Wright, Christopher J.H. The God I Don’t Understand. Reflections on tough questions of faith. Zondervan. 2008.
CJHW- International director of the Langham Partnership International. Chair of Lausanne Committee’s Theology Working Group.
Here is a very helpful book for those who struggle with ‘why’ questions that relate to life and believing, for those who try to make sense of events and difficulties that are beyond their understanding. Faith can become vulnerable to uncertainties and questions. Wright has given us a ‘tool’ to help us through some of these challenges. Grief and pain put severe limitations on our understanding. This resource helps us face up to those limitations.
“For Christians, evil really is a problem at every level.” (27) How can we deal with the apparent paradox of a loving, all-powerful God and the existence of evil? The origin of evil is a mystery that is not explained in the Bible. A distinction is made between “moral evil and natural evil”. (30) We are told about the entry of evil (sin) into world and its destruction of the relationship between God and man. “Evil does not make sense.” (42) Evil in its various forms is something that we may legitimately be offended by. “The Bible allows us to lament, protest, and be angry at the offensiveness of evil (and it is right that we should be angry).” (55) The defeat of evil arises out of three significant biblical truths; “the utter evilness of sin, the utter goodness of God and the utter sovereignty of God”. (57) The story of Joseph demonstrates these truths and at the Cross of Christ these truths converge to confront evil. The book of Revelation is a graphic portrayal of this confrontation.
The author takes on the daunting assignment of attempting to get our head around the Old Testament examples of God’s violent judgment on various individuals and people groups. This image of God seems incompatible with the God of love and mercy. To maintain that there is a fundamental difference between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament is an acceptable ‘solution’ to the problem. Some would suggest that the Israelites got their marching orders wrong and were too brutal in their conquests. Some suggest that the violence was just an allegory of spiritual warfare. The author declares that the conquest of Canaan was “an act of God”, (90) a punishment for corporate sin. Amid these punishments there are examples of grace, e.g. Rahab, Ruth, the Jebusites, etc.
There are many hard to understand mysteries of the Cross. The Cross was God’s choice but why us and why did he choose to love. We do know that God is love. That love is demonstrated though mercy, redemption, forgiveness, reconciliation, cleansing, etc. The mystery of the “penal substitutionary atonement” (128) is presented. The co-existence of God’s wrath and God’s love is a reality. “God is wrathful because God is love.” Miroslav Volf. The truth of the penal substitutionary atonement begs the question, “Does sin deserve to be punished?” (152)
There are many controversial ‘truths’ held about the “end of the world”. (159) Of one thing there is certainty, Christ will return. That return will be “personal, visible, and glorious”. (175)Scripture is clear in its teaching regarding a reigning, returning and redeeming Christ. Resurrection is a reality however there are many unanswered questions. The Day of Judgment is good news because “God will put things right in the end”. (184) Heaven is not our final home. We anticipate”new heavens and a new earth.” (Isa. 65:17, Rev. 21:1). The first earth is described as a garden; the new earth is described as a city. We not only have a future, we know that future. That truth should impact how we live.