This book was written in a week and takes less than an hour to read. It’s no wonder John Lennox, a renowned Christian apologist and Oxford mathematician, asks us to imagine the reading experience as a conversation with him at a coffee shop – those were the days!
It’s a personal, brief response to some of the big questions many people are (and all people should be) asking at this time. That being the case, I was most impressed by how Lennox was able to avoid the superficiality that can come with brevity. Drawing on historical, scientific, theological and philosophical thinkers Lennox helps to make sense of our moment. As the title suggests, the book addresses the problem of pain and suffering, showing how the Christian God offers unique hope.
The heart of the book outlines three broad worldviews that shape our answers to the big questions of life. Lennox demonstrates how pantheistic and atheistic worldviews leave us without substantial hope in the midst of coronavirus. Those familiar with prior books from Lennox will recognize some of his arguments leveled against atheistic thinkers like Dawkins, while others may find their curiosity piqued. Gunning for God is a good place to start if you want to flesh these ideas out.
Positively, the book continues by showing how a loving God can exist alongside evil before turning to the more necessary question of what evidence there is for trusting this God with our lives. Ultimately, Lennox finds the answer at Calvary and concludes, “Therefore, a Christian is not so much a person who has solved the problem of pain, suffering and the coronavirus, but one who has come to love and to trust a God who has suffered himself.” The corona (lit. ‘crown’ in Latin) and the reign of death behind it is ultimately no match for the crown of thorns that “brings us back into a relationship with himself [God] and into a new, unfractured world beyond death.”
The book ends calling Christians to respond to our moment by (1) heeding advice, (2) maintaining perspective, (3) loving our neighbour and (4) remembering eternity. Personally, I found the call to ‘love my neighbour’ take on a new sense of urgency. The church’s historic response to pandemics, recounted in two short pages, was enough to leave me inspired and challenged. Will the church in 2020 be remembered for such bravery and sacrifice too? May God give us strength.
This book will serve to reassure believers that God is still all-good and all-powerful. It’s one I would especially recommend to unbelievers, as Lennox does well to show how certain concepts (such as ultimate justice or objective morality) are widely held assumptions, yet satisfyingly supported only by a biblical worldview. Buy it! We could all do with the company. If this review didn’t whet your appetite you can watch a half-hour discussion of the book between John Lennox and Michael Ramsden here.
Reviewed by Stuart Turton
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