Coronavirus and Christ by John Piper. Crossway. 112 pages. 2020
John Piper has written this book as the world is facing the global pandemic known as the coronavirus, or technically, “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated COVID-19). The short book has two main parts:
Part 1: The God Who Reigns over the Coronavirus
Part 2: What Is God Doing through the Coronavirus?
In Part 1, he writes that rather than playing the odds (that we don’t get the virus, suffer and possibly die), there is a better place to put our hope. We can stand on the Rock of certainty, rather than the sand of probabilities. That Rock is not fragile, nor is it sand. This book is the author’s invitation for the reader to join him on the solid Rock, Jesus Christ. His aim is to show why God in Christ is the Rock at this moment in history—in this pandemic of the coronavirus—and what it is like to stand on his mighty love. His prayer is that all who read this book would share the experience of the prophet Jeremiah: “Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jer. 15:16).
He writes that the same sovereignty that could stop the coronavirus, yet doesn’t, is the very sovereignty that sustains the soul in it. God is all-governing and all-wise. He is sovereign over the coronavirus. He tells us that saying that God is all-governing means he is sovereign. His sovereignty means that he can do, and in fact does do, all that he decisively wills to do. When he decides for a thing to happen, it happens. Everything happens because God wills it to happen. The sovereignty of God is all-encompassing and all-pervasive. He holds absolute sway over this world.
He tells us that the coronavirus was sent by God. This is not a season for sentimental views of God. It is a bitter season. And God ordained it. God governs it. He will end it. If he wills, we will live. If not, we won’t. If we try to rescue God from his sovereignty over suffering, we sacrifice his sovereignty to turn all things for good. God is holy and righteous and good. And he is infinitely wise. Nothing surprises him, confuses him, or baffles him.
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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of “Where is God in a Coronavirus World?” by John Lennox
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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In Part 2, he points to what the Bible teaches and then make the connections with the coronavirus, giving us six answers to the question “What is God doing through the coronavirus?” Below are each of his answers and a few quotes I found helpful: Answer 1. God is giving the world in the coronavirus outbreak, as in all other calamities, a physical picture of the moral horror and spiritual ugliness of God-belittling sin.
- In response to moral and spiritual rebellion, God subjected the physical world to disaster and misery.
- God put the physical world under a curse so that the physical horrors we see around us in diseases and calamities would become a vivid picture of how horrible sin is.
- Physical evil is a parable, a drama, a signpost pointing to the moral outrage of rebellion against God.
- Physical pain is God’s trumpet blast to tell us that something is dreadfully wrong in the world. Disease and deformity are God’s pictures in the physical realm of what sin is like in the spiritual realm.
Answer 2. Some people will be infected with the coronavirus as a specific judgment from God because of their sinful attitudes and actions.
- It is fitting that every one of us search our own heart to discern if our suffering is God’s judgment on the way we live.
Answer 3. The coronavirus is a God-given wake-up call to be ready for the second coming of Christ.
- Jesus wants us to see the birth pains (including the coronavirus) as reminders and alerts that he is coming and that we need to be ready.
- The message is clear. Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake. But, oh, how many people are not awake! For all their frenzied activity, they are sound asleep in regard to the coming of Jesus Christ.
- The way to be ready is to come to Jesus Christ, receive forgiveness for sins, and walk in his light.
Answer 4. The coronavirus is God’s thunderclap call for all of us to repent and realign our lives with the infinite worth of Christ.
- All natural disasters—whether floods, famines, locusts, tsunamis, or diseases—are God’s painful and merciful summons to repent.
- We are all sinners, bound for destruction, and disasters are a gracious summons from God to repent and be saved while there is still time.
- The most fundamental change of heart and mind that repentance calls for is to treasure God with all that you are and to treasure Jesus more than all other relations.
- The reason all of us deserve to perish is not a list of rules we have broken, but an infinite value we have scorned—the infinite value of all that God is for us in Jesus Christ.
- What God is doing in the coronavirus is showing us—graphically, painfully—that nothing in this world gives the security and satisfaction that we find in the infinite greatness and worth of Jesus.
