happy reading (if one can be happy in reading about suffering!).
Adams, Marilyn McCord, Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. Melbourne University Press, 1999.
Alcorn, Randy, If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil. Multnomah, 2009.
Biebel, David, If God is So Good, Why Do I Hurt So Bad? Spire, 1989.
Billheimer, Paul, Don’t Waste Your Sorrows. Kingsway Publications, 1977.
Blocher, Henri, Evil and the Cross. Apollos, 1990.
Bridges, Jerry, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts. NavPress, 1988.
Carson, D.A., How Long O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil. Baker, 1990.
Cotterell, Peter, Is God Helpless? Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. SPCK, 1996.
Crenshaw, James, Defending God: Biblical Responses to the Problem of Evil. Oxford University Press, 2005.
Dickson, John, If I Were God, I’d End All the Pain. Matthias Media, 2001.
Dobson, James, When God Doesn’t Make Sense. Tyndale House, 1993.
Eareckson Tada, Joni, A Place of Healing. David C. Cook, 2010.
Eareckson Tada, Joni, When God Weeps. Zondervan, 1997.
Elliot, Elisabeth, A Path Through Suffering. OM Publishing, 1990.
Feinberg, John, Deceived by God? A Journey Through Suffering. Crossway Books, 1997.
Feinberg, John, The Many Faces of Evil. Revised edition. Crossway Books, 1979, 2004.
Fretheim, Terence, Creation Untamed: The Bible, God, and Natural Disasters. Baker, 2010.
Geisler, Norman, If God, Why Evil? Bethany House, 2011.
Geisler, Norman, The Roots of Evil. Zondervan, 1978.
Guinness, Os, Unspeakable: Facing Up To Evil In an Age of Genocide and Terror. Harper, 2005.
Habermas, Gary, Why is God Ignoring Me? Tyndale, 2010.
Hasker, William, The Triumph of God over Evil. IVP, 2008.
Hauerwas, Stanley, God, Medicine, and Suffering. Eerdmans, 1990.
Hick, John, Evil and the God of Love. Fontana, 1966.
Hicks, John, Yet Will I Trust Him. College Press, 1999.
Hicks, Peter, The Message of Evil and Suffering. Inter-Varsity Press, 2006.
Horton, Michael, A Place for Weakness. Zondervan, 2006.
Kreeft, Peter, Making Sense Out of Suffering. Servant Books, 1986.
Lewis, C.S., A Grief Observed. Bantam Books, 1961.
Lewis, C.S., The Problem of Pain. Fontana, 1940.
MacArthur, John, The Power of Suffering. Victor Books, 1995.
McCartney, Dan, Why Does it Have to Hurt? Presbyterian and Reformed, 1998.
McGrath, Alister, A Journey Through Suffering. Hodder and Stoughton, 1992.
Morgan, Christopher and Robert Peterson, eds., Suffering and the Goodness of God. Crossway Books, 2008.
Morley, Brian, God in the Shadows. Christian Focus, 2006.
Palau, Luis, Where is God When Bad Things Happen? Doubleday, 1999.
Peterson, Michael, Evil and the Christian God. Baker, 1982.
Peterson, Michael, God and Evil. Westview Press, 1998.
Piper, John and Justin Taylor, eds., Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. Crossway Books, 2006.
Plantinga, Alvin, God, Freedom and Evil. George Allen & Unwin, 1974.
Plantinga, Theodore, Learning to Live With Evil. Eerdmans, 1982.
Rhodes, Ron, Why Do Bad Things Happen if God is Good? Harvest House, 2004.
Schaeffer, Edith, Affliction. Hodder & Stoughton, 1978.
Silvester, Hugh, Arguing With God: The Problem of Evil. Inter-Varsity Press, 1971, 1996.
Sproul, R.C., Surprised by Suffering. Tyndale House, 1988.
Stackhouse, John, Can God Be Trusted? Oxford University Press, 1998.
Swinburne, Richard, Providence and the Problem of Evil. Clarendon Press, 1998.
Van Inwagen, Peter, Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil. Eerdmans, 2004.
Watts, Gary, Painful Questions. Herald Press, 1999.
Wenham, John, The Goodness of God. Inter-Varsity Press, 1974.
Wiersbe, Warren, When Life Falls Apart. Spire, 1984.
Wolterstorff, Nicholas, Lament for a Son. Eerdmans, 1987.
Wright, NT, Evil and the Justice of God. SPCK, 2006.
Yancey, Philip, Disappointment With God. Zondervan, 1988.
Yancey, Philip, Where is God When it Hurts? Zondervan, 1977.
One Reply to “Readings in Theodicy”
The answer to the problem of suffering is simple in theory. We can make the following statements confidently on Scripture:
1. God is in control of all events. Any evil that is therefore serves His purpose.
2. God is alltogether good and in Him is no darkness at all. While evil serves Him, He is not its author.
3. God loves His people and does what is best for them – including allowing evil and suffering into their lives at different points if that is what is best for them. That suffering can be best for us is ultimately illustrated in the suffering of the Lord Himself on calvary – He suffered for us.
4. We are limited in understanding and cannot plumb the depths of God’s wisdom and ways – therefore it is imperative that we accept the above points on faith first before even thinking about why a particular suffering is in our lives. If we don’t accept them, contemplating suffering without them leads us on dangerous and more painful roads.
It is one thing to know these truths in theory, it is quite another to have them put to the test in the fires of suffering. That suffering is there in our lives and is for our best does not in any way diminish our pain; but in grasping the truth our anchor stands firm and we can give thanks to our God through suffering.
When we question God’s goodness under the weight of our suffering, we are expressing disbelief in Him. We are in fact saying that we don’t believe His judgment to be best. Questioning God is a fearful place to be, and such unbelief should be repented of.
Nonetheless, He remembers our weakness and graciously keeps us even in times where we don’t trust Him as we ought.
He even gives us glimpses into the ‘why’ in this life – look at the great blessing Joni Eareckson Tada’s suffering has brought to many for instance.
May we seek to grasp these truths before the storms come, and may we fly to Him for comfort and shelter from the storm when we are in the midst of suffering. He has suffered as we do, and was a man of sorrow. He knows our pain, He cares for us, and in clinging to Him we will surely reap a harvest with songs of joy where we have sown with tears and weeping.