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Interview with Scott Petty about the Little Black Books series.

Little Black Books: Suffering and Evil

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  1. A Book that Gets to the Point about Suffering, Evil and God Review / Tip by Richard Burkey

    "The Christian life is not based on knowing all the answers, but on a personal relationship with the God who does." Is that enough for you, when you deal with the issue of suffering and evil in this world?

    Scott Petty in his book, "Suffering and Evil" says that's enough for Job (as in the book of Job in the Bible), and he lays out a strong case in a brief book that this is often the best answer for us.

    "Suffering and Evil" is part of Matthias Media's, "Little Black Book Series". They are books that get to the point, and this one does in 3 areas:

    1. The question of suffering.

    2. The question of evil.

    3. The question of God.

    3 short chapters, 55 pages, that uses the book of Job as a case study for the issues of suffering, evil and God.

    Petty is from Australia, and writes with a bit of Aussie flair, that not only gets to the point but does so in a way that readers will readily relate to and understand. He serves as youth pastor at Christ Church in St. Ives in Sydney, Australia.

    Most of the book's focus in dealing with these 3 topics is the opening 2 chapters and closing 4 chapters of Job. As well he uses the New Testament to enforce the lessons Job teaches.

    I have been told that Job is the most popular book of the Bible for those going through times of suffering. Perhaps those in the midst of suffering identify with Job's own overwhelming experience. Each year when I read through the Bible, Job is a a challenging book because of the depth of pain that Job experiences.

    Scott does a great job working through Job and led me to a greater appreciation for the lessons Job teaches. I especially appreciated when he pointed out that in Job 1, God calls Job, "my servant." And God affirms that relationship in Job 42, still referring to Job as "my servant" even after asking Job question after question.

    Most people want why answers when it comes to suffering and evil. Scott does a good job affirming there are not specific why answers to consider. What we can affirm is that God knows suffering, for Jesus suffered for us. While Satan will seek to pull us away from God with suffering, God will be there to draw us closer.

    I appreciate how Scott takes a heavy topic and deals with it in every day language with a bit of an Aussie accent. He uses words from the Bible, but also from life today. This is not a jump into a theological treatise, as much as a dialogue with an Australian friend.

    I give the book 4 stars out of 5 for being a good, quick look at the subject of suffering, evil and God. The book would be a good resource for those looking at these 3 areas and seeking to know God in such trying times. The Little Black Book Series is part of Matthias Media youth resources, but are not limited to youth, just written in a way that gets to the point and helps you understand what you are reading.

    I received a complimentary copy of this book from Matthias Media and was not required to give a positive review. (Posted on 8/03/2012)

  2. A brave attempt Review / Tip by John Brand

    Anyone who takes on the challenge of a book on suffering and evil, bases it on Job, and does so in less than 60 pages deserves our admiration and respect. Scott Petty is just such a man and the result is highly commendable. Petty has a thoroughly engaging style and this little book, probably aimed at a teens and twenties age group is highly readable and, given the conciseness, a good treatment of a difficult subject. He uses jargon free language and has some contemporary illustrations as he deals with ‘The Question of Suffering’, ‘The Question of Evil’ and ‘The Question of God’.

    I do have two issues, however. The first is probably an editorial one, but on p14, explaining the causes of suffering, the section is headed with the bold statement, “Suffering is not God’s punishment for your sin”, which brought me up sharp. To be fair, Petty actually says in the text which follows, “Suffering may not be linked to any specific sin at all” and “Suffering is not necessarily God’s punishment for sin” but the section header is unfortunate. Secondly, on p21, Petty, drawing a comparison between Job and Christ, makes the statement that, “both are blameless and upright”. As an unqualified proposition that is not a helpful comparison since the nature of their blamelessness is very different.

    Those problems aside, I enjoyed and would commend this little book.

