Asbury Seminar Explores Suffering and Hope
WILMORE, Ky. — Pain, human dignity, suffering and hope — these are just a few of the topics Asbury University freshmen are exploring in this year’s Liberal Arts Seminar. A class for newly-enrolled freshmen, the semester-long experience challenges students to deepen their faith while exploring challenging topics through the liberal arts.
This year’s seminar asked the question, “Why suffer?” accompanied by the deeply moving book Loving Samuel: Suffering, Dependence, and the Calling of Love, a true story that challenged freshmen’s perspective on suffering and Christian hope. Written by Dr. Aaron Cobb, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Auburn University at Montgomery, the book describes Cobb’s and his wife’s experiences loving and grieving the loss of their son, Samuel, who was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 in utero and who died five hours after he was born.
The book’s subject matter makes it a difficult read, but students expressed gratitude for how the book addresses God’s role in our suffering and the hope we have in Him.
“Samuel’s story is tragic, but it was real,” said Michaela Masri ’21. “I loved how honest and raw Cobb was with readers, and the book definitely made me question suffering and the purpose it has in our lives.”
In addition to reading Cobb’s book, students had the opportunity to hear from him in person on Sept. 29. Visiting Asbury’s campus for the eastern regional meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers, Cobb also spoke in Chapel, discussing how Christians cannot expect exception from despondence.
“Christian hope is not magic,” Cobb said. “It’s difficult to sustain hope in the midst of loss.”
The argument of carrying suffering unborn children to term is a current public debate. The New York Times recently published an article by Gary Comstock, also a philosophy professor whose son suffered Trisomy 18, who in retrospect now believes he should have euthanized his son. Cobb wrote a response piece in opposition and is at work on a book advocating for perinatal palliative and hospice care for young children, a type of care given to babies with prenatal diagnoses that indicate a short life expectancy.
As followers of Christ, Cobb says, we cannot abandon the sorrowful and the hopeless, and we cannot rely on our strength to endure sorrow.
“We must rely on the hope we find in Christ,” Cobb said.
Dr. Claire Brown ’04 Peterson, an associate professor of Philosophy at Asbury University, says the book is a powerful call for Christ-like love in suffering and in hope.
“One of the most important lessons it offers is the importance of entering into the sufferings of others: suffering with them, feeling grief for them and ultimately making their hopes our hopes,” Peterson said. “The book shows us what it looks like for the church to be the church, the body of Christ.”
— by Cathryn Lien ’18