April 18, 2012

Book Recommendation: A Place for Weakness by Michael S. Horton

Part of understanding what it is to be Christian revolves around the idea of suffering. This book is small and does a nice job of addressing not only why suffering is integral to the Christian life...but also why it is necessary. The idea that,  if a person is obedient to God's word and lives a godly life is a recipe for a perfect life and primrose paths... is absurd and hardly founded on Bible facts. Quite the contrary. En masse many Christians in this day and age are strangely under the impression that they deserve blessings in this life because they are Christian. Although this might be possible it is not necessarily probable. The Bible promises no such thing. This is clearly the product of faulty thinking and Biblical illiteracy by the new Evangelicals, emergent churchers, television "health and wealth, prosperity or name-it-and-claim-it" preachers and liberal untheologians. This book, written by Horton who is the the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California dispels those myths nicely and in short order. We as Christians have a Faith based in a story-line of suffering...yet we are afforded grace and mercy from God. An unmerited and undeserved grace because of trust in Jesus Christ and the work done on the Cross...in short...the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What this book is about is how true Christians are often allotted to suffer and in so doing, they emulate their Savior. One needs only open their Bible to the Gospels or the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to see this on obvious display. Unfortunately, many proclaiming Christians do not even do this. What this book really ends up doing is drawing our attention to what matters...the Gospel. The Gospel by its nature is a story of triumph. It is triumph achieved through and based in suffering. Not just any suffering, divine ordained suffering. In our human feebleness that is often ill equipped to fully handle and take on all suffering this world can throw at us, we are called to turn to the only One that can give us the reprieve and comfort...Christ. The One who has endured the sufferings of the Cross and the Cup of Wrath. This book politely but effectively dismantles the contemporary evanjellyfish format of "just keep it happy" and you'll keep the numbers in the congregation. A religion of "health" and "prosperity" might be nice therapy when things are going good but when the junk hits the fan, it is not based in reality and is therefore...worthless religion with only a fiscal or comfortable bottom-line in mind. Because of this it is then no better prepared to handle the tragedies of life than a bottle or Prozac and ill-eqipped Shrink. We don't need therapy when someone in our life dies...we need Good News. The Good News. We need to know Christ is waiting on the other side for those who have trusted in Him!

Horton never sets out to show us the answer to suffering, nor does he intend to. Often life's sufferings are not meant to be understood fully. A person needs only consult the book of Job in chapters 38-42 to realize this. What the author does rather smartly is directs us to the source of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1) when the storms of life plan to inundate us. He guides us towards the Gospel.

This book should help clear up some misconceptions. If it doesn't it is because those that reject what is in this book are either not really as Christian as they say or think or it is possible they wish to reject the truth.  Because the truth that they will be rejecting at the coreof this book is the Gospel. Having written a 56 pages thesis of my own on Evil and Suffering, I can tell you that through casual easy-going prose, Horton does a nice job of explaining things. He explains why evil and suffering need to be here in general, and he also builds a good case why it is specifically Christians that must endure heartaches and sound bludgeoning by the world through our lives and do so with the long-view of joy as we are saved in Christ. As Horton has said in this book, "Our weaknesses really are an opportunity for God to show His strength."

Its worth the few days it will take to read this book, its only 194 pages. Have at it.

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