If God is Good - Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil, by Randy Alcorn
I started into "If God is Good" as the primary text of a small group Bible study. It seemed a fitting topic for our times, and one with which every Christian needs to come to terms. Normally our primary Bible study text is, of course, the Bible, but we occasionally venture off into "topical studies". We had done a previous Alcorn study on Heaven, so we had some experience with his approach and writing style. My copy of the book is 494 pages plus indexes, so it is a sizable bit of material to cover.
As a group, we dropped the study within a couple of months and moved on to the Gospel of John. There were a couple of reasons for this. 1) This is a challenging study and we could see that dwelling on suffering and evil for the months required to really cover the topic in a group setting was beginning to rob the joy from our time together. 2) The book is not an easy read. It is thorough, it is reasonably well organized, it is well indexed and end noted, but it is... choppy. I suspect the intent was develop the concepts in bite-size pieces, but unless one is really immersed it comes off as fragmented and something of a chore in coherence.
I chose to finish the book on my own because I do believe that every Christian should be able respond to critics of the Faith when they use examples of the suffering that goes on around us as arguments against God's very existence, or at least in Him being a God that takes an interest in our daily lives. Alcorn systematically develops his arguments in way that, I believe, is consistent with the scriptures. His arguments, by necessity, build on themselves and eventually close out well.
I believe I was rewarded for my efforts. Alcorn is a careful and thorough researcher, and the personal testimonies are relevant and helpful. The question posed in the title, "If God is Good" is likely one of the most challenging in Christendom and more than a little credit should be given to anyone, Alcorn included, who is willing to take it on with the goal of delivering more than simple platitudes and pithy sayings. There is 'real meat' on these bones. There are real answers to be found in the scriptures. Alcorn gets to them and teaches them in a convincing fashion.
For the person who is really seeking Biblical answers to the questions of evil and suffering, this is a solid text. But the reader should beware that this is not a simple topic, and Alcorn did not write a simple book. The reader must come in up front knowing they'll be some real effort required to get the end, and some careful thinking is required to achieve the deeper understanding Alcorn develops. I recommend the book to anyone who is willing to make that commitment to this topic.