- This is the message of the coronavirus: Stop relying on yourselves and turn to God. You cannot even stop death. God can raise the dead.
- The coronavirus calls us to make God the all-important, pervasive reality in our lives.
- This is what it means to repent: to experience a change of heart and mind that treasures God in Christ more than life.
Answer 5. The coronavirus is God’s call to his people to overcome self-pity and fear, and with courageous joy, to do the good works of love that glorify God.
- Deeds of love in the context of danger, whether disease or persecution, point more clearly to the fact that these deeds are sustained by hope in God.
- Don’t let the possibility, or the reality, of suffering stop you from doing good deeds.
- The ultimate aim of God for his people is that we glorify his greatness and magnify the worth of his Son, Jesus Christ.
- God glorified in everything. Christ magnified in life and death. This is the great, God-given goal of human life.
Answer 6. In the coronavirus, God is loosening the roots of settled Christians, all over the world, to make them free for something new and radical and to send them with the gospel of Christ to the unreached peoples of the world.
- God has used the suffering and upheaval of history to move his church to places it needs to go. I am suggesting that he will do that again as part of the long-term impact of the coronavirus.
- The global scope and seriousness of the coronavirus is too great for God to waste. It will serve his invincible global purpose of world evangelization.
Where is God in a Coronavirus World? by John Lennox. The Good Book Company. 64 pages. 2020
The author, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, tells us that we living through a unique, era-defining period. Whether we are a Christian or not, the coronavirus pandemic is perplexing and unsettling for all of us. How do we begin to think it through and cope with it? Never before have we experienced the lockdown of cities and even countries, the closing of borders, the banning of travel, the shutting of all but essential services, the banning of large sports gatherings, and the silent towns and cities that shout of fear and self-isolation. The rate at which the pandemic is spreading is putting enormous strain on national health systems. Fear is stalking the world and it grows by the day as more and more people are affected.
This short book consists of the author’s reflections on what we are experiencing right now. He encourages us to engage with the book like he was sitting with us in a coffee shop (if they were open), and we have asked him the question “Where is God in a Coronavirus World?” The words in this book is what he would say to us to convey some comfort, support and hope. Though this is a short book, there is much of substance here. He quotes others, including C.S. Lewis (who was one of his professors at Oxford), frequently.
One major effect of the present situation is the universal feeling of increased vulnerability. People fear for their health, both physical and psychological; for their families and friends, particularly the elderly and infirm; for their social networks, their food supply, their jobs and economic security, and a host of other things.
Since all over the world churches are being closed in order to limit the spread of the virus, many are asking where God is—that is, if he is there at all. Where or from whom can we get real solace or hope? He tells us that in times of crisis, hope is what we look for. When life seems predictable and under control, it is easy to put off asking the big questions, or to be satisfied with simplistic answers. But life is not that way right now—not for any of us.
Coronavirus confronts us all with the problem of pain and suffering. This, for most of us, is one of life’s hardest problems. The book concentrates on what is called the problem of natural evil (rather than moral evil). His focus is on fractured nature—principally the coronavirus, but also all kinds of diseases and natural catastrophes like earthquakes and tsunamis.
He writes that we each need to make sense of coronavirus in three different ways: intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. In addition, our worldview will make a difference to how we react to disasters like the coronavirus pandemic, and to earthquakes or tsunamis.
He writes that according to the Bible, it is not true that if someone suffers some severe illness or accident, we therefore should conclude that he or she has secretly been guilty of serious sins. On the other hand, it is clearly a part of Christian teaching that although not all disaster and disease is a judgment of God (as in the case of Job), nevertheless some is. He tells us to beware of anyone who interprets pain caused by natural evil as a divine punishment. At the same time, we should equally beware of anyone who says that God has nothing to say through this pandemic, particularly to Western societies that have largely turned their back on him as culturally irrelevant. Removing God from the equation does not remove the pain and suffering. But removing God does remove something else—namely, any kind of ultimate hope.
