Deceived by God/?

By John S. Feinberg
Wheaton, IL : Crossway (1997). 141 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Larry Pettegrew
8.2 (Fall 1997) : 234-235

Most of us will need this little book sometime in our lives—either for ourselves, or for others. John Feinberg, Professor of Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has written a book which he “never wanted to write” (9). In 1987, Feinberg’s wife, Patricia, was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, a genetically transmitted illness that attacks part of the brain, causing gradual loss of control of one’s voluntary movements, plus memory loss and depression. Dr. Feinberg was devastated, especially since before he proposed marriage to Patricia years earlier, he had been assured by doctors and seemingly God, that something like this would not happen. It was almost as though he had been deceived by God.

Feinberg has really wrestled with his situation—and clearly is still wrestling with it. But he has made great progress, and he shares the lessons he has learned. He relates his feelings of hopelessness and helplessness (Chap. 2). He offers advice on “how not to help the afflicted” (Chap. 3). He explains how he has been able to continue to appreciate the goodness of God (Chap. 4); why God hides the future from us (Chap. 5); the seeming unfairness of God (Chap. 6); how to use our afflictions for good (Chap. 7); and how suffering can produce holiness (Chap. 8). The book also includes an “Afterword” by Patricia, wherein she graciously and firmly expresses her abiding confidence in her Lord.

 The underlying reason that this book is so valuable is that John Feinberg is an excellent theologian and student of Scripture. More specifically, he has specialized in the study of evil during his academic career. His doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago and some of his previous books deal with theodicy, the problem of evil. Of course, as he himself admits, his personal struggle with his wife’s suffering is fundamentally an emotional problem rather than an intellectual one. Still, his many practical suggestions are undergirded with theological and biblical insights.

This book will be useful for laypeople, pastors, and biblical counselors. I recommend it.