Out of the Whirlwind: Innocent Pain as a Challenge to God

by and Helen-Ann Hartley (foreword)

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Book Details

Rating: ★★★★

Format: Paperback (110 pages)

Publisher: Sacristy Press

Date of Publication:

ISBN: 978-1-78959-067-8

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A challenging and thoughtful reflection on the question of how a merciful God can allow suffering and evil.

Taking its inspiration from the Book of Job, Out of the Whirlwind reflects on the questions about the existence of a good and powerful God in the light of innocent suffering. The reflections range over personal reminiscence, a consideration of some traditional theodicies along with objections to them, and a couple of dream sequences, at the end of which, like Job himself in the biblical tale, the narrator receives God’s answer “out of the whirlwind”.

Although a few of the traditional arguments are found to be more or less convincing at an intellectual level, they fail to provide an emotionally compelling fundamental explanation for why things have to be the way they are, especially when considered at a point of personal crisis. However, through moments of despair and rage against God, the book ends on a note of comfort and hope. 

Out of the Whirlwind aims to bring some comfort to those whose questioning faith is troubled by the issues of evil and suffering in the world. It is also directed towards those who may be interested in the question of belief, but be put off by the obstacles which evil and suffering are perceived to present to the God of Christianity.

Adrian writes with courage and conviction, a love of scripture and theology, and is not afraid to place his own emotions and vulnerabilities into the proverbial light of day, so that we all can see what he is wrestling with. This is a story set in the midst of ordinary lives facing extraordinary challenges. Who hasn’t asked searching questions of God, and sought meaning in the apparent silences or glimpses of insight?

From the foreword by Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon

A personal, honest and thoughtful book that weaves experience and theological reflection into a deeply moving reflection on suffering and hope.

Nicholas Baines, Bishop of Leeds

Why do the innocent suffer? The question is at least as old as the Book of Job. Job heard God’s answer “out of the whirlwind”. Adrian Roberts in Out of the Whirlwind watches the suffering of his child and takes us with him as he too listens for a Word that may speak to his grief. His journey is thoughtful, faithful, at times provocative, at times deeply moving, and finally not without hope.

Christopher Bryan, C. K. Benedict Professor of New Testament Emeritus, University of the South

Adrian Roberts reveals in this book a genuine, honest and heartfelt wrestling with difficult issues around Christian faith in the face of suffering, not only in the abstract but in the context of painful, personal experience. At once touching and profound, it witnesses to a deep personal faith, to familiarity with philosophical reflection and theological thought from across the ages.

Katharine Dell, Fellow and Director of Studies in Theology and Religious Studies, St Catherine's College, University of Cambridge

There is no shortage of books that seek to address the philosophical conundrum commonly known as ‘the problem of evil.’ Much the same might be said of pastoral treatments of suffering. What is rare in a book like this is the attempt to combine both concerns, through focus on the author’s relationship with his severely disabled son, Hal. Lucidly clear, engagingly frank and self-perceptive, and not infrequently profoundly moving, it is a work from which almost any reader may learn something but could prove particularly useful on the one hand to parish discussion groups and on the other hand to sixth form Religious Studies A level students, tired of the often rather cliché approach with which the topic is currently beset.

David Brown, Fellow of the British Academy

This short book is a modern equivalent of the Book of Job. The author obviously has a deep faith, but is led to question how God can allow the innocent to suffer. It is written at the bedside of the author’s severely disabled son, Hal, as Hal seems to be at the point of death, despite the loving care of devoted medical teams. There is no bitterness, not even the outraged protests of Job himself, only a deep anguish. It is the book of a philosopher, carefully and accurately argued. It cuts no corners and is movingly honest.

Fr Henry Wansbrough OSB, General Editor of the New Jerusalem Bible and Magister Scholarum of the English Benedictine Congregation

The Book of Job is one of the most puzzling chapters of the Old Testament, and this book has helped me understand it for the first time.

Piers Plowright, The Tablet

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