Book Review - Job: God's Sovereignty in Suffering
Reformed Free Publishing Association
The following review was written by Randall C. Bailey on the book Job: God's Sovereignty in Suffering by Ronald Hanko (Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing, 2021). This review was originally published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS).
Job: God's Sovereignty in Suffering. By Ronald Hanko. Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing, 2021, 160 pp., $19.95.
Ronald Hanko is an emeritus minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches of America who has served in active ministry for thirty-eight years. In his preface, Hanko defines this work as a "commentary" (p. ix), which attempts to show "how the book fits together and how the different speeches develop and build on each other" (p. xi). Hanko states his foundational assumptions and beliefs regarding the creation of the book of Job: "The book is inspired and infallible, given to us by God's Spirit as an explanation of our own suffering and the suffering we witness" (p. ix). Further, Hanko believes that Job is a "real historical figure" (p. x), and that the work will be used "for the comfort of his people" (p. xi).
Following this preface, the book divides into the natural six-part division of Job's 42 chapters—"Part One: The History of Job"; "Part Two: The First Round of Speeches" (Job 4-14); "Part Three: The Second Round of Speeches" (Job 15-21); "Part Four: The Third Round of Speeches" (Job 22-31); "Part Five: Elihu's Entry" (Job 32-37); "Part Six: God and Job" (Job 38-42). Each of these chapters admirably summarizes the arguments of the various speakers, describing the different points of view, the way these play out in our lives practically, and the struggles we have in these to see the sovereignty of God and the saving grace of Jesus's sacrifice for us today.
The "Job Study Guide" (pp. 143-48) follows this section and consists of questions that create a good foundation for discussion of the deeper theological thoughts found in Job. These questions should drive people deeper into the more challenging thoughts of God's sovereignty, pain, and suffering, commonly known as "theodicy."
Clearly, while the target audience imagined by Hanko is Sunday School classes and other pastors and church leaders, the book is valuable for any Christian who desires to dig deeper into the issues raised in Job's story.
That this book demonstrates the perspective of Reformed theology makes the book very useful for those adhering to those theological ideas. Evidence demonstrating this derives from the few footnotes found throughout the book. Other than biblical passages, C. S. Lewis, William Henry Green, and Adelaide A. Pollard's song "Have Thine Own Way, Lord," documentation comes only from John Calvin, the Larger Catechism of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Canons of Dordt, and the Heidelberg Catechism. For this reason, others may find the book challenging and desire other possible answers. This may be one of the book's weaknesses. Granted, the book of Job demonstrates the sovereignty of God, and this will be seen by Reformed theologians as well as any serious student of the book. However, these answers may seem too simple to people not as inclined toward Reformed theology, who see other issues in addition to the sovereignty of God.
Even so, the reader who works through this book (whether independently or in a classroom), even if it is to challenge Hanko's conclusions, will gain a greater understanding of the issues raised in the book of Job. As Proverbs 27:17 says, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" (ESV).
Randall C. Bailey, Faulkner University, Montgomery, AL
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