Humans, as a whole, don’t like suffering. Our society, especially, does everything in its power to avoid it. When we suffer, whether it’s a minor irritation or a major trauma, we treat it as an anomaly, something that should not happen in our world of rainbows and happy places.
Even in the church, suffering can be seen as a lack of victory or worse, a lack of faith.
Glorious Ruin, by Tullian Tchividjian, unpacks the theology of suffering with no apologies; honestly examining the harsh reality that suffering is part and parcel of this fallen and sin-infused world.
According to Tchividjian within Protestantism there are two separate systems of theology: the theology of the cross, which claims that the cross is the only way to know God and how God saves and, the theology of glory, which is man-centered and places greater weight on human reasoning and ability.
Comparing and contrasting the theology of the cross and the theology of glory, (concepts coined by Martin Luther), Tchividjian proposes that we can’t avoid suffering. In fact, avoiding suffering isn’t the goal – the goal is to acknowledge suffering, embrace suffering, and find God in the middle of it.
Tchividjian is tough in his theology-of-the-cross-centered stance. He takes the gloves off when dealing with the man-centered prosperity gospel, which equates lack of suffering with the strength of our faith.
He also challenges the humanistic slant on suffering or what he calls the Oprah-fication of suffering, where we find meaning in suffering through transforming our lives into something better – a pathway to self-improvement.
Although I agreed with a majority of Tchividjian’s viewpoints, it was a convicting read, nonetheless.
Glorious Ruin is a book that confronts our demands to minimize and moralize suffering. It’s a call to not ask “why” in the face of tragedy but to draw closer to the God in the midst of it.
A courtesy copy of Glorious Ruin provide by David C Cook through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.