Blacksburg Book Review: Firing God?By Greg Gates
May 10, 2010
In his book “Should We Fire God?” Jim Pace aims to answer the very question he asks in the title. Spoiler alert: Pace’s answer is “No.”
However, it takes Pace 230 pages of thorough theological discussion to arrive at this conclusion.
Pace is a pastor at the New Life Christian Fellowship church in Blacksburg, Va., and a Virginia Tech graduate. Because of this background, one main goal of his book is to begin to dissect the shootings that occurred on April 16, 2007, on the Virginia Tech campus and attempt to answer some of the questions that this date and other tragedies have created for so many people.
“How could God let this tragedy happen?”
“Why didn’t God protect innocent people from a man on a violent rampage?”
“Has God become so inept that we should move on to something or someone else?”
One of the things I appreciate most about this book is Pace’s honesty. He emphasizes that he struggles with the questions he attempts to answer just as much as anyone else. He doesn’t declare any special access to God or knowledge of any hidden answers merely because he is a Christian pastor.
“Want to know something that still bugs me?” Pace said roughly three-fifths of the way through the book when talking about April 16. “God could have dropped Cho dead of a heart attack that morning. He could have stopped Cho before he ever made it to Norris Hall. He could have allowed him to be arrested.
“I will be honest. I still get angry with God about that sometimes.”
Pace stresses that he’s just like the people reading his book and the conversational tone of the text helps get this message across.
However, this style of writing may also be the one of the book’s weakness. It is apparent in the language and tone that Pace pastors to a congregation made up of mostly college students.
The book’s topic is one that I imagine would appeal to a large audience made up of people from essentially any age or background, and it would be unfortunate if Pace’s message was lost amongst other audiences because of generational differences in speech.
One other potential weakness could also lead to alienating some readers. While the book’s emphasis on the April 16 tragedy will certainly resonate with the Virginia Tech community, this book’s most discussed example of suffering might be less powerful for other groups who don’t have an intimate connection with this date.
To combat this weakness, Pace sets aside the entire first chapter and large sections of multiple others to describe what it was like to be on campus on that day and to walk people through what he personally experienced.
After introducing people to the shooting on April 16, Pace uses this tragedy and his subsequent struggle to answer his questions about suffering in order to address his book’s subtitle: “Finding Hope In God When We Don’t Understand.”
Pace promises not to make any hard sells in his book, and he follows through on that promise with biblically based discussion of a topic that Christians have been wrestling with for thousands of years.
However, this book does not have all of the answers, nor does it make such a claim. What this book does is serve as a catalyst to get people of all backgrounds and stages of faith, from loving God to hating God to barely believing in God, to talk about and think about suffering.
Pace works hard to explain why God allows pain and suffering in the world, and he also discusses what would happen if God didn’t allow these bad things to happen. Pace uses both the Bible and personal experience to create an argument in support of letting God keep his job.
Pace’s view on the topic is fresh, well-reasoned and enlightening. Some of the conclusions he comes to can be hard to swallow, but Pace is great at walking the reader through the steps he goes through before making each of his claims. He also does a surprisingly good job of anticipating questions people might have about what he says and tries to answer them to the best of his ability.
“Should We Fire God?” may not answer all of your questions and it won’t instantly fix all of your struggles with faith, but it’s a start. After reading it you will find yourself in a far better place to begin discussing a topic that Christians have been historically pretty bad at discussing.
If you have ever found yourself struggling with the presence of so much suffering in the world or if you have gone through a time of what you believe to be unfair suffering yourself “Should We Fire God?” is a book you need to read.