    For the purpose of review, I received a complimentary copy of the book from the Publishers. I was under no obligation to write a positive review. (Posted on 24/11/2011)

  3. A Good Intro to a Difficult topic Review / Tip by Justin

    The book does exactly what it sets out to do, which is concisely dive into the subject of suffering and evil. If God exists and He is good, how can suffering and evil exist? This book does a good job of introducing the questions and the answers that surround the existence of suffering and evil. The book of Job is used as a guide through this high-level survey of this difficult topic. The author walks us through Job's experiences with suffering and evil as a way for us to understand our own brushes with evil.

    While I enjoyed the book and think it's a good introduction to the issue, I couldn't help but wonder if the book was written for high school age kids. At times the prose was not what I would expect from a book directed at adults. So I would have a hard time giving this book to a friend who was struggling through these issues. Now, if I was mentoring a high school kid, I would have no problem giving them this book to read. It seems like it would be more on their level. However, for a more mature thinker, I think there are better books available.

    In the end, whether you would find this book useful depends on your situation. If you are a high school age or work with that age group, this book is a good introduction. If you are college or older, there are better books that address the issues of suffering and evil in more full and robust way. (Posted on 6/09/2011)

  4. Book review; What it does, doesn't, and what to expect. Review / Tip by Alex M

    The existence of suffering, of evil, of hardship and sin in the world whilst the bible claims that there is a sovereign and loving God, is something that just about every Christian, or anyone looking for God, will struggle with. Scott Petty acknowledges this, and like the blurb, and the “Little Black Books” tag-line says, this book “gets straight to the point”.

    Petty writes in a way that is personable and easy to read; this isn't a tome about complex theological speculation, or comparing highly academic arguments. It's a short, direct look at how we can understand suffering, how it links to evil, and what that means for us, and for God.

    I liked the way the book was split into three sections. With a strong focus on the story of Job (the classic example of a Godly man going through inexplicable suffering, and staying faithful to God), Petty deals with Suffering, then Evil, and then how we should see God amidst all of this.

    Witty in places, and drawing on examples from pop culture, music, technology and personal life experience, Petty has written in a way that young readers in particular will find easy to engage with. Only a short read, it doesn't expound upon every mention of suffering in the bible, or even explore much of the teaching that we see about it. Whilst I felt there could have been more of a focus on Jesus and Paul's teachings about suffering in an explicitly Christian sense (it seemed that a key element that was missing was the concept of suffering for the gospel), this book was surprisingly comprehensive in the way it debunks popular misconceptions, and addresses some big questions.

    The thing that really makes this book interesting is that it doesn't exist in the heady, often confusing headspace of theory, but draws theology out, and links biblical truths, which can often seem distant or hard to apply, in to the here and now.

    The combination of suffering and evil into the same book made a lot of sense to me; too often we see people trying to isolate evil, temptation and the influence of Satan, from the concept of suffering. Whilst I felt that there was definitely room for more exploration of the influence of Satan, and the “spiritual” evils that are seen and warned against, particularly in the New Testament (i.e. demonic influence and possession, spiritual warfare, the “reign” of Satan in revelation), the emphasis is strong and simple; God is powerful. In response, Petty challenges us, from Job, with what that means for our response to hardship and evil.

    Petty, whilst leaving a lot of room for more exploration, definitely addresses the questions of why there is suffering and evil allowed. He looks at questions of whether suffering can lead to better outcomes, of whether things are always as they seem to us, and whether we can ever really understand God's power and sovereignty.

    The “Little Black Books” edition addressing suffering and evil is definitely a good way for people, particularly youths, to get a good overview of the questions around suffering and evil in this world. It's strength lies in the fact that it is direct, it is easy to engage with, and it is short, therefore making it a great resource for those who are questioning, and don't know where to start.

    Petty really brings the book home, with a focus on who God is, and what that means. Petty doesn't attempt to justify or explain away every instance of suffering, evil or hardship. But he definitely leaves us with a challenge to consider how we should see suffering, how we should respond to it, and what our attitude towards, and relationship with God should be as a result.

    As far as uses go, this book would be very handy for youth groups or leaders to have access to. It's written at a level, and with references, that youth will engage with. At a time when young people are starting to ask questions about why things are the way they are, this could be used to show what the bible says about suffering, and a Christian attitude towards it.
    (Posted on 30/07/2011)

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