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Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 1, 2012
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Top Customer Reviews
Tullian addresses the reality of suffering in the first 3 chapters of Glorious Ruin. His section on the Theology of Glory vs. the Theology of the Cross is excellent. Tullian says, "A theology of the cross defines life in terms of giving rather than taking, self-sacrifice rather than self-protection, dying rather than killing." I would highly recommend this section. It has a lot to offer. Also, Tullian's comparison of the Law and Gospel in chapter 2 really shows that, "when we finally come to the end of ourselves, there God will be."
Moralizing and Minimizing suffering is what the next two sections discuss. Moralizing suffering says that because of your bad behavior or particular sin is why you suffer. Minimizing suffering says to downplay or reduce the pain of the suffering that you are dealing with. However, we realize that the Gospel liberates us from feeling like we have to moralize or minimize our suffering. This is extremely important. Because of what Jesus Christ has already done, we are free to be honest and confront our suffering head on.
The last section shows us how we are saved by suffering. The Gospel is for defeated, not the dominant. God is truly found in the weak things of the world. They key thing is to realize that God may not rescue you out of your pain; but He will rescue you through the pain! All of these are topics that Tullian touches on throughout this section.
We must not reduce the Gospel in our sufferings. We must lift it high and point to the finished work of Jesus at all times. Tullian's book I believe shines hope in a world full of suffering. He points to Jesus in all things and that is why this book gets 5 stars.
The bulk of Tchividjian's narrative rests upon a distinction between a theology of glory and a theology of the cross, a distinction he takes from Martin Luther. In the former, suffering (most notably Christ's on the cross) is an unpleasant means to a future end, usually salvation or God's power over the earth. But in a theology of the cross, God is present, is at work, in the suffering. This frees us, Tchividjian writes, to face life's tragedies, admit their pain, and yet stand comforted by our hope in God.
Tchividjian buried one of my favorite observations in the middle of this brief book: All our misguided attempts to get beyond suffering fall into one of two camps -- we either minimize the suffering, which harms the sufferer by telling her that she needs to get over it, or we attempt to do better in life so that God will stop punishing us. Rather than embrace either, Tchividjian writes, we must remember the gospel's message that suffering is real and that our healing comes only through God's grace.
I appreciated this book's message, particularly near its end, and the three-star rating reflects the fact that I liked but did not love the whole thing.
I must admit that I struggled to grasp the distinction Tullian draws between the theology of the cross and one example of a theology of glory, a tendency he calls the "Oprah-fication of suffering." According to Tchividjian, Oprah views suffering as "a blessed opportunity to learn from your pain and reemerge on the other side a better and stronger person," but he later writes that the theology of the cross "announces that disaster is the precondition for an unfettered life" and "brokenness precedes usefulness." In those sentences and elsewhere, I fear I missed his distinction. Tchividjian's words sometimes say the difference is between suffering as a means and an end, but other times he says that suffering is God's means to improve us, to teach us more about the gospel.
After reading the entire book, I infer that improper views of suffering treat suffering as a means by which we improve ourselves as people whereas the right view sees suffering as God improving us, but that is an inference and may be an incorrect interpretation of Tchividjian's message. He is clear that God suffers for us and with us, but I am left unclear as to whether he would teach that suffering is a means to another end.
In his defense, Tullian hammers home the most important point. He proclaims God's goal in all our suffering: "Those who find themselves and their eternal God through suffering have not suffered meaninglessly. Their poverty, grief, despair, and hunger has driven them to the Lord of eternity." (Chapter 8). The why behind suffering is undiscoverable, but our concern should always be with the Who, the one who reveals Himself in the suffering.
The closing chapters were my favorite, and readers will find the most encouragement in those pages. Tchividjian reminds us what the book of Job teaches: it's not about getting over suffering, getting out of it, or getting better afterwards. Suffering is about God's presence in the midst of our suffering. He will never let you go.