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ss triple helix - Autumn 2020,  Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Christianity and the Coronavirus: Four reviews

Where is God in a Coronavirus World?

John C Lennox, The Good Book Company, 2020, £2.54, 63pp, ISBN: 9781784985691

Coronavirus and Christ

John Piper, Desiring God, 2020, £4.99, 112pp, ISBN: 9781433573590

Virus as a Summons to Faith

Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief, and Uncertainty Paternoster
Walter Bruggeman, Press, £4.99, 92pp, ISBN: 9781788932011

God and the Pandemic

A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and its Aftermath
Tom Wright, SPCK, £6.99, 88pp, ISBN: 9780281085118

All four reviews by Steve Fouch, CMF Head of Communication

When there is nothing else to do, an author's instinct is to write. For four leading Christian writers and theologians, the COVID-19 pandemic has been fertile territory to write books to reassure, challenge, inspire and warn the church.

Piper and Lennox's books were first to appear back in March and are close kin. Starting with the rapidly unfolding crisis caused by the novel coronavirus, both authors seek to understand the nature of suffering, death and disaster and from these move towards a positive Christian message of hope and salvation. That they take different journeys to get there is primarily to do with their starting points. Lennox, as a scientific polymath, looks at the evidence from creation and human philosophy before leading us to Christ as revealed in Scripture. Piper, as a pastor starts with Scripture and what it says about the nature of creation and humanity. Both books end with encouragement and hope, and each is a good, short(ish) evangelistic tract to share with colleagues.

Bruggeman, as befits an Old Testament theologian, looks at the Hebrew Scriptures and how they understand God's purposes and agency during times of disaster and suffering. Drawing on the Psalms, the historical books (especially 1 and 2 Kings), Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and, of course, Job, he warns of the pitfalls of a simplistic reading of suffering and disaster. Get the bigger picture of what God is doing before jumping to conclusions.

Wright starts at the same point with which Bruggeman concludes, before taking us on a different journey. Wright argues that Scripture teaches us to face calamity with lament - for the loss, pain and disruption of the pandemic, but also for our complicity in the sins that have added to that suffering. But we cannot stay there, and he shows us that Scripture always asks the question 'what' rather than 'why'. What do we do in response is the crucial question to address, rather than why God allowed this. The Bible also answers the question of 'why' with a 'who'. As Job 38-40 shows us, the why questions have no answer save in the person of our Creator and Saviour. He also warns against jumping to the simplistic conclusion that COVID-19 is a sign of the end-times by putting it into the historical context of the epidemics and global pandemics of the past.

While all four books touch on the history of pandemics, Wright, as a scholar of ancient history, explores how the early church responded to the wide-ranging epidemics of the first few centuries of its history. Christianity was birthed in such crises and has grown throughout them. We can gain great wisdom and insight from how the early Church Fathers and others (such as Martin Luther) responded to parallel crises in their days.

Four very different books, each appealing to different audiences and with differing but complementary messages, all are worth reading and sharing widely during the time of COVID.

An Eastender's Tale

Dr Peter Armon,, £7.98, 2017, 367pp, ISBN: 9781786979919

Reviewed by Vicky Lavy, a former CMF Head of International Ministries

East End boy makes good. The first doctor in his family, Peter served God as a gynaecologist in the UK, Malawi, Tanzania, Israel, Spain and Gibraltar. Friends will smile at his winsome gems that remind us of his cheerful self-effacing nature: 'I had red and curly hair, rabbit teeth and ugly NHS wire glasses - Altogether I was not a handsome lad and got made fun of, but wouldn't call it bullying'. Billy Graham's Harringay Crusades started his lifetime habit of reading the Bible morning and evening. But he was not a complete goody-goody, and once swapped his dad's valuable stamp collection for a bicycle.

We are taken on a journey from East Ham Grammar with homework done to Radio Luxembourg, via Charing Cross Medical School to becoming a gynaecologist. His first date with his future wife, Carol, where she is an hour late reminds us of those days before mobile phones.

We learn of his time in the 1970s and at KCMC Tanzania that he calls the Golden Years, and at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Blantyre in the 80s. Back in the UK, Peter, Carol, and their three boys save money by buying a house in Newcastle with another Christian family who only had girls. All went well until the fire…

If you knew Peter, who served as CMF's 'Overseas Secretary' back in the late noughties, you must get this. Regardless, his story is still a gem; a glimpse into the life of a servant of God.

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