The Great Assumption

If you’re looking to write a book on one of the toughest possible topics, you can’t find one much tougher than the often discussed and debated question: How can God be good, loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing since evil and suffering exist?

In a book that’s remarkable for its readability and clarity but also its scholarship and depth, Randy Alcorn tackles this whammy in If God Is Good.

In a work that constantly weaves in pertinent Scriptures, Alcorn addresses the question in a way that covers apologetics, philosophy, theology, and evangelism.  Loaded with interesting stories and packed with fantastic one-liners, Alcorn’s effort at addressing this huge question is surprisingly satisfying.

For me, the most important section comes on page 41 (where Alcorn is really just getting warmed up in this 500-page volume!).  Here, Alcorn points out that this whole question rests on the premise that God cannot have good reasons for allowing evil and suffering.  Alcorn challenges this assumption: “We may not understand why a good God would allow terrible suffering.  But this merely establishes that if there is a God, we do not know everything he knows.  Why should this surprise us?  Suppose we add only one premise to the argument that God is all powerful, all knowing, and all loving, and yet evil exists: God has a morally sufficient reason for permitting evil.”  In a book that is very well-organized and extremely thorough, this one point stood out above everything else.  If God has a reason for allowing evil and suffering, a reason that makes sense from an eternal perspective, then it’s perfectly consistent with His being good, all-knowing, all-powerful, and loving!

Even for its size, If God Is Good is highly readable from beginning to end.  It’s also so well organized that I’ll keep it on the shelf as a reference tool.

If you’re going to buy one book to help you wrestle with this big question, this is definitely the one I would recommend.

Note: I received a free copy of this book for review from Waterbrook Multnomah.  But they didn’t tell me what to say.  That would’ve been a lot easier, though, since this book was almost as long as the Old Testament.

Published in: on January 31, 2011 at 4:39 pm  Leave a Comment  



  • We’re almost halfway through the series “Revealed” at CrossWay.  It’s going well, but I wish I had another two or three months to prepare for it!  Guess I’ll always feel that way.  Sermons are like paintings–it’s hard to reach a point where I can say, “It’s finished.”
  • Laura Marie is eating “solid” food!  Doesn’t look that solid to me, but I guess it’s solid compared to milk.  She really likes the peas, green beans, and carrots, but the sweet potatoes seem to be her favorite so far.  It’s so cute to watch her eat with a spoon!
  • I’m really pulling for a Yankees-Dodgers World Series.  That’s the classic matchup, and it hasn’t happened in 28 years.  Unfortunately the Phillies don’t seem like they’re keen on the idea.  And the Angels aren’t exactly one step away from elimination.  We’ll see.
  • Cheez-its rock.  And now they have some made with whole grain, which are even better.
  • Greg Cooper, the youth pastor at Ocean City Worship Center, is leaving soon to become the pastor of a church in Columbia (Maryland, not South America).  I’m sad.  Happy for Greg and his wife Heather, but sad for the community, the Worship Center, and me.  Greg is such a tremendous asset to our community.  His absence will leave a hole in our ministry to the teenagers in this area.  He’s also a lot of fun to hang out with and very encouraging.  Today we’re having our last hurrah at Plaza Tapatia, which I think is the only place we’ve ever met for lunch except for one time in D.C.  God bless you, Greg and Heather!  (Sniff sniff.)
  • Autumn is totally the best.  I love the smell.  If I ever took two months off, I think I’d take all of October and November and just sit on the back porch watching the trees, drinking Vanilla-Macademia coffee, and listening to the wind.  And maybe reading a 19th-century Russian novel.
  • A couple days ago I finished reading Monster by Frank Peretti.  It was really a great read.  I’d forgotten what an amazingly talented writer Peretti is.
  • About a month or so ago, Carolyn and I started having a community group at our house.  We talk, pray, read the Bible (we’re going through the Gospel of Mark), and eat.  It’s wonderful.
  • Speaking of Mark, I’ve been studying it for a couple months.  It’s been great to slow down and really spend time in Mark.  It’s been spiritually invigorating.