God is not taken aback by the coronavirus; he can work for good even in the evil of it, and his plans will not be thwarted by it. The author tells us that a Christian is not so much a person who has solved the problem of pain, suffering and the coronavirus, but one who has come to love and trust a God who has himself suffered.
The author writes that the coronavirus is so called because it visibly resembles a crown (“corona” in Latin). A crown is a symbol of power and authority—and certainly this virus has colossal power over us humans. But hope is found in another corona: the crown of thorns that was forced on Jesus’ head at his trial before his execution.
In a fractured world, damaged through the consequences of human sin, pain and suffering are inevitable. Perhaps we had hidden from this reality until the coronavirus rampaged across the globe. How should Christians respond to the pandemic? He gives us a few thoughts:
- We would be wise to take heed of the best medical advice of the day.
- We are called to love. We should be looking for how we might love others, even at cost to ourselves—for that is how God has loved every Christian in the person of his Son, by dying for them on the cross. He tells us that loving our neighbor also means avoiding that selfish, hysterical attitude to food and basic necessities that leads to empty stores and our neighbors having to do without.
- We need to remember about eternity.
The author closes by telling us that only Jesus can give us peace in a pandemic. The issue for all of us is whether we will trust him to do so.
- Coronavirus and Christ Audiobook. On this episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast, you can listen to the entire audiobook version of John Piper’s new book Coronavirus and Christ, read by the author.
- 20 Quotes from John Piper on the Coronavirus. Matt Smethurst shares these 20 quotes from John Piper’s new book Coronavirus and Christ.
- Epic Interview with Tim Challies and Stephen McCaskell (and Free Episode). In this interview, Tim Challies and Stephen McCaskell discuss their new book and documentary, Epic: An Around-the-World Journey through Christian History. Developed for both individuals and groups, the book and film work hand-in-hand to help you discover the 33 fascinating objects that tell the history of Christianity. You can also watch free the episode in the documentary on India.
- Gentle and Lonely. Tim Challies reviews Dane Ortlund’s new book Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers. He writes “Gentle and Lonely is a sweet and comforting book that will grow your knowledge, provoke your worship, and inspire your devotion. Best of all, it will help you to know, love, and trust our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
- New and Upcoming Books. There are several new and upcoming books that I am excited about and plan to read. Here they are:
- Stand Firm: Living in a Post-Christian Culture by John MacArthur
- Epic: An Around-the-World Journey through Christian History by Tim Challies
- Seven More Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas
- Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference, edited by Tim Keller and John Inazu
- A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them by Scott Sauls (to be published June 2).
- The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church by Albert Mohler (to be published June 2).
BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith? by John MacArthur
We are reading through John MacArthur’s classic book The Gospel According to Jesus. What did Jesus mean when He said, “Follow me”? MacArthur tackled that seemingly simple question and provided the evangelical world with the biblical answer. For many, the reality of Jesus’ demands has proved thoroughly searching, profoundly disturbing, and uncomfortably invasive; and yet, heeding His words is eternally rewarding. The 20th anniversary edition of the book has revised and expanded the original version to handle contemporary challenges. The debate over what some have called “lordship salvation” hasn’t ended—every generation must face the demands Christ’s lordship. Will you read along with us?
This week we look at Chapter 10: He Offers a Yoke of Rest. Here are a few takeaways from the chapter:
- The gospel invitation is not an entreaty for sinners to allow the Savior into their lives. It is both an appeal and a command for them to repent and follow Him.
- The great miracle of redemption is not that we accept Christ, but that He accepts us.
- Salvation occurs when God changes the heart and the unbeliever turns from sin to Christ.
- Conversion is not simply a sinner’s decision for Christ; it is first the sovereign work of God in transforming the individual.
- Jesus’ offer of rest for the weary is a call to conversion. It is a masterpiece of redemptive truth — a synopsis of the gospel according to Jesus.
- Salvation occurs when a heart is humbled by a sovereign God who reveals His truth. In desperation the soul turns from sin and embraces Christ.
- True salvation occurs when a sinner in desperation turns from his sin to Christ with a willingness to have Him take control.
- The yoke of submission to Christ is not grievous; it is joyous.