HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Letters to Mark: On God’s Relation to Human Suffering
Author: James Davenport Bryden
Publisher: Literary Licensing LLC, republished 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1258368180 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 1258368188 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-1258379025 Paperback
ISBN-10: 1258379023 Paperback
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Bryden, James Davenport. Letters to Mark: On God’s Relation to Human Suffering (published in 1953 by Harper and Brothers Publishers, 40 E. 33rd St., New York City, NY 10016). James (“Jim”) Bryden is a Presbyterian minister in Washington, DC. In earlier years he and Mark Fisher, a casual churchgoer for most of his adult life, had been fishing buddies in Pennsylvania. After the two were separated by World War II, Mark, a writer for a daily paper, sends Jim a letter asking some serious questions. Why does God permit war to continue? Why did my aged mother have to fall on the ice, break her hip, and then die? How can we believe in a God who claims to love us and is powerful enough to stop such suffering but does not? These are some of the most persistent questions which have been asked throughout the ages. Such questions about the problem of suffering trouble every thoughtful person at some time or another.
I first heard about this book when I was in college, so when a copy appeared in a box of books given to me by a friend, I set it aside to read. One reviewer said, “I think he danced around the answer to original question posed which is ‘Why is there such senseless suffering and adversity in a world created by an almighty and loving God?’ and instead described God’s relation to human suffering.” However, as the author noted, there is no simple answer to the question. Yet, an understanding of God’s relation to human suffering provides a basis for getting at the problem. I would not agree with every observation which Bryden makes, nor would I say some things in exactly the same way which he does. But the book contains a thought provoking discussion of the issues involved which is intended to give an answer which many have found to be intellectually satisfying and practically useful in meeting the adversities of life. It is not to be confused with another religious book entitled Letters to Mark written in 2013 by Roger Douglas.