Tag Archives: Book Review

Booknote: Broken Memory

Just posted a short book review over at Global Trauma Recovery Institute. It is a novella about a child survivor of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. If you are interested in getting an inside look at life after a trauma, dealing with memories and spaces in memories, and a common recovery process, I commend the book to you.  Quite moving, easy to read (not triggering for most), and gives some good illustrations of actions of the survivor and other caring individuals that help the young woman regain control over her internal world.

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Filed under Africa, counseling, Good Books, Rwanda, trauma

The God I don’t Understand 2: Chapter 1

Chapter one of Chris Wright’s The God I don’t Understand (Zondervan, 2008) is the first chapter of his section entitled: “What about evil and suffering?” He reminds us that everyone struggles with the existence of evil in the world but that it is a particular struggle for the Christian  given our view of a good and sovereign God.

We Christians believe that there is one living God, the creator of the whole universe, who is personal, good, loving, omnipotent, and sovereign over all that happens. (p. 27)

He asks,

What help does the Bible give us in holding these jarring contradictions together in our minds in such a way that, even if it does not give us an answer we can fully understand, it does give us hope that we can fully trust? Or to put it another way: Whereas we often ask, “Why?” people in the Bible more often ask “How long?” (ibid)

So chapter one explores the mystery of evil. The Bible, he says, “compells us to accept the mystery of evil” (p. 29) in terms of its origin since the Bible does not explain its ultimate origin.

Despite the mystery, Wright tells us the origin of the “vast quantity” of evil can be known–the result of human sin and wickedness. So he distinguishes moral from natural evil. Moral evil is both intentional and unintentional acts (or failure to act) that cause human suffering. Of these Wright says,

Somehow, we manage to live with such facts, simply because they are so common and universal that we have “normalized” them, even if we regret or resent them and even if we grudgingly admit that humanity itself is largely to blame. (p. 31)

But, when we think of natural causes of suffering, “the cry goes up, “How can God allow such a thing? How can God allow such suffering?…Our gut reaction is to accuse God of callousness or carelessness and to demand that he do something to stop such things.” (ibid)

He muses that God might respond to such an accusation (especially those who don’t believe in God) with,

Well, excuse me, but if we’re talking here about who allows what, let point out that thousands of children are dying every minute in your world of preventable diseases that you have the means (but obviously not the will) to stop. How can you allow that?

If the large majority of sin is from human wickedness then Wright says we have to admit that none of us escapes the judgment. We both do evil and are complicit in evil. We benefit from the evil done elsewhere (think cheap clothing made in Asia). However, Wright doesn’t want us to wallow in guilt:

I say that not to turn all our enjoyment of life into guilty depression. Rather, as we enjoy the good gifts of God’s creation, we must at the same time accept the Bible’s diagnosis of how radical, pervasive, and deeply ingrained sin has become in all human life and relationships. (p. 35)

At this point in the chapter he steps back to ask where evil comes from even though he already stated we have no answer. “Evil seems to explode into the Bible narrative , unannounced, already formed, without explanation or rationale.” (p. 35) What can we say about evil from the Biblical record. Wright says, (a) It was not God, (b) it was not another human being, but (c) it was something from within creation. “Whatever the serpent in the narrative is, then, or whatever it represents, it is out of place, an intruder, unwelcome, incoherent, contrary to the story so far.” (p. 36) We have warrant from elsewhere in Scripture to see Satan as a fallen angel. Wright then asks about Satan. He reminds us that Satan isn’t God, isn’t omnipotent nor omniscient nor omnipresent. Wright suggests that we, “should take Satan seriously, but we should not dignify him with greater reality and power than is proper for a creature.” (p. 36)

Wright goes on to explore the differences between the devil and humans and gives us this pithy little statement, “The Bible calls us not so much to believe in the devil as to believe against the devil.” (p. 38.)

In summary, Wright reminds us that we cannot understand the presence of evil. This, he says, is a good thing.

“…we finite human beings cannot, indeed must not, “make sense” of evil. For the final truth is that evil does not make sense. “Sense” is part of our rationality that in itself is part of God’s good creation and God’s image in us. So evil can have no sense, since sense itself is a good thing.” (p. 42)

Instead Wright tells us that we are to grieve, weep, lament, protests, scream in pain and anger and cry out, “How long …” And he ends the chapter with the bible’s answer, “That’s OK. Go right ahead. And here are some words you may like to use when you feel that way.” (p. 43) What Wright doesn’t say is that our Savior uses these same words to communicate to the father.

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Filed under Biblical Reflection, book reviews, Christian Apologetics, Christianity, Doctrine/Theology, sin, suffering

How to pick a seminary?

Of course the right answer is: “Biblical Seminary is the ONLY seminary where you’ll get the best masters in counseling education.”

But in case you’d like a little more depth and breadth in answer the question about whether seminary is right for you, Derek Cooper has a new book: So You’re Thinking About Going to Seminary (2008, Brazos). Derek came by this wisdom by attending several seminaries and so if you want a good feel for what seminary is like and how you can decide if it is for you, you ought to buy the book.

In it he orients readers to what seminary is and isn’t, the kind that is attached to universities and the free-standing kind. That would probably have helped my wife back when she showed up for summer Greek, about a year after becoming a Christian. When she first heard about seminary, she assumed it was a place only for priests.

Cooper also helps the reader to consider the value and benefits of non-denominational versus denominational seminaries, the kinds of degrees available as well as potential jobs with each degree. Even better, he helps the newbie think through the kinds of courses likely to be taken in  some of these degree courses. What I like is that he gives numerous school examples so that by the end of the book, the reader has truly been exposed to the best of theological education in the United States and Canada.

The middle section of the book helps the seminarian find ways to finance, survive, even flourish during grad studies. Yes, you don’t have to lose your faith or your marriage if you go to seminary. But don’t assume your studies alone will promote spiritual growth.

He has one chapter that covers matters of ordination and licensure. If you are considering becoming a licensed counselor AND you are thinking (rightly) that seminary is a great place to do that, be sure to read his admonition to check with your licensing body (State or Province) to see what THEY require and do not assume that the school automatically covers every required course.

My only negative is that he didn’t say on every page that BIBLICAL SEMINARY (www.biblical.edu) is by far the BEST school in the world. But then, if he did, that would make us look bad since he would be lying. But, if you do want to hear Derek in the flesh, join our counseling program and take his “Counseling and the Biblical Text” course since he adjuncts for us.

I’ve asked Derek a few questions and so tomorrow, I’ll post his answers. Really, this is a good book if you are considering a ministry career and wonder if Seminary is necessary and what it is all about. And if you are the “cut to the chase” kind of reader, he has really good summaries and charts to help you make your decision.

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Filed under Biblical Seminary, book reviews, counseling, Doctrine/Theology, writing