Suffering and the Search for Meaning

Speaker: Categories: Feb 07, 2015


1 CD only: 1Hr,19Min,02Sec


After years of teaching religion at various liberal arts colleges, philosopher Richard Rice was invited to teach a graduate course on the subject of suffering at a nearby health sciences university. Students destined for careers fields such as dentistry, medicine, nursing, physical therapy and public health comprised the class, and Rice wasn’t sure how they might handle philosophical theology. Far from disengaging, however, the students joined in vigorous discussions, citing intellectual concerns and sharing personal needs.

In a similar vein, Rice’s new book Suffering and the Search for Meaning can provide informed yet accessible assistance to those who want to explore questions about suffering, including its possible purposes and origins. Rice guides readers through the seven most significant theodicies — approaches that have been used to make sense of suffering in light of God's justice or control. He considers the strengths and weaknesses of each option, while always guiding us toward greater understanding and compassion.

Suffering is a philosophical problem, but it is much more. It is deeply personal. Why is this appening to me? How can I respond to friends and family in pain and loss, and to people in my care? Intending for each of us to find a response to our suffering that is both intellectually satisfying and personally authentic, Rice provides the resources for meeting this challenge. He weaves together the theoretical side of the theodicies with personal stories of people who have experienced great suffering. While no framework can perfectly account for the problem of pain, we are left with the overarching insight that suffering never has the final word.


Richard Rice, the grandson of Adventist missionaries on both sides of the family, was born in California and spent a good share of his childhood in Ohio. After pastoring and attending graduate school, he joined the faculty of Loma Linda University in 1974. He has degrees from Andrews University (MDiv) and the University of Chicago Divinity School (MA, PhD). He has a special interest in the doctrine of God and the theology of suffering. His published writings include a number of articles and books, including the following: God’s Foreknowledge and Man’s Free Will; Reign of God: An Introduction to Christian Theology from a Seventh-day Adventist Perspective; Reason and the Contours of Faith; and Believing, Behaving, Belonging: Finding New Love for the Church. His most recent book, Suffering and the Search for Meaning: Contemporary Responses to the Problem of Pain, was published by Intervarsity Press in 2014. He and his wife Gail, EdD, who also teaches at Loma Linda University, have two children and four grandchildren. Gail is a member of the national board of the Association of Adventist Forums.

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