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REVIEW: Good grief — scholar draws from own experiences to present ‘theology of lament’


Glen Pemberton. Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms. Abilene, Texas: ACU Press, 2012. 252 pages, $19.99.

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 Universityin 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 inthe chaotic waters of life. He sets forth principles for authentic dialogue withGod, first acknowledging a “seismic” gap that stands between the church’spractice of prayer and song and the practice of the psalmists, and then chartsa path back to biblical faith practices.

Especially helpful are Pemberton’s reasoned observations fromScripture (his comments on Psalm 51 among the finest), distinctions betweencommonplace groaning and true lament, critique of worship customs andtheological re-imagining essential to recovering lament. But the most enduringfeature of the book is its steady prose borne from the author’s character.

Pemberton’s recent life of chronic pain, depression anddivorce move us into the deepest recesses of the human heart in times ofgreatest despair. These consistent and searing intersections of experience followthis Old Testament scholar’s careful and accessible expositions of biblicaltexts to create essential reading for those now or eventually living on theedge of their lives.

In other words, this book should be required reading for usall, especially adult Bible classes.

Given the subject, the author’s experiences and textualexpertise, the book is both substantive and gentle.

“Hurting with God” provides refreshing corrective forchurches inundated with a thin, borrowed and Evangelical liturgy by reclaiminga revolutionary literature that gives voice to those who live with pain thatrefuses to end.


DAVID FLEER is professor of homiletics at LipscombUniversity in Nashville, Tenn., where he also serves as special assistant tothe president and directs the Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’Conference.

Filed under: Reviews Staff Reports

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