Suffering According To James -- By: Christopher W. Morgan
SBTJ 17:4 (Winter 2013) p. 20
Suffering According To James
Christopher W. Morgan is Dean and Professor of Theology, School of Christian Ministries, California Baptist University, Riverside.
He earned his Ph.D. in Theology from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Morgan has authored Jonathan Edwards and Hell (Mentor, 2004) and A Theology of James: Wisdom for God’s People (P&R, 2010), and he has co-edited with Robert A. Peterson numerous works such as Hell under Fire (Zondervan, 2004), Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism (InterVarsity, 2008), Suffering and the Goodness of God (Crossway, 2008), The Glory of God (Crossway, 2010), The Deity of Christ (Crossway, 2011), The Kingdom of God (Crossway, 2012), and Sin (Crossway, 2013). He is also a teaching pastor at Helendale Community Church in Helendale, CA.
When people experience suffering, they deserve more than platitudes or pat answers from a 2013 version of Job’s friends. They need the comforting grace of God and the compassionate people of God. And they need a grounded theological perspective, a vision of God, life, and themselves, that can enable them to see (even if dimly) as they move ahead in what may seem like darkness.
Without such a biblical lamp to guide, they might wonder if they suffer because there is no God. Or they may wonder if this God even knows about their plight, cares, or is able to help. They may suppose that they said, did, or failed to do something that directly resulted in their tragedy or pain. Or maybe they speculate that if they just believe enough that they can persuade God to act on their behalf. While sound theological insight is never enough to comfort those suffering, if applied at the right time and with a great deal of pastoral wisdom, the biblical truth does play a necessary and critical role in sufferers finding comfort, faith, and hope.
James writes to churches that had considerable experience with suffering. In a pastoral, sagacious, and sometimes prophetic manner, James writes to real-life churches with real-life problems. James, a key leader in the Jerusalem church, writes to help churches largely consisting of Jewish Christians suffering oppression from without and encountering strife from within. Some of them also slip easily into being religious without genuinely following Christ. Throughout his letter, James counters these problems and more as he offers wisdom for consistency in the covenant community, the church. James grounds this pastoral instruction in his theology, largely rooted in the Old Testament, Judaism, and the teachings of Jesus.1
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