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Human Anguish and God's Power


Part of Current Issues in Theology

  • Date Published: December 2020
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108836975

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About the Authors
  • Persons anguished by another's profound suffering are often outraged by well-intentioned efforts to console them which suggest that God 'sent' that horrific suffering to their loved one for a 'purpose' according to a tailor-made 'plan' for just that person. However, the outraged reaction simply deepens the anguish. This book argues that such 'consolation' is theologically problematic because it assumes that unrestricted power is what makes God 'God.' Against that it outlines an account of 'who' and 'what' the Triune God is, framed in terms of God's intrinsic 'glory,' the attractive and perfectly self-expressive self-giving in love that is God's life, and sets limits to the range of things we can say God 'does.' Correlatively it offers an account of different senses in which God is 'sovereign' and 'powerful', one which reflects three ways God relates to all else: to create, to bless eschatologically, and to reconcile, as is scripturally narrated.

    • Uses traditional Christian Trinitarian terms to characterize God's power
    • Addresses the suggestion that because God is unrestricted power, God must be the explanation of 'why' horrendous suffering happens
    • Opens up space to legitimize an avowed 'faithful agnosticism' about 'why' we experience both profound suffering and the Triune God's grace
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'The central message of Human Anguish and God's Power is intensely practical, reminding Christians that when they seek to speak of God in the face of suffering, they can only stammer.  Yet in exploring the reasons for this stammering – the impossibility of synthesizing into a single account the different ways in which God works to bless us – David Kelsey manages something very close to a dogmatics in miniature, ranging across the full sweep of God's creative, reconciling and redeeming work with a combination of pastoral and theological sensitivity that shows how even stammering can give powerful witness to God's glory.' Ian A. McFarland, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Theology, Emory University

    'In these pages, the distinguished theologian David Kelsey explores God's power, with an eye to sensitive pastoral concern for believers who struggle in the face of tragic suffering. Exposing all the false ways that cultural notions of “useful” force are projected onto the traditional notion of divine power, Kelsey commends an understanding of providence as the glory of God's sovereignty manifested in three, interrelated biblical plots that reveal how the power of the Trinitarian God is actualized in God's own divine life and in God's relation to creation. Kelsey insightfully argues that scripture's diverse rendering of providential power sets the proper context for reflection on God's efficacy toward suffering, and the directions he charts will inform theological discussion for many years to come.' John E. Thiel, Fairfield University

    '… a measured, thoroughly theological (both traditional, doctrinal, and biblical) approach to the question of suffering.' Kirsten Sanders, Henry Center For Theological Understanding

    '… a robust work of doctrinal and biblical theology that offers a well-reasoned and compelling conception of divine power that moves beyond the notion of control and toward the notion of God's wise companionship and care.' Declan Kelly, Studies in Christian Ethics

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2020
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108836975
    • length: 448 pages
    • dimensions: 223 x 145 x 29 mm
    • weight: 0.65kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: consoling anguish and making it worse
    I. Glory:
    2. The glory of the triune God
    II. Kingdom:
    3. God's intrinsic “sovereignty”
    4. Creation, providence, and theologically problematic pastoral consolation
    5. The triune God's sovereignty in two registers
    6. Excursus: must God have only one eternal purpose?
    III. Power:
    7. Assumptions about God's power in problematic pastoral remarks
    8. The triune God's intrinsic power
    9. The triune God's power in two registers
    10. The “uselessness: of the triune God
    11. Stammering in praise of the useless triune God.

  • Author

    David H. Kelsey, Yale University, Connecticut
    David H. Kelsey is the Weigle Professor Emeritus of Theology at Yale Divinity School. He is the author of Proving Doctrine (1999), Imaging Redemption (2005), and Eccentric Existence (2 vols., 2009).

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