My New Favorite Paragraph

I have a new favorite paragraph.

It’s from page 115 of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.  The narrator is an old dying country preacher writing about dancing the waltz alone in his study:

“I plan to do all my waltzing here in the study.  I have thought I might have a book ready at hand to clutch if I began to experience unusual pain, so that it would have an especial recommendation from being found in my hands.  That seemed theatrical, on consideration, and it might have the perverse effect of burdening the book with unpleasant associations.  The ones I considered, by the way, were Donne and Herbert and Barth’s Epistle to the Romans and Volume II of Calvin’s Institutes.  Which is by no means to slight Volume I.”

Now that’s rich.  What an amazing writing gift.  And what a lovable character!

Published in: on December 13, 2008 at 12:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Top 10 Cool Things I Did Last Week

Here’s the official list of the Top 10 Cool Things I Did Last Week:

(10) Continued reading a book I borrowed from my dad.  It’s called Gilead and is written by Marilynne Robinson.

(9) Went to La Tolteca in Salisbury for lunch with Carolyn and her family.

(8) Downloaded the Dropkick Murphys version of “Amazing Grace.”

(7) Ate a delicious dinner that my mother-in-law, Linda, made for us.  Spaghetti with meatballs.

(6) Downloaded the Aaron Neville edition of “Amazing Grace.”  A close honorable mention vying for this spot: Downloading an abridged audio version of Charles Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening devotions.

(5) Attended a Bible study about the book of Ruth, led by my father-in-law, Steve.

(4) Ate a pound’s worth of turkey burgers and about a half gallon of cheese dip.  That’s what happens when Carolyn goes out of town for a conference.

(3) Downloaded the Twisted Sister version of “O Come All Ye Faithful.”  (Yeah, you read that right.  Search iTunes if you don’t believe me.)

(2) Went on a field trip with Carolyn’s kindergarten class.  We saw The Three Billy Goats Gruff at the local high school.

(1) Listened to our baby’s heartbeat.  Carolyn had her first OB/GYN appointment on Thursday.  Absolutely beyond words.

Published in: on December 7, 2008 at 11:47 pm  Comments (2)  

Obama & Abortion

This afternoon I came across a frightening article about the man who just might be our next president.  Read it here.

Extremists in any direction tend to be scary, but someone who’s enthusiastic about abortion just wigs me out.

Published in: on October 13, 2008 at 2:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Glory of Their Times

Last year I was in Cooperstown, New York with my dad and two brothers.  My younger brother, Dylan, suggested I read The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence S. Ritter.  He said it was the best baseball book he’d ever read.

It took me awhile to get to it, but I finally finished reading it yesterday, and I must say that Dylan was right.

In researching The Glory of Their Times, Ritter traveled all over the country in the mid-1960s interviewing former major leaguers who’d played as long ago as the late 1800s.  The story that these men share in their own words is fascinating!  As a baseball fan I was captivated, but equally interesting was the fact that these are first-hand accounts of a historical era whose witnesses have all but died out.  One player, Smokey Joe Wood, even shares his recollection of growing up in a wild west town!

The players who tell their stories in The Glory in Their Times bear names that filled headlines 80 to 100 years ago, but would be unfamiliar to most people today–even though several of them are Hall of Famers, such as Edd Roush, Stan Coveleski, Goose Goslin, Rube Marquard, and Sam Crawford.  Even so, they tell story after story of names that are still known even by non-fans, names like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Ty Cobb.

If you have even a casual interest in baseball, history, or just biography in general, this book is definitely one I’d highly recommend.

Published in: on September 30, 2008 at 5:07 am  Leave a Comment  

The Hobbit

Until recently I had never read anything by J.R.R. Tolkien.  So finally, at long last, I read The Hobbit.  Coming into it, I had no idea what to expect.  That’s a good thing, because it was very different from anything I’d ever read before.  Definitely a good book.  It seems to fit into a weird genre that’s only written by English people.  It was written for kids, but at an adult reading level.

