Coronavirus and Christ | Book Review


It is incumbent upon followers of Jesus Christ to think, feel, and act Christianly—that is, like Christ—at all times. This includes how we think, feel, and act with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic that has radically changed life’s routines for millions, if not billions, over the course of this year. In the face of this upending of normalcy, John Piper’s Coronavirus and Christ asks, “Do we have a Rock under our feet? A Rock that cannot be shaken—ever?” (page 8).

The answer comes in Part 1, “The God Who Reigns Over the Coronavirus.” Piper’s thesis is that “the same sovereignty that could stop the coronavirus, yet doesn’t, is the very sovereignty that sustains the soul in it” (pages 23, 38, 45, 50; emphasis in original). Piper is a well-known Calvinist, and this answer reflects his theological commitment to “all-pervasive sovereignty” or “meticulous sovereignty” (pages 40, 49). Piper writes:

So when I say that God’s sovereignty means that he can do, and in fact does do, all that he decisively wills to do, I mean there is no force outside himself that can thwart or frustrate his will. When he decides for a thing to happen, it happens. Or to put it another way, everything happens because God wills it to happen (page 39, emphasis in original).

Three pages late, Piper draws the logical conclusion from this view of sovereignty:

The coronavirus was sent, therefore, by God. This is not a season for sentimental views of God. 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 (page 42).

That being the case, in Part 2, “What Is God Doing Through the Coronavirus?” Piper turns to Scripture to identify six possible answers to God’s purpose in the pandemic. They are:

  1. God is giving the world in the coronavirus outbreak, as in all other calamities, a physical picture of the moral horror and ugliness of God-belittling sin (page 61, emphasis in original).
  2. Some people will be infected with the coronavirus as a specific judgment form God because of their sinful attitudes and actions (page 69).
  3. The coronavirus is a God-given wake-up call to be ready for the second coming of Christ (page 73).
  4. The coronavirus is God’s thunderclap call for all of us to repent and realign our lives with the infinite worth of Christ (page 77).
  5. The coronavirus is God’s call to his people to overcome self-pity and fear, and with courageous joy, to do the good works of love that glorify God (page 87).
  6. In the coronavirus God is loosening the roots of settled Christians, all over the world, to make them free for something new and radical and to send them with the gospel of Christ to the unreached peoples of the world (page 95).

I am not going to take the time to offer a detailed rebuttal of Piper’s thesis or the six possible answers outlined above. Instead, I would simply point to three lines of questions that Christian readers might ask in a critical reading of Coronavirus and Christ:

First, is Piper’s account of God’s meticulous sovereignty in fact the Bible’s own? I ask because the line of reasoning in these two sentences (quoted above) seems a non sequitur: “When he decides for a thing to happen, it happens. Or to put it another way, everything happens because God wills it to happen.” I agree that if God wills something to happen, it will happen. This doesn’t mean that everything that happens is God’s will, however.

Second, might it be better to interpret Piper’s six answers in terms of result rather than purpose? I acknowledge that the coronavirus can be the occasion for Christians to grow in Christ, manifesting as works of evangelism and compassionate service. I do not necessarily think, however, that we can confidently say that these are the reasons why God willed the coronavirus to happen.

Third, has Piper missed other lines of inquiry from Scripture? I would simply point out the way multiple ways the spread of COVID-19 has been exacerbated by bad policy decisions at all levels of government, and that the brunt of the disease has been felt by the elderly, the racial and ethnic minority, and the poor. Might thinking, feeling, and acting Christianly also entail engaging with these systemic issues?

Book Reviewed
John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Wednesday, June 15, 2011


This summer, the General Council of the Assemblies of God will vote on a proposal to consolidate the three nationally owned schools in Springfield, Missouri: AG Theological Seminary, Central Bible College, and Evangel University. Dr. George O. Wood, who serves as AG general superintendent (and is my dad) outlines the proposal in the video below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Consolidation Proposal for Springfield Resident…, posted with vodpod

More information on the proposed consolidation is available here.

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In “Anthony Weiner and the National Adultery Ritual,” Kay Hymowitz writes: “Far from a vestige of American prudery, then, the National Adultery Ritual is best understood as a modern protest in behalf of women against the persistence of male infidelity in an age of equality.” Read the whole thing.

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“Nigeria’s violence political, not religious, says Muslim leader.” If you’re on the wrong end of the stick, does it matter what the stick-wielder’s motivation is?

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Make sure to read Scott Yenor on “The Family’s End” and “The Family: What Is To Be Done?” in which he battles against the notion that marriage is merely a contract between two individuals.

Marriage has contractual moments, but it ultimately, as Hegel writes, supersedes the point of view of contract as the individuals lose their identity by becoming members of the family. A healthy culture recognizes this and laws create a fertile space for such mutual self-giving. It is difficult to see how a healthy marriage culture can exist until we recover the language of self-giving to reflect its continuing reality in our lives. The language of contract is not sufficient to that experience.

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“Demonize the opposition, chapter 666”: about how the media portrays opponents of same-sex marriage, of course.

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“Can Government Get Out of the Marriage Business?” Contra Ron Paul, evidently not.

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“I Am Second.” Inspiring videos from people who have decided to live for God and others rather than for themselves.

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“The Perennial Brain-Mind Gap.” In which Raymond Tallis argues that “neuroscience cannot–not just has not yet, but cannot–explain consciousness itself.”

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“Jesus for Jews”: on the resurgence of Jewish interest in Jesus.

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“Too Late for Apologies: Three Steps the U.S. Bishops Should Take to Prevent Another Sexual Abuse Scandal.” Good advice!

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Don Carson, Tim Keller, and John Piper on pastoral succession plans.

“Practicing Affirmation” by Sam Crabtree


Sam Crabtree, Practicing Affirmation: God-Centered Praise of Those Who Are Not God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011). $14.99, 176 pages.

As my wife and I raise our toddler son, we notice that he responds better to affirmation than to correction. If we affirm his behavior as good and praise him for it, he increasingly behaves in the desired way. However, if he hears “No” too often, he tunes us out.

According to Sam Crabtree, “Affirmation is the purpose of the universe—specifically, affirmation of God.” But, he argues, we also should affirm “those who are not God.” The Bible teaches that God affirms us, whether believer or unbeliever, if we act in ways that reflect his image. And it further teaches us to do the same to others. When we affirm people, we praise the God in whose image they are made.

Affirmation is the “key to refreshing relationships.” According to Crabtree, it should be “detached from correction,” “steady,” “honest,” and “God-centered.” More than a compliment, an affirmation pays attention to “patterns of character that emerge from the work of God going on inside a person.”

Affirmation does not negate the need for correction. My wife and I cannot affirm every temper tantrum our son throws, for example. But affirmation—especially when it predominates in a relationship—provides the emotional space in which correction can be given and received.

Crabtree serves as executive pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, where John Piper is senior pastor. The way Crabtree frames some of his remarks reflects Piper’s distinctive Calvinist theology, but Arminians can learn from the book too. Crabtree offers sound biblical advice on affirmation, a topic that should not be theologically controversial, but a practice that is sorely needed in our homes, our churches, and our communities.

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P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

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