Aug 15, 2011

Interview with Dr. Larry Waters on Suffering, Disability, and the Bible

I recently posted an introduction to a new book entitled Why O God: Suffering and Disability in the Bible and Church. One of the editors of this helpful resource, Dr. Larry Waters, has graciously agreed to the following short interview.

Dr. Waters is presently Associate Professor of Bible Exposition, and also teaches for the World Missions and Intercultural Studies department. Before joining the faculty of Dallas Seminary he served as a missionary in the Philippines from 1973 to 1999. His worldwide ministry continues, primarily in the Philippines. He is the author of Bible and Missions curriculum for the Internet Biblical Seminary connected with BEE World, and a New Testament Survey for a large missionary organization. Larry also serves as a Member of the Bibliotheca Sacra Editorial Advisory Committee.

Question: How did you first become involved in this project?

The book is a result of a course that a former student, Daniel Thomson, and I developed over 2 years ago on “The Theology of Suffering and Disability and the Church.” The class consisted of 19 different speakers on varied subjects about personal suffering, suffering in the Bible, disability ministries of all kinds, bioethics, and two entries by Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni & Friends not only visited the campus, but Joni gave two chapel messages. I suggested that we put the lectures and experiences of the contributors into a book, and use it as a text for future classes. However, the book is more than a textbook, and should appeal to church leaders, teachers, those who deal with disabilities on a daily bases, and many more. Daniel is a physical therapist and is working on his PhD at the present time.

Question: What do you see as the overall thesis or main idea of the book?

The main thesis of the book revolves around what we believe are weaknesses in many churches, and the Christian community as a whole, concerning a proper application and biblical response to suffering and disability. For the most part the Church today is failing to properly present the biblical view of suffering, and is not involved in developing a ministry for the disabled and then involving them in their ministry. “There is no disability or suffering ministry until the disabled and suffering are ministering.”

Question: How did this book most impact your own life and ministry?

First of all, it opened my eyes to a world I did not really understand: the world of disability. Second, it was a long-time goal of mine to put into print information on a BIBLICAL approach to suffering. That is, what does the Bible have to say about suffering and how should we, individually and the Christian community, respond to it. I feel that this book is the first step in helping reach this goal. Third, I am now in contact with a number of people who are actively involved in a suffering or disability ministry, which has broadened my own ministry. Finally, the response to those who have read the book has encouraged me and assured me that the book fulfills a need in the Christian community. (Read this review by a pastor at

Question: Who do you think should read this book?

A number of people in the Christian community can benefit from the book: Pastors, missionaries, counselors, healthcare workers, parents who have children with disabilities, spouses who have a wife or husband suffering from a physical or mental disability, teachers in all areas of ministry. The book even deals with the issues of why Christians suffer and why does evil exist. So, it would appeal to the seeker and the theologian too. The diversity of the topics in the 22 chapters allows for a varied appeal to readers.

Question: What do you hope to accomplish through this book?

Here are some of the objectives:
1. Make the church aware of its need to minister to and involve the disabled in their ministries.
2. Give a biblical foundation for understanding the existence of suffering, how suffering is used by the Lord, and how we can respond biblically both individually and collectively to the problem of pain and suffering.
3. Comfort for those who are suffering.
4. Encouragement to those who have struggle so long and so hard to start a disability and suffering ministry in their church.
5. Encourage other institutions of learning to use this book as a text or suggested text for a similar course on “A Theology of Suffering and Disability.”

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