Published by Zondervan on June 19, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Theology
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Discover a different way of seeing and responding to the Coronavirus pandemic, an approach drawing on Scripture, Christian history, and the way of living, thinking, and praying revealed to us by Jesus.
What are we supposed to think about the Coronavirus crisis?
Some people think they know: "This is a sign of the End," they say. "It's all predicted in the book of Revelation."
Others disagree but are equally clear: "This is a call to repent. God is judging the world and through this disease he's telling us to change."
Some join in the chorus of blame and condemnation: "It's the fault of the Chinese, the government, the World Health Organization…"
N. T. Wright examines these reactions to the virus and finds them wanting. Instead, he shows that a careful reading of the Bible and Christian history offers simple though profound answers to our many questions, including:
What should be the Christian response?How should we think about God?How do we live in the present?Why should we lament?What should we learn about ourselves?How do we recover?Written by one of the world's foremost New Testament scholars, God and the Pandemic will serve as your guide to read the events of today through the light of Jesus' death and resurrection.
As COVID-19—the sociopolitical and economic arguments—continues to ravage, philosophers and theologians have also continued to pick up their pens and write their responses to a pandemic unlike anything any of us have seen. As these books began to be released, I mused on whether or not a hastily-rushed-to-press printed book was the best medium for discussion on the topic. Circumstances change, knowledge increases, best practices mutate, political opinions shift, government responses vary. Can a printed book even keep up?
When the dust settles and the vaccines are taken and the world returns to a slightly more uneasy sense of normal, God and the Pandemic may well be the only “coronabook” to withstand the test of time. The meat of this book came after the response to NT Wright’s article in Time magazine entitled Christianity Offers Us No Answers About Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To. Unlike other offerings, Wright doesn’t even try to make sense of COVID. Instead, he leads us into a biblical reaction to it.
His introductory chapter briefly—maybe too briefly—outlines three ancient philosophies and relates them to coronavirus response:
- Stoics – Everything is programmed to happen a certain way. You can’t change it.
- Epicureans – Everything is random. You can’t do anything about.
- Platonists – Everything is a shadow of a better reality. Bad things happen but we are meant for another world.
The secular West tends toward Epicureanism; The Christian response toward Plato (with perhaps a mix of Stoicism for our Reformed friends). All three tell us nothing in how to respond. So what can we do? How should we respond? Through the Old Testament, the Gospels, then the rest of the New Testament, Wright builds a theology of response step-by-step.
For Wright, the primary initial response to COVID-19 and its devastation must be lament.
The initial calling of the Church, first and foremost, is to take our place humbly among the mourners.
This is absolutely key and sets the tone of the entire book. Wright doesn’t write as some dispassionate observer or as a theologian standing above it all, having figured it all out. He writes with the needed pathos that acknowledges the grief and loss of life in a broken world.
Wright also talks about the sovereignty of God and the free will of man, attempting to make sense of how a good God can allow such a natural evil. He speaks of the responsibility that God has given humans to run his world and that, yes, God will hold humanity responsible for their action or inaction.
He speaks on the role of the church—and the delicate balance between religious freedom and the moral responsibility to not spread disease. Wright acknowledges both the problems with idolizing the church building and the Sunday service and the need for corporate worship, along with an understanding that religion is not a private hobby.
In truth, if one is duly convinced of one “side” or another, Wright offers no strong arguments to persuade one to another. But that’s not his goal. His goal—and one he achieves—is to simply state with empathy the complex situation that we are facing and model the grace and civility needed to continue the conversation beyond the pages of the book.
God and the Pandemic is the voice we’ve needed to hear. In a clear, concise, and conversational tone, NT Wright leads readers into a conversation that—if we so modeled it—would change the vitriolic responses our churches seem to be filled with today.