Suffering and Grace

29 posts

Let’s be honest, why did Jesus die on a cross?

We are fast approaching Good Friday and the interwebs is filling with people post and reposting essays about the crucifixion. The ones that always nag at me are those that seek to argue that Jesus’ death was not somehow an atoning sacrifice offered for our sins.1 The usual objection is based upon a rejection of penal substation or any of the other various models of atonement theory. The link provided has a very nice summary […]

C. S. Lewis on God’s Sovereignty, Free Will, and Suffering

It turns out, judging by the notes in the margin, I had read C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain some time ago. I did not remember having done so, but perhaps it impacted my thinking more than it did my memory of the actual reading of it. Or perhaps I had already come to similar conclusions before I read his book. I have no way of knowing. Below are a few quotes from that […]

The Utter Unacceptability of Death

My SEC colleague from Vanderbilt this week graciously gave me the gift of a slim volume by a former professor of his. The book is A Boy Thirteen: Reflections on Death (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), by Jerry A. Irish. Their 13 year old son Lee died of meningitis in 1973, the second of their three sons to die within 4 years. The younger son had been born with a serious heart defect and died before […]

Beautiful and Terrible Things Book Contract

I am very pleased and proud to announce that I have signed a contract with Westminster John Knox Press to publish Beautiful and Terrible Things! The publication date is Fall 2020. I am so thankful for everyone who has and continues to engage with me on matters relating to the biblical theology of suffering and grace. This book is intended for all audiences and your feedback, pushback, and questions are integral to the refining and […]

Raised Imperishable

So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.  1 Cor 15:42-44 The last two weeks (6th and 7th Sunday after […]

John Piper’s Warped & Harmful Teaching on Suffering

A few caveats to begin. Although I have known of John Piper for years, I am just now coming to read his teachings on suffering and the sovereignty of God. The book by that name is graciously made available for free download on his “Desiring God” site and is worth reading; there are multiple authors with thought-provoking comments. It was published in 2006. Finally, I know that he and the other contributors are motivated by […]

Permission to Lament

Shortly after Mack died our good friend and colleague Gary Knoppers gave me Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Lament for a Son. Gary included a brief note, offering his condolences and sharing that NW had been one of his “main profs” at Calvin and that Eric, the son who had died in a tragic accident, had been his friend and housemate. Gary died shortly before Christmas, taken far too early by cancer, but leaving an incredible legacy of […]

Why did the Son of God Suffer?

“The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.” George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons. First Series. As cited in CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain, (New York: Macmillan, 1947), p. vi. Cited by CS Lewis in the frontispiece of The Problem of Pain. I am not sure what I make of the statement. Humanity had already been suffering for millennia by the time Jesus came, so is GM saying that by coming Jesus took […]

Talking About Death

Specifically, how do we talk about it when someone has died? This article was posted on Facebook by my friend Fr. Jody Howard. “People don’t pass away” by Peter W. Marty on Christian Century. The site has apparently been recycling this story periodically since it was published in 2017. It is well meaning. I passed on the chocolate dessert tray in the restaurant last night, tempting as it was. I dread passing through the TSA screening lines at […]

Remembering the Unknown

“It makes me a bit worried about what the next year will bring,” I said. “What does?” asked Elizabeth. “The fact that things are going so well.” It was Christmas Eve 2012 and we were finishing wrapping presents and a glass of port. I was reflecting on the fact that there had been three major areas of concern in the last few months that had been weighing on my mind and now, just before Christmas, […]