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The Practice of Story
Suffering and the Possibilities of Redemption
By Mindy Makant
The grammar of Christian redemption cannot live solely in the future tense. Despite confidence about the effects of Jesus’ resurrection in the present, Christians are tempted to depict salvation as a future accomplishment, rather than a present reality. No doubt this failing is well founded, for most Christians know all too well that the power of the past—particularly past suffering—shapes the present.
But as Mindy Makant argues in The Practice of Story: Suffering and the Possibilities of Redemption, such reserve may cede too much to suffering and grant too little to redemption. Makant admits the horrors of suffering: that suffering damages and destroys, that past suffering renders one unable to live in the present, and that profound suffering can make it altogether impossible to imagine a future.
Yet in the very midst of this impossibility, Makant shows how suffering, even extreme and profound suffering, does not have the final word. God does. The story of suffering is not the defining narrative. Redemption wields ultimate power to shape human identity. God has given the church gifts—specific ecclesial practices—necessary to bear witness to the story of God’s redemptive activity in the world. These practices constitute the practices of story. They re-order the lives of Christians and make future redemption present despite the destructive power of the past.
“Far more than a monograph, this study incorporates empirical findings on human suffering with diverse Christian theological traditions, embedded in philosophical sophistication, making it accessible to inquirers today. Comprehensive in stature and compelling in depiction of human dilemmas, The Practice of Story invites us to a feast in the midst of chaos.”
—David Burrell, Hesburgh Professor emeritus, University of Notre Dame
“Makant skillfully explores the devastating experience of extreme suffering, and tenderly leads readers to see anew how love, not suffering, has the final word. The Practice of Story invites readers to expand our theological imaginations, to open our eyes and to participate in God’s redemptive movement in life.”
—Pamela R. McCarroll, author of The End of Hope - the Beginning: Narratives of Hope in the Face of Death and Trauma
“Mindy Makant offers a theologically astute and pastorally wise engagement with the question of profound suffering. This book creatively synthesizes multiple discourses to address some of theology’s most difficult questions, yielding valuable insights for theologians, pastors, chaplains, and spiritual directors alike.”
—Scott Bader-Saye, Professor of Christian Ethics and Moral Theology, Seminary of the Southwest
Mindy Makant is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Lenoir-Rhyne University.