Glen Pemberton has written an intelligent and gentle treatise on lament. "Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms" is highly recommended to mature Christians for whom it is written.
Conversant with and building on the work of Walter Brueggemann, Patrick Miller and other scholars on the Psalms, Pemberton’s expertise in the Old Testament allows him to work systematically and deftly with numerous biblical texts from which he carefully builds a theology to engage readers.
Pemberton, a Bible professor at Abilene Christian University in Texas, presents not a theodicy examining the "why" of pain and evil. Rather, he creates a biblical theology of lament that instructs readers how to swim in the chaotic waters of life. He sets forth principles for authentic dialogue with God, first acknowledging a "seismic" gap that stands between the church’s practice of prayer and song and the practice of the psalmists, and then charts a path back to biblical faith practices.
Especially helpful are Pemberton's reasoned observations from Scripture (his comments on Psalm 51 among the finest), distinctions between commonplace groaning and true lament, critique of worship customs and theological re-imagining essential to recovering lament. But the most enduring feature of the book is its steady prose borne from the author’s character.
Pemberton's recent life of chronic pain, depression and divorce move us into the deepest recesses of the human heart in times of greatest despair. These consistent and searing intersections of experience follow this Old Testament scholar's careful and accessible expositions of biblical texts to create essential reading for those now or eventually living on the edge of their lives.
In other words, this book should be required reading for us all, especially adult Bible classes.
Given the subject, the author's experiences and textual expertise, the book is both substantive and gentle.
"Hurting with God" provides refreshing corrective for churches inundated with a thin, borrowed and Evangelical liturgy by reclaiming a revolutionary literature that gives voice to those who live with pain that refuses to end.
DAVID FLEER is professor of homiletics at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., where he also serves as special assistant to the president and directs the Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’ Conference.
The Chronicle welcomes and encourages
feedback that promotes thoughtful and respectful discussion. Letters and comments should be 750 characters or less and may be edited for length or clarity. Comments to the print or online edition are considered to be letters to the editor and may be published.