One of our congregation, Melanie Haigh, was recently given a copy of the book, “Where is God in a Coronavirus World”, and after reading it has kindly written an insightful book review for us. If you would like to borrow the book, Melanie has left her contact details at the end of this post.
… from Melanie Haigh
“Where is God in a Coronavirus World?” by John C Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.
A very topical book, describing the effects of coronavirus on our society and how the pandemic challenges our belief systems. How do we reconcile this health crisis with our loving God? Written in a week, the author combines his scientific knowledge and his passionate Christian faith.
Keith & Kristyn Getty, famous Christian songwriters (Keith co-wrote “In Christ Alone”) said “This book will give those who believe renewed confidence in why they believe; and it will help those yet to believe to find the key answers they seek”.
Whether one is a Christian or not, the coronavirus is perplexing for all of us and leaves us feeling fearful and vulnerable.
Professor Lennox describes how there have been similar pandemics in the past, but we do not expect one to appear in the 21st century defying medical and scientific experts. Nowadays fewer and fewer people have any “God-dimension” in their lives. Many are asking “Where is God?” A quotation from the book which I liked is “Is He (God) in inaccessible self-quarantine?”
There are many books by Christian writers on the subject of suffering, most concentrating on moral evil. This book, however, focuses on natural evil – coronavirus. Depending on how you see the world determines your reaction to natural disasters. When there was the New Zealand earthquake Christians found comfort in Psalm 46:”God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble”. However, other Christians say that natural disasters are a direct judgment of God. Where would there be a book on suffering without mentioning Job? Job was accused by his friends of being guilty of serious sins, hence his suffering but the book which bears his name explains that Job’s pain and suffering are not due to his sin. Despite this, some Christian teaching shows that suffering can come from God’s judgment, for example when Paul told the Corinthian church that some of them were ill as a consequence of God’s judgment: God wanted them to repent of an immoral lifestyle.
Professor Lennox goes on to debate the atheist’s view of suffering providing quotations from Richard Dawkins. Dostoevsky suggested that it was not rational to believe in the concepts of good and evil if there is no God.
The author describes coronavirus from a scientist’s viewpoint, explaining the composition and transmission of viruses. If God is a Creator God, he is responsible for the existence of viruses! Couldn’t God have made electricity that was not dangerous or fire that did not burn! The writer continues to talk about sin entering the world in the Garden of Eden and the gift of free will. The fall of man is compared to a rower in a boat who refuses to row in the correct way and how it will affect not only themselves but also the others in the boat (an image I particularly liked). God’s very good creation had become flawed. There are flaws in human nature and physical nature.
Christianity claims that the man Jesus Christ is God incarnate – the Creator become human. That is the heart of the Christian message. As Christians we have not solved the problem of pain, suffering and the coronavirus but we love and trust Jesus who has himself suffered and has suffered for us Christians.
Two crowns are mentioned in the book: firstly, the coronavirus (corona – crown in Latin) and secondly the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head. Earth is God’s creation not ours. C S Lewis said “(pain) is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”. The coronavirus might function as a huge loudspeaker to remind us that we all have to die. If we have ignored God for years and we look to Jesus who wore the crown of thorns, thereby securing for us a place in heaven, coronavirus, despite the havoc it has wreaked, will have served a very healthy purpose.
Sacrificial care has been the hallmark of Christians in turbulent times down the ages. An example of this was Martin Luther, at the time of the bubonic plague who ministered to the sick. Similarly, today health workers are serving sacrificially and selflessly. Volunteers, both Christians and non-Christians alike, are running errands for the vulnerable. The author also mentions that loving our neighbour also means avoiding the selfish, hysterical attitude to food buying leading to empty stores and neighbours doing without!
As Christians we must think about eternity. The early Christians lived in a dangerous world and were given strength to live sacrificially as they had real hope of heaven. As I was concluding the book the verse from Colossians 3:2 came to mind “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth”.
Although I enjoyed reading the book, I did feel that the book had raised more questions than it had answered. It is quite an easy-read as it is only 60 pages long, The quotations from famous Christians were very inspiring. I did, however, struggle with some of the concepts regarding atheism and some of the science behind the coronavirus.