Spiritual Complaint: The Theology and Practice of Lament

By Miriam J. Bier and Tim Bulkeley (editors)

A selection of essays exploring the biblical tradition of lament in the face of tragedy, and its role in the life of the modern Church.

ISBN: 9780227174340


Personal and communal tragedies provoke intense emotions. In Scripture such emotions were given expression in complaints or laments. Such laments are the most frequent genre of psalm and are also found in the prophets and elsewhere in the Bible. The Book of Lamentations is even named for this human response to tragedy. Yet neither lament nor complaint seems to be widely practiced in churches today, except at times of extreme communal catastrophe. Bringing together biblical scholars, liturgists, and practical theologians, this book begins to provide bridges between these worlds in order to enrich our ability to respond appropriately to personal and communal tragedy and to understand those responses.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 294

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Miriam J. Bier teaches Old Testament at the London School of Theology.

Tim Bulkeley has taught Old Testament at the Université protestante du Congo, the University of Auckland, and at Carey Baptist College.



1. A Lament for Christchurch
     Colin Buchanan

Part One: Foundations
2. Does Jeremiah Confess, Lament, or Complain? Three Attitudes towards Wrong
     Tim Bulkeley
3. The Unique Contribution of Lamentations 4 in the Book of Lamentations:
     Metaphor and the Transition from Individual to Communal
     Miriam J. Bier
4. Lament Personified: Job in the Bedeutungsnetz of Psalm 22
     Will Kynes
5. The Enemy Lament: A Socio-Cognitive Approach to the Metaphors of Job 16:7-14
     Carlos Patrick Jimenez
6. Blurring the Boundaries: The Rhetoric of Lament and Penitence in Isaiah 63:7-64:11
     Elizabeth Boase
7. The Profit and Loss of Lament: Rethinking Aspects of the Relationship Between
     Lament and Penitential Prayer
     Donald P. Moffat
8. The Doubtful Gain of Penitence: The Fine Line between Lament and Penitential Prayer
     Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer

Part Two: Reflections
9. Wrestling with Lamentations in Christian Worship
     Robin Parry
10. Liturgy and Lament
     Colin Buchanan

Part Three: Explorations
11. Learning to Lament in Aotearoa
     Alistair Mackenzie
12. Framing Lament: Providing a Context for the Expression of Pain
     Jeanette Mathews
13. Public Lament
     Elizabeth Boase and Steve Taylor
14. Lament in an Age of New Media
     Stephen Garner

Part Four: Refraction
15. In Search of the Shulamith in the State of Israel: A Lament
     Yael Klangwisan



Endorsements and Reviews

… an intriguing and helpful exploration of the biblical traditions of lament and penitential prayer, and their relevance to contemporary church and society. The context of the Christchurch earthquakes gives the book a particular poignancy.
Iain Provan, Professor of Biblical Studies, Regent College, Vancouver

Suffering is part of life, and there are times when pain faces us with such gruesome fierceness we are rocked to the core. … Spiritual Complaint is a salve for those who are wounded in a broken world. It teaches us how to wrestle with God faithfully, in prayer and tears and worship. Far from being simplistic in its instruction, however, this provides nuance and depth on how to negotiate pain on the foundation of biblical exemplars. I highly recommend this much needed resource.
Heath A. Thomas, Associate Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

… represents a brave insistence on the significance of the academic community as a resource to the Church.
The Revd Philip Welsh, in Church Times, 5 September 2014

… this is a welcome volume, advancing the discussion and pushing the church to embrace lament alongside attitudes of praise and penitence.
Andrew C. Witt, in Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol 22, Issue 2

The international and interdisciplinary scope of this collection commends its use in many different contexts. Spiritual Complaint will
be particularly helpful resource in ministry training settings but also holds much value for researchers in pastoral theology more generally and lament studies in particular.
Taylor Worley, in Theological Book Review, Vol 26, No 1

… offers ample resources to budding scholars who wish to undertake further studies on the timeless issue of crisis, suffering, and human repsonses.
J. Gaius Song, in The Expository Times, Vol 127, No 11