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Where was God when that happened? 

A book about tragedy 'did not resonate with my world and the regular, and almost daily, conversations I have with people in an acute hospital'


WherewasGodWhere was God when that happened?
By Christopher Ash
The Good Book Company
ISBN: 9781910307236
Reviewer: Derek Fraser 

This is a book with a title to catch the eye. It poses a question that few escape asking. Its presentation is in short bite size pieces. Its author has had pastoral experience over a number of years. He considers a variety of approaches to address the issue and provides seven ways that might be used to engage with the issue.

While the question of why suffering is a complex one, it is one that many have written about from a variety of theological positions. This author takes a very strong position around the concept that God is in control and builds his ideas almost exclusively on that. He goes so far as to posit that God governs over evil, God uses Satan as His instrument and that God directs evil powers. “God decrees that all manner of things shall happen, including evil things,” he writes. He controls and directs evil. 

Fundamentally I was left feeling this book was flawed in its thinking and it comes across as pastorally disconnected from people. It lacks connection, compassion and a clear place for prayer, pleading and ways of living faithfully in the face of suffering.

It is not enough to simply stress the theoretical and cerebral aspects of this issue that God is in control. There needs to be an engaging pastoral dynamic shown so people connect with the ideas proposed and the solutions offered. The book was cold comfort, combined with tortuous logic and one I would not want to recommend, least of all to someone struggling. The quoting of scriptural passages in a dip and pick manner to support a theological theses is not to grasp and present the authentic voice of scripture. It did not resonate with my world and the regular, and almost daily, conversations I have with people in an acute hospital.

A finer and more pastorally engaged book would be John Swinton’s Raging with Compassion. He blends scripture, life and pastoral sensitivity into a superb book that deserves careful attention.

Baptist minister the Revd Dr Derek J Fraser is Lead Chaplain at Addenbrooke's Hospital

Baptist Times, 09/02/2018
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