Doubt, Tears, and Christian Hope
Sarah’s Laughter provides a reflection on suffering that is deeply personal and both theologically and philosophically astute.
Vinoth Ramachandra draws on his distinctive positioning as a Sri Lankan Christian theologian – one who has lived and ministered in contexts shaped by the destruction of natural disasters and the violence of human evil – to confront the intellectual, moral, and political challenges posed to faith in the increasingly broken world of the twenty-first century. Yet far from being an abstract discussion of theodicy, this book is intimate and vulnerable, embracing the biblical practice of lament and inviting an authentic response to grief – one that makes space for serious doubt and profound questioning. Sharing his own ongoing journey with suffering and a questing faith, Ramachandra reminds us that lament and joy, faith and protest, clarity and ambiguity, belong together in faithful Christian discipleship. It is not in bypassing the darkness of the world, but in embracing it – in imitation of the incarnate God – that we may glimpse the new creation.
In Sarah’s Laughter one of Asia’s finest Christian thinkers offers a compellingly articulate and authentically human response to the age-old question of human pain and suffering that goes beyond shallow theodicies and glib answers towards a biblical realism that is both true to reason and true to life. Ramachandra’s creative, theological genius is at its best in the robust treatment of relevant biblical material, wealth of research, depth of analysis and provocative insight. Its distinctive feature, however, is the depth of emotion and existential passion that comes through on almost every page. Sarah’s Laughter is intellectually convincing, spiritually nourishing, and of burning relevance to the times in which we live, and hence a must-read for every genuine person of faith!
Rev Ivan Satyavrata, PhD
Senior Pastor, The Assembly of God Church and Mission, Kolkata, India
When my husband was murdered, I could not read but one of the books I was gifted. Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Lament for a Son accompanied me by voicing my inarticulate grief. No doubt Ramachandra’s Sarah’s Laughter will serve equally as welcome company to all who yearn to retain faith while remaining honest to personal and societal pain. This book accompanies us as we walk through pain, rather than skirting it, so that we may open up to God's restorative work.
Ruth Padilla DeBorst, PhD
International Fellowship of Mission as Transformation (INFEMIT)
Vinoth Ramachandra’s writing is not for the faint of heart or mind – and that is precisely why this book is such a gift. When facing some of life’s deepest pain and loss – a personal reality known to Ramachandra himself – you want a guide who is unshirkingly honest and unapologetically rigorous on existential, theological, and spiritual levels. Ramachandra delivers just this and with it offers a powerful recalibration of hope.
Mark Labberton, PhD
President, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, USA
To all his writings, Vinoth Ramachandra brings passion, theological acumen and constant sensitivity to life’s realities. In this rich and sobering study, his experiences of bloody conflict and injustice in society and domestic politics, and of suffering and grief in personal life, are integrated into these qualities. The reader who is determined to learn rather than insist on agreeing with every jot and tittle will come away from this book informed, chastened and with a more realistic understanding of Christian faith which will strengthen Christian life and thought.
Stephen Williams, PhD
Honorary Professor, Queen’s University, Belfast, UK
Christians schooled in the kind of cozy discipleship where life with God is always bright and cheery need the prophetic realism that this book brings. It offers an eloquent dissection of human pain and suffering and invites us to acknowledge and embrace them in God’s presence. The author laments the disappearance of lament in worship and argues for a theological appreciation of God as one who suffers for and with his people. The God presented in these pages is not a detached and impervious deity, but one who is actively responsive to human pain and suffering. Here is a call to faithful waiting for God’s future salvation, the certain coming of which galvanizes us to action in the world to address the root causes of unjust suffering and needless death. Readers will surely come away stretched in their thinking, warmed in their hearts, and challenged in their commitment.
Mark L. Y. Chan, PhD
Earnest Lau Professor of Systematic Theology,
Trinity Theological College, Singapore
Table of Contents
- Why, O Lord, Do You Hide Your Face?
- Grief, Silence and Selective Amnesia
- The Questions of Grief
- Contemporary Lament
- Lamentless Churches
- Job and the Messiness of Theology
- Job’s Anguish
- Job’s Vindication
- A Humble Empathy
- The Tears of God
- The Prophets and Divine Suffering
- Jesus and Divine Suffering
- Living with Suffering
- God and Natural Evil
- Animal Predation
- Selection, Waste and Extinction
- Evolution and Eschatology
- Natural Disasters
- The Future Tense
- Hope as Struggle
- Hope as Vulnerable Action
- Hope as a Prophetic Way of Life
- Hope as Waiting
- Hope in the Darkness