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Posted March 13, 2010
In "The End of Suffering: Finding Purpose in Pain," Scott Cairns writes 114 of the most poignant pages of prose available in print today. Small in size, the book is certainly not small in scope, as it tackles some age-old questions: What good is suffering? How can God be good when people suffer? And why does Christianity offer answers? Well read and well versed in contemporary thinkers (e.g., Simone Weil) and patriarchal fathers alike, Cairns investigates the Christian response to suffering. In it, he writes, "Our specifically Christian undertaking is decidedly not one of transcending. It is, rather, the intentional reinspiriting of the body and its lowly matter--as manifested in the incarnation of Christ." He often makes connections between such incarnation and art, poet that he is, and connections between art and living. He writes, "We may not choose our afflictions, but we do choose what to make of them." And many artists choose to create something beautiful out of their own suffering. Cairns also stresses the importance of community in bearing suffering and in this vein, remarks upon his experiences at Mt. Athos, to which he's journeyed several times on spiritual pilgrimmages. As a result, Cairns reflections stretch past suffering into salvation itself, explaining, "Salvation is a continuing process of being redeemed; it is our recovery from our chronic separation from God, both now and ever, and it includes our becoming increasingly aware of Who our God is. Our miraculous salvation has very little to do with the popular notion of 'dying and going to heaven,' and has far more to do with finally living, and with entering the kingdom of God, here and now." Cairns' Baptist upbringing melds with his Presbyterian transition and his now-Eastern Orthodox viewpoint, making for insightful and broad-minded writing not limited by one narrow religious perspective. Thus, he is able to conclude, "That blessed pilgrim is able--even through his or her tears--to taste and to see that the Lord is good, that even our pain is remedial, that even our suffering is grace." This book is a wonderful read that will make every reader think deeply about how she views suffering and whether she can maintain faith God.
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Posted January 20, 2012
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