WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE by Harold S. Kushner

WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A popular theodicy--cogent, honest, but shaky on its scriptural foundations--for grieving Jews (and other believers in God). One is tempted to smile at the naivetÉ of Rabbi Kushner's title, but the book is written in blood: in 1977, after a decade of futile pain and grim anticipation, the Kushners lost their 14-year-old son Aaron to a rare degenerative disease called progeria (rapid aging). So Kushner doesn't offer--nor does he accept--any cheap consolation. But to find him credible, you will have to be devout or, in William James' term, tender-minded enough to agonize over the suffering of the ""righteous."" Kushner makes short work of the traditional explanations of why God permits evil (suffering ennobles, everything works out for the good, eternity rights the wrongs of time, etc.), which he accuses of demeaning the sufferer's here-and-now experience and of turning God into a cruel tyrant. Instead, Kushner opts, sensibly perhaps but heretically, for a limited God, a God constrained by the ""laws of nature and by the evolution of human nature and human moral freedom."" Kushner's God is not responsible for sickness, accidents, and catastrophes. He would like to eliminate suffering, but He can't. This would be fine, if Kushner were taking his arguments from Alfred North Whitehead and not from the Bible. He's forced to misread texts, such as Job 40:9-14, which he perversely views as a confession of divine inadequacy (it's not easy being God), or Genesis 1:26, where Kushner has God speaking to the animals and creating man partly in their image. Of course, if the reader ignores the heterodoxy and dubious exegesis, then Kushner makes perfect philosophical sense. A modest effort--occasionally clumsy, but clear and uncompromising--to heal the breach between faith and the bitter facts of life.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1981
ISBN: 1400034728
Publisher: Schocken