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Psalms of Lament

"Why did God let my puppy die?"
—Anonymous

"The first thing to understand is that we are all practical atheists," Stanley Hauerwas once declared in a phone conversation. "So when we ask, 'Why does a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?' what we really mean is, 'Why doesn't modern medicine cure cancer?'" Hauerwas has written a refreshingly original exercise in theodicy toward explaining what he means by this typically provocative statement.

One really ought to call the book an "anti-theodicy." The central and recurring theme is that typical attempts at trying to account for suffering and pain are doomed from the start by the very way the questions are asked and the world view they seem to presuppose. "For a number of reasons," Hauerwas explains at the outset, "I am profoundly suspicious of all attempts . . . to explain why God allows us to experience pain and suffering; put even more strongly, I hope to show why this way of putting the question is a theological mistake." With his usual skill and lucidity, Hauerwas presents a compelling case that prevailing theodicies are seriously flawed attempts to answer seriously illformed questions.

Hauerwas begins with a succinct account of Peter DeVries's novel The Blood of the Lamb. Beginning with a story is not incidental...

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