Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
The Why and Who of Suffering
Dr Alex Tang
This book by Adele Gonzalez attempts to answer the age old question of suffering which may also be subtitled the problem of evil. Rephrased in another way, why does a good and loving God allows His beloved people to suffer and evil to proliferate in the world? I do not believe this book adequately answer the question. She started off with a somewhat fatalistic 'shit happens' which embrace a lot of encouragement to bear with our sufferings and remember that God is good to a somewhat mystical retreat into the Mystery of God i.e. we cannot understand suffering because it is part of the Mystery of God.
Gonzalez seems to be deeply influenced by the teaching of the church father Irenaeus. Irenaeus teaches that life on earth is like school for training us for eternity. Suffering and evils are lessons that helps us to learn. Another theologian from whom she draws inspiration is Jesuit Teilhard de Chaidin (my review here and here). Appropriating de Chaidin's Cosmic Christ and Omega Point, Gonzalez skips on the edge of pantheism when she writes about 'energy from our suffering' helps to complete the suffering of the Cosmic Christ and to be one with the Cosmic Christ at the Omega Point.
The strength of Gonzalez's book is not in answering the question of suffering and of evil. I do not believe we will get the answer this side of eternity. This book is inspirational because while it fails to answer the question, it succeeds in providing a companion for our journey through this world which is full of suffering. In sharing her experiences of suffering in her life story, her problems with the institutional church and her physical disabilities, Gonzalez becomes our companion in suffering. She reminds us that we are not alone in our pain and suffering. We suffer together as a community, and as a church. Gonzalez also reminds us that the transcendent God Himself also suffers with us.
Maybe we have been asking the wrong question. Instead of why, we should be asking who. Who is suffering? Who is suffering with whom? God is suffering with whom?
Good book for the online reading group. Onwards to the next book.
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"spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"
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