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How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil Paperback – April, 1991

4.6 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Paperback, April, 1991
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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Primarily, this is a book of preventative medicine. One of the major causes of devastating grief and confusion among Christians is that our expectations are false. We do not give the subject of evil and suffering the thought it deserves until we ourselves are confronted with tragedy. If by that point our beliefs--not well thought out but deeply ingrained--are largely out of step with the God who has disclosed himself in the Bible and supremely in Jesus, then the pain from the personal tragedy may be multiplied many times over as we begin to question the very foundations of our faith. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

D. A. Carson (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has written or edited more than forty-five books, including An Introduction to the New Testament, The Gagging of God, and The Gospel according to John. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (April 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801025567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801025563
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,101,593 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. F Foster on September 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
D.A. Carson is one of the more respected theologians of our day. He is one of the few evangelical scholars who has written extensively both on Biblical exegetical and interpretational matters, and on matters of contemporary worldviews and issues. Many evangelical scholars tend to focus on one or the other, but Carson is highly respected in both areas. This work deals with perhaps the most vexing question that has ever faced the human race, the question of suffering. For what Carson is trying to accomplish here, I think he does an exquisite job.
As Carson indicates at the start of this book, the book is not an attempt to provide a full orbed theodicy that will cover all aspects of suffering or the problem of evil. This is not a book that is devoted to exploring the philosophical origins of evil and how such origins reflect on the existence or nature of God. Carson does devote about two chapters to this, but it is not the thrust of the book, as Carson properly points out at the start. This is a book written to Christians mainly as 'preventive medicine' as Carson describes it.
It appears that what Carson is trying to achieve here is to provide the reader with a rather comprehensive analysis of what Scripture says about suffering, and equally important, what Scripture does not say. I thought that a big strength of the book was Carson's insistence on not going beyond the Biblical text to find more palatable or easy answers to such vexing questions that might make people feel better, but are not especially faithful to Scripture. Carson's mission appears to be to lay out for the reader what the Bible says and acknowledging the tensions that the Bible gives us on many aspects of the issue of suffering without using these tensions as an excuse to throw up his hands and declare incoherency.
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Format: Paperback
Carson discusses why there is evil in our world, how God can be good and allow evil, the relationship between human moral choice (sometimes called free-will) and divine sovereignty, comforting those in suffering and preparations to make before suffering comes. He has much sound exposition of relevant passages from the Old and New Testaments.
Some readers might struggle with its depth. This book is not for the casual reader. But it will repay the serious student many times over. I highly recommend it, especially for pastors and for Christian students in philosophy.
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Format: Paperback
Carson presents a biblical theology of suffering, though he doesn't put it that way. He looks at the broad sweep of scripture, seeing the bearing it has on the various problems about evil and suffering. He starts with daily life concerns and how we should view our lives, ourselves, God, other people, and what happens to us. He paints the proper perspective gleaned from the whole portrait of God and his actions throughout history across the scriptures and then warns of some serious dangers we might easily fall into when arriving at conclusions or when dealing with hard times.
The main focus of the book points to themes throughout scripture. The heart of the book has a chapter on each of the following topics - sin, the various kinds of suffering and evil, God's suffering people, hell and holy war, sickness and death, the final restoration we're moving toward, suffering in the book of Job, and God's own suffering. The final chapters look in depth at the mystery involved in our responsibility in a world in which God is absolutely sovereign (in which Carson defends, biblically, compatibilism about God's sovereignty and our responsibility for what we do), the comfort we can derive from God's sovereign care, and some pastoral reflections about how to live our lives in response to the biblical portrait he's examined. He concludes with a 10-page appendix on AIDS.
This is by far the most balanced book I've read on the topic. Most philosophers focus on the problem of evil in intellectual debates and end up saying little of relevance. Most non-philosophers look at how we should respond to suffering in our lives but often in terms of inner psychological matters, as if our own inner problems are the real focus.
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I have read other very instructive D.A. Carson books such as Cross & Christian Ministry and A Call to Spiritual Reformation (Two highly recommended works). This book did not leave me disappointed.

Carson's purpose for the book is explicitly stated from the get-go - this is a book of "preventative medicine" so Christians "will think deeply on the subject of suffering and evil." I think that this is wise counsel. We should think about suffering BEFORE it happens. Make no mistake, however, in thinking one can completely prepare for the shock of suffering. So Carson describes suffering with a frank and vivid analogy - "It is like jumping into a bitterly cold lake; you can brace yourself for the experience all day, but when you actually jump in, the shock to your system will still snatch your breath away" (pg 141). This book will not "solve" all of the dilemmas of suffering, but it does provide a Biblical framework through which to view them.

Carson organizes the book into 3 parts:
Part 1 - Thinking about Suffering and Evil
Part 2 - Parts of the Puzzle: Biblical Themes for Suffering People
Part 3 - Glimpses of the Whole Puzzle: Evil and Suffering in the World of a Good and Sovereign God

I have organized my understanding of his insights into the following broad themes: 1.) What a bad theology of suffering believes/does, 2.) What a good theology of suffering believes/does, 3.) a Biblical Analysis of Providence, 4.) the Suffering of Job, and 5.) Viewing one's Suffering in light of the Cross.

1.) A bad theology of suffering...
o Is only satisfied in one's own temporal security. "We want security; we want it desperately. But it has very little to do with the security of belonging to God...
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