Friday, October 5, 2018

Book Review: Surprised by Suffering

Surprised by Suffering. R.C. Sproul. 1989. Tyndale. 214 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Dare we think of death as a vocation?

In 2017, I read an updated edition of Surprised by Suffering by R.C. Sproul. I absolutely loved, loved, loved it. It was one of my favorite reads of that year.

When I was going through my shelves earlier this year, I discovered this older, first edition of the book. Even though it hasn't been all that long since I read it, I was excited to reread it.

I wasn't expecting there to be that much difference between the two books. But there was. For better or worse. So if you've only read the 1989 edition, you're missing out. It's worth spending money on the newest edition.

The table of contents for this edition:

  • The Final Calling
  • Walking the Via Dolorosa
  • A Case Study in Suffering
  • Dying in Faith
  • Faith and Suffering
  • The Popular View of Life After Death
  • Jesus and the Afterlife
  • To Die Is Gain
  • What Is Heaven Like? 
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix A: Questions and Answers on Death and the Afterlife
  • Appendix B: Contacting the Dead

This book focuses more on dying, death, and the afterlife. The newer editions are more balanced, in my opinion, and include a lot of material on suffering.


  • Every one of us is called to die. That vocation is as much a calling from God as is a "call" to the ministry of Christ. (16)
  • Satan does not hold the keys of death. Jesus holds the keys to death. Satan cannot snatch those keys out of His hand. The grip of Christ is firm. He holds the keys because He owns the keys. (17)
  • The prayer of faith is not a demand that we place upon God. It is not a presumption of a granted request. The authentic prayer of faith is one that models Jesus' prayer. It is always uttered in a spirit of subordination. In all our prayers we must let God be God. (33)
  • Job did not understand why God had called him to suffer but he did understand that God had called him to suffer. It was hard enough for him to be faithful to his vocation without his loved ones trying to talk him out of it. (51)
  • God was asking Job to exercise an implicit faith. An implicit faith is not blind faith. It is a faith with vision, a vision enlightened by a knowledge of the character of God. If God never revealed anything about Himself to us and required that in this darkness we should trust Him, indeed the requirement would be for blind faith. We would be asked to make a blind leap of faith into the awful abyss of darkness. But God never requires such foolish leaps. He never calls us to jump into the darkness. On the contrary, He calls us to forsake the darkness, and enter into the light. It is the light of his countenance. It is the radiant light of His Person, which has no shadow of turning in it. When we are bathed in the refulgent splendor of the glory of His person then trust is not blind. (53)
  • Speaking to a dying person about the need for a Savior is not an easy matter. The last thing we want to do to a person in such a condition is to disturb him in any way to make him feel uncomfortable. We think that it is an act of human kindness not to discuss such matters. God commands us to speak to the dying about their need for a Savior. Ezekiel makes that crystal clear. If we love people we will warn them of the consequences of dying in their sins. (61)
  • The great lie is the lie that declares there is no Last Judgment. Yet if Jesus of Nazareth taught anything, He emphatically declared that there would be a Last Judgment. We do not respect Jesus as a teacher if we ignore His teaching on this matter. (62)
  • The only way we can be justified is by the righteousness of Christ. He alone has the merit necessary to cover us. That righteousness is received by faith. If we trust in Christ we are covered by His righteousness and are justified by faith. If we do not trust in Christ we will stand before God's judgment alone, an unjust person before a just God. (66)
  • We suffer, however, from two grand delusions. The first delusion is that we are just enough to stand in the presence of God. It is a delusion because every one of us has sinned. We would be deluding ourselves in the extreme if we thought that we were perfect. Only a few people become deluded enough to think that they are without sin. This is not the delusion most of us suffer. It is the second delusion that catches so many of us. The fact that God is just and that we are unjust doesn't seem to bother us. We nurture the hope that since God is also a loving and merciful God that He will make room for us in heaven even if we never repent of our sins and embrace Christ the Savior. We think that faith is not a necessary condition for salvation. This delusion hurls an insult at the mercy of God. (67)
  • The promise of God is not that He will never give us more weight to carry than we want to carry. The promise of God is that he will never put more upon us than we can actually bear. (76)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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