Top positive review
15 people found this helpful
Philosopical and practical
on 19 March 2015
I am relatively new to the Christian faith and don't usually read books as "academic" as this, so this book was on my bookshelf for a few months before I could start reading it from cover to cover. Read the introduction. It helpfully explains that the author has set the book out in three sections - the first is a philosophical analysis of the approach different religions and cultures take to suffering, and why Christians bear suffering better than those of any other faith and philosophy, using examples such as the Stoics, Buddhists, Western secular society, etc. Unlike Stoics and Buddhists, who mitigate suffering by detachment from the world, Christians suffer better not because they love the world less, but because they love God more - God is with them in their suffering. His comments on Luther's view of suffering were most helpful.
The second part of the book moves from the philosophical to the personal, through examples from the Bible and the third section provides the most practical material. I have yet to read these two sections. Keller says that if you are in the midst of adversity, you may want to read the second and third sections first.
The central metaphor for all three sections is that of the Fiery Furnace, a place where, with skill, matter is refined and made more beautiful and useful, and also, in the Bible, a place where the Son of God was present along with the three men.
The book is academic in format, uses material from a wide range of authors and philosophers as well as from the Bible, and is well-referenced with excellent footnotes BUT at the end of most chapters there is a real life story. These stories, like colourful illustrations, speak directly and almost miraculously of God's presence in the midst of suffering. For someone like me, who has lived most of my life in a secular, materialistic world, these stories offer amazing evidence of God's presence with us in times of suffering. If the book gets too deep, go to the end of one of the chapters and find one of these stories.