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Coronavirus resources - our books round up

No one saw this pandemic coming! In the past three months there have been some helpful resources made available that can help us think through the issues that arise at such a time as this. John Woods takes a look at what’s available.

Tom Wright – God and the Pandemic: A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and its Aftermath
SPCK 76 pages Price £7.99 or £3.99 e-book
ISBN-13: 978-0281085118

Tom Wright’s booklet began its life as an article for Time magazine. We must thank God for a man of God who is a household name, has an international reputation as a Christian thinker, and yet has the common touch that so often hits the nail on the head.

Events can overtake us…Brexit…Covid-17…the very public death of George Floyd. (For a moving poem on the latter issue and a reflection by Tom Wright see www.wycliffe.ox.ac.uk/article/death-george-floyd)

There are three things that Tom Wright achieves in this brief reflection on the coronavirus:

1 He helpfully sets the issue of the coronavirus into the context of the bigger picture of what God is doing in our world through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

2 He warns of speaking too soon and being a mere echo of public opinion:

Before we speak, we need to learn to listen, pray and lament.

“My main argument is precisely that we need to resist the knee-jerk reactions that come so readily to mind … If we spend time in the prayer of lament, new light may come, rather than simply the repetition of things we might have wanted to say anyway.”

3 Most helpfully he reminds us what it actually means for God to be in control.  Wright argues that we need to redefine the exercise of divine sovereignty to embrace the whole message of the Saviour who steps into our world to reclaim it.

Wright explores how this all comes together in Romans 8 reminding us that we perhaps most acknowledge that God is in control when we realise that we are not.  At such times we take our place lamenting with the groan of all creation, at present unrelieved but hoping through the work of Christ for pending resolution.

Andy Bannister – Healthy Faith and the Coronavirus Crisis
IVP Kindle Edition
£4.99

Tom Wright also contributes an afterword to this book on the coronavirus that has been published by IVP. He reminds us that we worship a God who has got his hands dirty and wept with those who suffer.

It brings together a wide range of contributors, who deal with a comprehensive cluster of relevant subjects related to the virus and the lockdown. The book has 27 chapters from more than 20 authors and is organised around the following main sections.

(Re)-orientated
Fragile Life
Connected Future
Growing life
Appendices

The book is crammed with wisdom, thought-provoking responses to Covid-19, pastoral reflections and lots of practical help.

“Whenever I’m on my kitchen floor crying (and I’ve been there during the current lockdown), I’m always joined by a friend called Jesus who has been there too, who has felt the physical and emotional pain of loneliness in far wider and deeper ways than I ever will.”  (Ed Shaw)

I particularly want to mention a chapter on grief and comfort by Richard Winter that includes a personal prayer based on Psalm 13.

“How long, O Lord? This pandemic feels like it will go on for ever.
Are you hiding from us? Have you forgotten us?

How much longer do we have to endure this anxiety and fear?
Some of us are in deep distress because we have lost a loved one.
Is COVID-19 going to destroy us and our society completely?
It feels like we are besieged by an invisible and deadly enemy.
Please listen to us and answer, O Lord God.
Deliver us or the evil one will boast that he has defeated your people and will be rejoicing at our confusion and downfall. We don’t understand why you are allowing this suffering across the globe.
But we trusted your steadfast love in the past, and our hearts believe enough to rejoice in future deliverance.
We will sing to the Lord because of your great goodness to us in the past.
Amen”

John Piper – Coronavirus and Christ
Crossway Kindle Edition 

Price £2

An example of a Reformed Conservative Evangelical respond is this short book by John Piper.

This book is personal, direct and motivated by gospel concern, yet some might be uncomfortable with the emphasis on the virus and direct judgement. Speaking of the words of Naomi in Ruth Chapter 1, Piper writes:

“The coronavirus was sent, therefore, 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. No part of it is outside his sway. Life and death are in his hand.”

Walter Brueggemann – Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief, and Uncertainty
Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers

Kindle Edition
Price £8.99

This is a brilliantly rich and deep biblical meditation from the pen of the Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann. As with all Brueggemann’s books we have careful wrestling with key biblical texts.

Perhaps one of the most valuable things about this book is the warning not to be too ready to apply the ancient text to our current situation. Readers and preachers of Scripture need to be careful to be nuanced in their application of Scripture. Sometimes Scripture defies being turned into principles and needs to be read with a sense of “all things being equal!”

I also was helped by the way that each chapter concludes with a prayer. One of these is a timely reminder not to make a glib and superficial response to a complex crisis.

“We do ‘thoughts and prayers’ easily and glibly; we do thoughts without thinking; we do prayers without praying. We commit that glib act because it is what we know how to do that with an anaemic god, or because we are embarrassed to do more, or because it is convenient and costs us nothing.”

Brueggemann is surely right to remind us of the role of the church in this crisis:

“The work of ministry is to render the virus as penultimate, to see that even its lethal force is outflanked by the goodness of God.”

John C. Lennox – Where is God in a Coronavirus World?
The Good Book Company

42 pages £2.99

Last but not least, John Lennox the Christian apologist gets to the heart of the matter in this brief book with tiny writing. Lennox explores the key question: where is God?

The answer is provided with a sense of humility, and vulnerability (John Lennox is over 70 and therefore in the category of those needing to be shielded).  Clearly the author’s time of self-isolation has been well spent.  The most valuable thing about this little book is the exploration of the nature of viruses, what they are, how they work and that not all of them are bad.

A rogue virus is part of our experience of being in a fallen world, and therefore does not deny the love of God.  Indeed, God’s love argues Lennox is the very thing that gives us perspective at this time and the model to Love our coronavirus neighbour with witness and deeds of kindness.

We should be thankful for such a variety of resources to help us think, pray and live in such a way that our trust in God is strengthened, our anxiety is stilled, and our mission is focused.

John Woods is a writer and Bible teacher based in West Sussex

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