Robin RYAN. God and the Mystery of Human Suffering: A Theological Conversation Across the Ages. New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2011. pp 372. $29.95.
Reviewed by Christine FLETCHER, Benedictine University, Lisle, IL 60532.

Robin Ryan, CP, has given pastoral workers and teachers of theology a real gift in his book God and the Mystery of Human Suffering. He has developed it as a true theological conversation around that most pressing of questions, how can a good God permit such suffering in the world?

He organizes his material chronologically and examines ten major voices in the conversation: Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, early Christian sources, Thomas Aquinas, Julian of Norwich, Elie Wiesel, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jürgen Moltmann, Edward Schillebeeckx, Gustavo Gutiérrez, and Elizabeth Johnson. For each he provides an introduction to the theologian and their work, a concise summary of that work and the issues it raises, and a concluding evaluation. Each chapter has study questions on the Paulist Press website which are clearly designed for an adult faith formation group, rather than a theology classroom. This is not a complaint; it would be a helpful supplement to the academic study of theology, especially for undergraduates, to see the relevance of theology to how one lives.

The final chapter surveys the important theological issues raised throughout the book: the memoria passionis, Jesus and the character of God, God and the world, Divine power, the compassion of God, the varieties of faith, the two languages of prophecy and contemplation, and theology and mystery. It draws the theology of the book together in a real conversation which draws in the reader to the ongoing dialogue which is theology.

The academic apparatus is full with endnotes and a good index, all in all a good choice for the college classroom or the parish group.

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