Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
With an impressive speed of writing and publication, John Piper aims to offer some hope and grounding to Christians amidst the coronavirus crisis.
Structured around two parts, Piper aims to first show us the the God who reigns over the coronavirus (and, of course, everything else). In the second part, Piper attempts to take our knowledge of God from Part 1 in order to address the question: what is God doing during during the coronavirus? At only 100 pages or so, it is a bite-sized book of reassurance and pastoral solace rather than a full theological treatment.
In this regard, I think Piper achieves his aim very well. The writing is simple, easy to read, and never verbose. The point of the book is to remind the reader of truth that serves as a foundation stone on which to base our lives in a time of crisis and that aim is certainly accomplished.
As it turns out, this is the first Piper book I have read. I think his style, certainly in this book, will be appreciated by many. Personally, the writing felt very informal, which is not to my taste, even in a pastorally oriented book, though the same style will invariably resonant well with some.
In his first section, Piper wants to ground us in the nature of God Himself, as revealed in the Bible. A good place to start, no doubt, but I did find an epistemological issue with regards to the quesiton “why do you trust the Bible?” His answer is very subjective (which he even admits) and is possibly unhelpful. The reason we can trust the Bible is not because of our own internal feelings. In fact, it does seem to slightly undermine his message of having a firm rock on which we stand.
Piper says that our understanding of God’s relationship with us is based on the Trinity and in God’s holiness, righteousness, and goodness. In doing so, he rightly discounts human suffering as an indication of God’s unrighteousness – a very useful point for us to remember in a time of suffering where people may turn to resent God. Piper also gives a really powerful attestation of the sovereignty of God; he gives a sober and welcome reminder that God gives and takes away life in His wisdom.
He does use some odd language with respect to Divine simplicity, though. “I take that to mean that while there are aspects of His character (His heart) that incline away from grieving us, nevertheless other aspects of His character dictate the holiness and righteousness of grieving us… But neither is He without complexity. His character is more like a symphony than a solo performance” (pg. 39). I think I know what Piper means, but I am not sure the language is helpful.
The second section Piper address what God is doing through the coronavirus. He gives 6 short answers. Of particular interest was that he maintained that God is using the coronavirus as a form of judgement in at least some situations. His distinction between purifying and punitive judgements was a useful and accurate one.
Overall, this book is a timely remind of God’s sovereign purpose in a global crisis, and a welcome call turn our eyes to the Rock and Foundation of all truth, who is sovereign over the coronavirus.
“In the presence of God, no one has a right to life. Every breath we take is a gift of grace. Every heartbeat, undeserved. Life and death are finally in the hands of God.” pg. 42