Can God Be Trusted? A Second Chance to Respond to That Question

Every once in a while, a book gets a second chance. Usually books have a year or maybe two to “make it,” and if they don’t sell well, they disappear. Others sell well enough to stay in print, but never break out of the market sector in which they have made their way.

I’m grateful that Oxford University Press published Can God Be Trusted? Faith and the Challenge of Evil in 1998. It was my second book and a radical departure from my first one, Canadian Evangelicalism in the Twentieth Century: An Introduction to Its Character (University of Toronto Press, 1993). That second book helped to earn me my last promotion (to Professor, at the University of Manitoba) and to get me my current job at Regent College.

But the book didn’t connect with a lot of people who might have been glad to know about it—or, at least, so I have been told by readers who happened upon it over the last decade. Because it was an OUP book, Christian stores and online sites mostly didn’t feature it. I’d speak at Christian conferences, and the book tables wouldn’t have it because those running them didn’t do business with OUP.

Finally, an editor at Baker–with whom I have published a handful of books, either as editor or author–told me a few years ago that he finally got around to reading it and really liked it. He tried to get his own house to republish it for their market, but the editorial committee didn’t go for it. (Reprints or even revised editions are generally hard to sell.) But I was encouraged by his affirmation, and when a different editor at a different house (Andy Le Peau at InterVarsity) talked with me some months later about doing something with them, I mentioned the possibility of revising Can God Be Trusted?

Andy was understandably lukewarm about the idea. (Did I mention that revised editions are hard to sell?) But he kindly accepted the offer of a couple of copies of the first edition to read and circulate among his colleagues. And to my delight, IVP decided to go ahead.

cbgt1So now the revised edition (with quite a bit of new content) is out, with a new cover (which I quite like), from a publisher that does a good job of reaching a fresh market for the book.

We’re launching Can God Be Trusted? officially at Regent College on Friday evening, February 27, at 8 p.m. I’ll talk a bit about the book and then give a short lecture based on it: “Luther’s Strange Advice: How Running Away from God Solves the Problem of Evil.” I’ll be happy to sign books afterward, and those who attend can also stock up on other titles at the “Midnight Madness” sale at Regent’s superb bookstore.

So if you’re in the area, please come to the party! And toast with me a publisher willing to give a book a second chance.

0 Responses to “Can God Be Trusted? A Second Chance to Respond to That Question”

  1. Ryan

    Congratulations, John. I’m going to try to make it to Vancouver for this. I’ve probably mentioned this to you before, but this book was a lifeline for me when it first came out. It gave me a really good framework for thinking about some really difficult questions. I’ve returned to it often over the last decade or so and I frequently recommend it to people struggling with the problem of suffering and evil.

  2. Angie Van De Merwe

    Beginning with the presupposition of God is the first and formost argument you take in your book. What about separating the existence of God altogether from evil, as in agnositicism without tryint to contort meanings and messages and personal gods and understanding evil as either natural physical disasters, or organizational, or structural evil occurring because of people’s choices. This is what evil is about, thinking that they bring about good, but the pervert and cause evil on another human and then try to “play God’ by sayding that it is for a greater purpose of teaching or training in holiness…or understaning the purity of God. That makes me want to puck!! physically, emotionally, intellectually, morally, ethically, spiritually, and any other way a human can respond. I do not accept evil as from a personal god…evil is the result of human choice of selfishness, grees, expediency, arrogance, control, domination, subervion, etc. It is unloving, unkind, and is the result of someone disregarding those it touches…Of course, many times it is systemic and isn’t a personal “attack” toward those it touches. It is just the result of “numbers”…but sometimes it is because people do play out another’s life and deem it significant financially, like with sex trafficing…etc…social evils…

  3. Nathan

    Congratulations, John!

    Angie, have you read the book? It’s very good! John discusses how different religions and philosophies approach the “problem of evil”, and discusses some of the different aspects of evil you mentioned.

  4. Kate

    Your interview with Steve Bell in his short lived audio magazine called Listening In (it was also called “Can God be Trusted?) helped me through the aftermath of the stillbirth of my only daughter. I will be sure to search out this book.

  5. smokey

    I really enjoyed the lecture that you presented at Pepperdine on this topic, and I look forward to picking up the new edition of the book. Is there a chance that the Regent folks will record your lecture there and make it available online for those of us outside of your area?

  6. luckhee

    Dr. Stackhouse,

    Could you explain what you added and subtracted for 2nd edition? It would be great if you explain how your viewpoint changed.

  7. Nathan

    Glad to hear it John.

    I have felt it deserved a bigger audience than it received.

    Did I ever tell you I was there when the book launched at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg?

  8. Donna-Jean Brown

    I’m very sorry to hear about the loss of your dear baby girl.
    Did you know that the interview between Steve Bell and John Stackhouse is included on an extra CD with Steve’s wonderful album, “Solace”?

  9. Carolyn Cubertson

    I’m so glad this has been reprinted. A young husband and father in our community died suddenly yesterday. The question is on everyone’s mind, and I am grateful again for what I learned from this book. I have given away a lot of them over the last few years. (I’m glad its cheaper now!) I appreciate your hard work and clear thinking on so many issues. (Let’s see … clarity, cogency, coherence … I am forgetting one, but it has been a few years!)

  10. poserorprophet

    Dr. Stackhouse,

    Congratulations on the new edition. ‘Can God Be Trusted’ was the first book I read of yours, as I was told by a friend that it was the only thing that had saved his faith during a difficult time in life (high praise, indeed!).

    I find it fascinating how books like this resonate with people and, more importantly, actually console or convince people. In part I find this fascinating because I have yet to encounter a book, idea, argument, or story that satisfies my questions related to these matters (from Yancey, to yourself, to Christopher Wright’s latest, and so on). For me, at the end of the day, the only reason I believe in God — despite all the evil and suffering and horror in our world — is because I believe that I have been met by God in Jesus. It is the lived experience, the encounter, that makes me believe — alas, I have seen too many of the horrors firsthand to have it be otherwise.

    But, look, I’m rambling on. Congratulations once again.


  11. John Stackhouse

    #12 Carolyn, the word you’re seeking is “comprehensive,” funnily enough! Thanks very much for this testimony.

    And Dan, ol’ buddy, thanks for your characteristically oblique praise! To those who don’t know you well, it could sound like you’re saying, “Congratulations (I guess). Your book helped save my friend’s life, but I didn’t find it convincing in the least, just as I’ve found no book convincing on this matter.”

    But I know what you’re really saying: “Congratulations! Your book helped save my friend’s life! And its core message–that only Jesus Christ and particularly personal encounter with him suffices to save our faith in the face of evil–is what I think, too! So congratulations again, dudester!”

    (Yes, “dudester.” That is in fact how you talk and everyone might as well know that.)

    So thanks, Dan, for this encouragement! 😉

  12. poserorprophet

    Dr. Dudester,

    Looks like you’ve got me pegged, man. Woh.


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