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Insights While Suffering

With a View to the Cross and Resurrection

Series:

Mark Slatter

From the days of the early Church Christians have forged what has seemed to be a fitting kinship between their suffering and Christ’s Passion. As a result, Christians are sometimes guided by the impression that simply believing hard enough – «Have faith!» – would somehow trickle down to change their hardship. However, having faith in God does not automatically translate into know-how or wisdom with suffering. Sadly, many of us seem to improvise by trial and error with one of life’s most formative experiences.
This book sets out to explore an ethic of suffering; that is, learning how to locate the suffering on an ethical grid and, if possible, learning how to take steps to conspire with God who always desires our healing and freedom. The first part introduces the reader to some of the main theoretical and practical difficulties of suffering and Christian life through the work of three theologians who bring complimentary perspectives to the subject. The second part expands on some of the issues they raise with chapters on the properties of suffering, questions about evil, the effects of suffering on character and growth, suffering’s social and communal dimensions, the struggle for meaning and God, and the deeper moral implications of the imitation of Christ.
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Introduction to Part Two

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In Part One the reader was initiated into some of the chief theoretical and practical difficulties of suffering and Christian faith as charted by three of the subject’s leading voices. In contrast to the descriptive tone of the previous section, in Part Two my aim is to sift through and augment concerns as diverse as the properties of suffering, the implicit yet elusive theme of evil, the principal issues pertaining to suffering’s effects on character, and so on. My hope is that the reader will benefit from a kind of primer of what I believe are the core questions about suffering and its interpretation in the light of Christian faith. It is my conviction that there are significant consequences to identifying these markers, and for several reasons.

First, many of the premises implicitly accepted by the authors of Part One are not shared beyond the precincts of Christian Tradition. They are indebted to a kindred intellectual legacy (“Western”, “Christian”, and “theologian”) that adheres to a particular view of evil, as an instance, that is distinct from what is proposed by Buddhism or Marxism. On the other hand, while they do partake of the same broader religious and philosophical traditions there is significant diversity even among experts of the same field.

A second reason is that in the course of reading the first three chapters, occasionally it may have seemed that we were happening upon a conversation ← 113 | 114 → already in progress, with a history...

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