Friday, June 17, 2016

Book Review: Though He Slay Me

I've mentioned previously that for a while, all my reading was on the subject of suffering. Jamie Freeman's book 'Though He Slay Me' takes its title from Job 13:15, and its subtitle shows its purpose: 'Seeing God as Good in Suffering.' Straight away, let me say that this wouldn't rank as highly as some of the other books I read on the subject, partly because there were more times when I didn't agree with the author, on particular dogmatic pronouncements. Yet there are still memorable moments, and helpful passages within the book, none more memorable than the story he shares in the first chapter of two difficult, dangerous births - his own birth, leading to Cerebral Palsy, and that of his child.

Laying out the foundation, Freeman surveys the range of self-help books available, all of which seek to avoid suffering. However, as he reminds us, 'No one escapes suffering in this life. Yet the ways in which people respond to suffering go miles in showing who has been born again by the Spirit of God... and who has not.' Further, he makes the case that 'while life in Christ is glorious and triumphant, it can also get you thrown in jail, beaten, persecuted, rejected and scorned.'

The issue of suffering has always prompted the question, is God really good, but he maintains, 'The issue of the goodness of God in suffering forces us to take a look at what we really believe about God and his Word.' Through the rest of the book, Freeman examines the goodness of God through a variety of lenses - that of God's sovereignty; the origins of suffering; sickness; death; poverty; rejection; human weakness and sin; broken families; racial discrimination; natural disasters; and God's purpose and plan for suffering. This all leads to seeing the goodness of God in his eventual triumph over suffering, the final chapter.

There were several points at which I scribbled notes into my Kindle, a 'really?' here and a 'not sure about this' there, on issues such as families and divorce, and the rejection of Israel. So, when discussing family life, he makes this categorical statement: 'Because of this, I do not believe the Bible gives allowance for divorce.' Yet I can think of two occasions where the Bible gives allowance for divorce - marital unfaithfulness, and when a new convert's spouse refuses to remain with them. As I've said, there were several other similar dogmatic statements that come across as blunt, unhelpful, and even wrong.

I was reminded of the African responsive declaration: 'God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good.' Sadly I'd have to say that this book, on the goodness of God, isn't always good. For this reason, I wouldn't recommend it as highly as some of the other books on suffering I've read recently.

Though He Slay Me: Seeing God as Good in Suffering is available from Amazon and for Kindle.

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