After finishing Endo's A Life of Jesus, I turned to the book I picked up yesterday afternoon, this popular book on suffering and God. As great as it felt to read two books in one day, Kushner's book was so light that it wasn't a big feat. This rabbi's work was wrought out of his suffering over a son who died at 14 from a rare rapid aging disorder. Since it's written out of grief rather than scholarly acumen, it carries an extra punch.Kusher's premise is that suffering is not caused by God. He looks at Job and his pastoral experience and finds many of the pat answers unsatisfactory: "it's your fault you're suffering," "God is punishing you," "It serves a purpose or helps you grow," "It is a test of faith," "the virtuous always prosper in the long run," "You only see it as suffering because you are deluded," and "We can't know God's plan" (aka "God works in mysterious ways"). None of these sit right with Kushner, and none are useful pastorally when he is comforting peoples' grief. Rather suffering is caused by human action, the chaos and interdependent situations of the universe, and the natural laws that do not care about human suffering. God loves us and empathizes with the suffering, but is not able to stop all of it. It is up to us to do God's work in stopping suffering.Wait, what? But the Bible is full of God stopping suffering. Miracles happen in the Bible. The Lord takes the Israelites' side in a battle and they win despite outrageous odds. God, through Moses, parts the Sea of Reeds and brings water from the rock and manna from the sky. Yet Kushner, who has a Ph.D. in Bible, doesn't address any of this. Miracles, he says, are unlikely coincidences of natural events, which we should be thankful for but not credit to God. While this follows from his theory of the universe's dealings as random, it doesn't sit well even with his Jewish Biblical tradition. As one of my professors put it, the problem of evil leads to the meanie God (powerful enough to stop suffering but not all-loving) or the weenie God (all-loving but not powerful enough). Kushner adopts the weenie God. The weenie God is in the Bible. Think of the God who had a rough time wrestling Leviathan in Job. But the Psalms echo the almighty power of God time and time again. Kushner doesn't discuss this. God is only an emotional consolation, a psychology, but not an ontological reality who acts in the world. Ultimately, his blind spot is what does him in. I can't accept his metaphysics without throwing out huge parts of the Bible.That said, Kushner has some very, very good pastoral advice. How often we tell wounded people tired cliches that amount to blamingthe victim or telling them they are wrong to be grieved! Job didn't need answers that were theologically correct as much as he needed empathy, compassion, and a receptive ear. Kushner's book has transformed the way I interact with people who suffer. And since it succeed in its goal as a pastoral help, I shouldn't knock its facile philosophy too much. Just take it with a grain of salt.