PHILIP YANCEYPhilip Yancey is aChristianity Todayeditor at large.

The author of where Is God When It Hurts? Responds to a best seller.

About two years ago, a strange little book edged up on the New York Times best-seller chart, settling in between Jane Fonda in leotards and Garfield the cat in line drawings. The book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (Schocken, 1981), shocked everyone in the industry. When was the last time a book on a profound human question, much less a book about God, had ranked up there with the guidebooks on thinning thighs and mastering Pac-Man? Now, two years later, half a million hardback copies have been sold and the paperback sales are expected to total in the millions.

The book, with its splendid title and articulate rabbi author (Harold Kushner), has confused many Christians. The largest Christian book distributor sent out a warning notice to its bookstore clients, admitting that demand from readers virtually forced them to carry the book but acknowledging that Kushner’s answers “do not present an orthodox Christian theology of suffering.” Some Reformed denominations published cautiously negative reviews, and at least one evangelical leader, Charles Colson, went public with a blast against the book. Yet, throngs of average Christian consumers have found the rabbi’s book comforting; his answers to the problem of pain sound good and feel good.

Because I have written a book on the problem of pain (Where Is God When It Hurts?) and sometimes speak on the topic, I often get questions about Rabbi Kushner’s approach. What do I think? Is he a heretic or a prophet?

Compassion And Perception

First, I must congratulate Kushner on a wonderful writing job. Whatever else he is doing, he should stop it and get ...

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