God and the Pandemic by Tom Wright. A Christian reflection on the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath. 

ISBN 978-0-281-08511-8, ebook ISBN 978-0-281-08512-5 RRP £7.99, ebook £3.99

I haven’t written a book review since before I left school (and that was a very long time ago) but after reading this short(ish), biblical yet very accessible and hopeful book, I thought others might be interested to learn about it. So here goes!

Tom Wright, as many will know, is a New Testament Professor at St Andrew’s and Oxford as well as an erstwhile Bishop of Durham. He has authored over 80 books, many academic but many are “for everyone” as one of his New Testament series is entitled. 

I was keen to read this as I had not found any written material that biblically addressed the pandemic that has defined, disrupted and in some cases, destroyed our lives for the past 12 months.  The book was both biblical and practical; it did not disappoint but it did challenge me to rethink some things and, more importantly, act. 

The book describes how we can view the pandemic through the Old and New Testament and specifically focuses on Jesus’ life, teachings and resurrection. Using the thread of events in the whole of the bible he squarely rejects the notion that the pandemic is just a sign for the church to call everyone to repent or or to blindly accept that as God is in control there is nothing we can do. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus (not the current pandemic) are the call to repentance  and that is what we should always focus on. What he does argue is that the Church is called to lament, pray and serve others wherever the need is and to hold the authorities accountable for any injustice – just as Jesus did and as Christians have done throughout history, citing education, health and care for the poor as particular examples. 

There is a fascinating extract of a letter from Martin Luther about responding practically and faithfully to the plagues in his lifetime that shows “there is nothing new under the sun”. His words written in 1527 could have been spoken by a Christian in 2020!

I read this book in an afternoon but will be re-reading, highlighting, scribbling in the margins, reflecting and acting on its message for a long time to come. I hope others find it helpful and hopeful too.

[from Elspeth Pitt]

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