Answering Christianity’s Most Difficult Question—Why God Allows Us to Suffer: The Definitive Solution to the Problem of Pain and the Problem of Evil. By Kevin Tewes. Chapel Hill, NC: Triune Publishing Group, 2015.124 pp. Paper, $5.95.
The issue of why God allows suffering is an important one. I read this book, hoping to get some good insights into the problem. I came away disappointed.
I was put off by the author suggesting that his book is “the definitive solution” (pp. iii, 14) and that all other explanations provide “flimsy, worn-out arguments” (p. vi). Does Tewes really provide “an entirely new and comprehensive solution” (p. 13)? One reviewer, Christopher Ray, put it well in his Amazon review: “The first thing that stands out in Tewes’ book is an undercurrent of hubris that spoils even his most savory statements with an aftertaste of pomposity.”
Another review, this one by Dr. Gregory Schulz of Concordia University Wisconsin (available online) makes a similar comment at the start of the review: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this book, from its hubristic title to its concluding unphilosophical postscript-ing of Soren Kierkegaard, ought to be ruled inadmissible to the discussion of the Problem of Evil. It is not serious. It is not philosophical. It is not theological.”
I was also put off by the way in which Tewes hides his thesis. He talks about this exciting new solution to the problem. Yet where does he state this solution?
I thought I missed it, so I consulted other reviews to see if others could determine the thesis. Finally I found one reviewer who stated the author’s solution (in his own words), yet without giving any page references. That helped me find the supposedly new solution of Tewes: love (see pp. 99-112). The author wrongly thinks that, “The central purpose of creation is to allow for the experience of love” (p. 82). Since that is true, “God judges that it is better to preserve mankind’s ability to experience love than it is to spare man from the myriad kinds of pain that result from the misuse of his power” (p. 82).
Tewes sees only two options: “In other words, God can shelter each human being from the negative consequences of the decision-making of other humans, or he can instead allow humans to maintain their power to affect one another through their actions” (pp. 81-82).
There are three problems with this solution. First, the purpose of creation is not anthropocentric. Man was created for God’s good pleasure. The purpose of creation is to please God (2 Cor 5:9; Rev 22:3-5). God wished to create beings who would love and serve Him. While humans are and will forever be greatly blessed by God if they come to faith in Christ, the creation’s central purpose is the rule and joy of God (Heb 12:2). Second, it is not true that if God limited man’s ability to hurt one another, then we would be unable to love. God limits our ability to hurt one another every hour of every day. Until the Tribulation, God greatly restrains evil (2 Thess 2:6-7). We may think we have free will. But in reality, God restricts our free will. Who knows how much pain and suffering each of us have escaped because God restrained others from hurting us further? Third, even if God completely eliminated our ability to sin, we would still be able to love. We won’t sin in Jesus’ kingdom. Yet forever we will love and be loved. Tewes fails to explain why the kingdom has not come yet. Suffering will be minimal during the Millennium and nonexistent on the new earth (Rev 21:4). So why didn’t Jesus simply return earlier? Second Peter 3:9 (see also vv 1-12) gives that answer. But Tewes does not consider 2 Pet 3:9.
There is no exegesis of Scripture in this book. That is disturbing for a book which presumably is on Christian apologetics. Even proof texting is rarely done. On only nine pages in the text does the author even quote or mention a verse or passage (i.e., pp. 18, 19, 59, 62, 68, 69, 85, 105, 105; he also mentions Scripture texts in footnotes on pp. 77, 106 and in some of the endnotes on pp. 116, 117, 120, 121).
I am not a philosopher or an apologist. However, Tewes’s supposedly new and definitive solution to the problem of evil is not new to me. While he takes a slightly different slant on the free-will solution, I’ve heard variations of this view my entire Christian experience.
I do not recommend this book. It fails to deliver what the title and subtitle offer.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society