John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ. Wheaton: Crossway, 2020. 121pp.
John Piper is the founder and teacher of DesiringGod.org and the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He served for thirty-three years as pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is the author of more than fifty books, including Desiring God and Reading The Bible Supernaturally. This work is unique for “Pastor John”, as some call him, because it was written in a very short period of time. Yet it does not suffer any seeming deficiency from the fast turn-around time.
In this short work, Dr. Piper seeks to provide a “Rock of certainty rather than the sand of probabilities” during the difficulties of the Coronavirus pandemic (p. 12). He freely acknowledges that some view the gospel of Jesus as an unrealistic hope for the “by-and-by”. But he also argues that, when understood properly, that hope is a real hope and “it just may be that when your by-and-by is beautiful and sure, your here and now will be sweet and fruitful” (p. 17). It is the truthfulness and experiential relevance of the Christian hope that makes it a sure rock upon which one can build their life. Such a person. Dr. Piper argues, will not be shaken even by the very real and present difficulties of a pandemic.
Additionally, far from God’s sovereignty and control being questioned by the current situation, it is argued that these truths are the only hope to keep someone confident through such a time (p. 24). Far from trying to distance God from the current situation, he states: “it is a bitter season. And God ordained it. God governs it. He will end it. No part of it is outside his sway. Life and death are in his hand” (p. 46). Only when one understands that God is in control and is perfectly good, can one trust Him to make the right decisions and not be crushed by fears and anxiety.
John Piper then gives six reasons or paths of understanding for a person to consider as to why God would allow something like this pandemic. Here, he seeks to show how even physical or natural evils are ultimately connected to the moral evils of sin that humanity has committed against God (chapter 6). He suggests that this is an opportunity for a spiritual assessment of each individual before God. Sickness and those difficulties fully outside of mankind’s control, remind human beings that they are mortal and dependent creatures. He argues that the current situation should serve as a wake-up call for human beings to see how they stand with God (chapter 8). The reality of death is often pushed away in modern society, but a situation like that of the present offers humanity time to reflect on death and what comes after. As he argues: “The coronavirus is God’s thunderclap call for all of us to repent and realign our lives with the infinite worth of Christ” (p. 80).
The argument is also made that those who know the truth of the Gospel have an obligation in this time to lovingly reach out to others in acts of service while sharing with them the hope found in Christ (chapter 10). This is in keeping with the clear commands of the New Testament in passages such as I Peter 4:19, as well as the example of the early church and their response to disease and pandemics during their time.
Throughout this book, the reader will find much food for thought. Although the books itself was written in a short period of time, the content has clearly been steeped in ancient truth. All readers will be provoked to think and consider both the current situation and any difficult future situation in a different and more clarifying light. As a short book, it affords the opportunity of swift reading and yet its content also affords the opportunity of much meditation. Meant as a book to give away to others, it serves its purpose admirably. In fact, it was written with the express purpose of making the ebook freely available to all who wish to read it. Perhaps it is best to end with a portion of Dr. Piper’s closing prayer:
“But do not waste our misery and grief, O Lord. Purify your people from powerless preoccupation with barren materialism and Christless entertainment. Put our mouths out of taste with the bait of Satan. Cut from us the roots and remnant of pride and hate and unjust ways. . . Fill us with compassionate courage. And make a name for yourself in the way your people serve. Stretch forth your hand in great awakening for the sake of this perishing world. Let the terrible words of Revelation not be spoken over this generation: “Yet still they did not repent.” As you have stricken bodies, strike now the slumbering souls. Forbid that they would remain asleep in the darkness of pride and unbelief. In your great mercy, say to these bones, “Live!” And bring the hearts and lives of millions into alignment with the infinite worth of Jesus” (p. 107).