Anyway, I don’t know what else to say about it.  It took me forever to read it–about six weeks!  Kind of makes me timid about tackling the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Published in: on February 16, 2008 at 5:23 am  Comments (2)  

Lousy Day in Dallas

Wow, total meltdown in Dallas.  You can read about it here.

In a game that didn’t have any highlights for the Cowboys, there are two good things to be salvaged from their 10-6 loss to Philadelphia: First, the Eagles exposed some major weaknesses and limitations on the Cowboys, but they’re problems that can be fixed–and now they will be, just in time for the postseason.  Second, this game really didn’t carry any significance in the standings, though there’s a slight chance it could affect the playoffs situation depending on how Dallas and Green Bay finish out their seasons.

All in all, a good game to learn from and then forget!

(Okay Christi, go ahead and insert your comments below!)

Published in: on December 16, 2007 at 11:07 pm  Comments (2)  

Review of “Stories: How Mennonites Came to Be”

The other day I finished reading Stories: How Mennonites Came to Be by John D. Roth.  It’s one of the best church books I’ve ever read–it definitely deserves re-reading.

In order to avoid the common mistake of telling the Anabaptist story by starting in the sixteenth century, Roth opens up by relating the story of Jesus and His first followers, and summarizes the first three centuries of the Christian faith.  He then moves to the conversion of Constantine, the Roman emperor, and explains why that was a defining moment in the history of the church.

Roth provides an overview of the next thousand years, then explains the events of the Protestant Reformation.  Only then does he introduce the Anabaptist-Mennonite chapter of the story.  Indeed, only against the background of the early church, the Catholic church, and the Reformation can we really understand Anabaptists as the reformers of the Reformation.  Only in this context can we see the striking parallels between the early church and the sixteenth-century Anabaptist movement, and between the sixteenth-century movement and the position we find ourselves in today.  (The parallels with today’s Mennonite church can be seen in various periods all throughout the history of the Anabaptist movement.)

As I continued reading, I was really appreciative of the scope Roth uses to tell the Anabaptist-Mennonite story.  It really is unique!  He gives us the how and why of Anabaptists’ break with the Protestant reformers, gives a straightforward account of their persecution (neither exaggerated nor understated), and explains the scattering of the Anabaptist-Mennonite church across the globe and how this dispersion has affected the faith.

Consistent with the insight and depth of the book, Roth brings us up to the present day (very present–the book was published only 10 months ago) and helps us understand what impact our past has on our present and our future.  He explains the trademarks that distinguish Mennonites from other Christians and helps us to see them as the framework for understanding the future path of the church.

I won’t get into the details of Mennonite history and theology here, since this is just a review of the book and not a retelling of it.  But I strongly encourage you to check it out for yourself.  It’s a very informative, well-written, sensibly organized, fascinating handling of the Mennonite story.  It’s an easy read, but thought-provoking as well.  Several times I was struck by Roth’s insight and had to put the book down to reflect on the powerful truths he illuminated.

Whether you’re intimately familiar with the Anabaptist-Mennonite story or have never even heard of it, this book would be a great place to learn more about this amazing chapter in the story of God’s dealings with people.

Published in: on September 29, 2007 at 8:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Darren’s Thoughts On Andy’s Book

Darren Plummer, a church planter in College Park, recently reviewed the latest book by Andy Stanley, still hot off the press.  I haven’t read it yet and I know you’re all anxious for a review of it, since Stanley is the best preacher and best writer of books about ministry, so I figured I’d point to this review until I devour the book and tell you all about it here.  Besides, Darren and I have very similar tastes.  He’s even a Dallas Cowboys fan!  Anyway, you can check it out here.

Published in: on August 8, 2007 at 7:00 am  Comments (3)