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‘A Christian’, says Lennox, ‘is not a person who has solved the problem of suffering but one who has come to love and trust the God
who has suffered for them.’ (p 52)
Where is God in a Coronavirus World?
by John C. Lennox (The Good Book Company, 2020).
John Lennox has written his latest book, Where Is God in a Coronavirus World? in response to the dramatic events that have unfolded since the beginning of the year. It’s a book written in anticipation of the question that always arises in times of crisis and uncertainty: Where is God in all of this?
Such is the power of the question that it will be, inevitably, asked by believers and non-believers alike. For this reason, the book responds to the current crisis by combining an edifying devotional for believers and a thought-provoking apologetic for non-believers.
Lennox begins by acknowledging the vulnerability that the coronavirus has caused many people to feel. It’s a vulnerability unique to this situation because of the rate at which the virus has been able to spread. It’s this vulnerability that has provoked many people to ask the book’s central question: Where is God?
The book then posits that the ultimate antidote to existential vulnerability is hope. This hope is only forthcoming when we reckon with the deep questions raised in times of crisis. Given that hope is derived from the worldview that each of us holds, Lennox takes time to present the Christian worldview. He contrasts it with other worldviews. He asserts it’s the source of that hope.
Of atheism – a worldview that many people adopt in the face of pain and suffering – Lennox says that it’s incapable of properly reckoning with the deep questions of pain and suffering because it ultimately undermines all of the moral categories by which we deem pain and suffering to be ‘evil’. While this section of the book can often feel tangential to the main point, it provides an effective platform for Lennox to provide his most helpful and profound points.
Ultimately, Lennox wants to move his readers from asking the question in the book’s title to asking a different question. ‘If we accept—as we must—that we are in a universe that presents us with a picture of both biological beauty and deadly pathogens, is that any evidence that there is a God whom we can trust with… our lives and futures?’ (p. 47) According to Lennox, the biblical worldview answer is Yes.
At the heart of the Christian message is the death of Jesus Christ on a cross just outside Jerusalem. The question at once arises: if he is God incarnate, what was he doing on a cross? It means that God has not remained distant from human pain and suffering but has himself experienced it. (p 48)
In the end, to ask ‘Where is God in a coronavirus world?’ is really to ask ‘Where is God if there is so much pain and suffering? ’ The Christian response, as Lennox suggests, is that God isn’t distant or absent in the midst of human suffering, but rather became human and endured suffering himself. So, where is God in a coronavirus world? Right in our midst, suffering with us in our moments of pain. ‘A Christian’, says Lennox, ‘is not a person who has solved the problem of suffering but one who has come to love and trust the God who has suffered for them.’ (p 52)
As Lennox notes in a postscript, this short book doesn’t answer all the questions that the current pandemic raises. But it remains helpful in providing a broader perspective not only to our current circumstances but also to the big questions that come to dominate our minds in times of pain and suffering.
In persuading his readers to ask a different question, Lennox has provided for believers and non-believers alike a window into the ultimate hope provided by Jesus, the incarnate God who suffered as we do. This Christian hope will help us weather the storms of uncertainty which we’re likely to face in coming months and beyond.
Christian Bargholz is an associate editor of InterSections and a member of the Eastside Church of Christ, Sydney.