My Review of Christopher J.H. Wright’s The God I Don’t Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith

13 Jan

A Brief Review of The God I Don’t Understand:

Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith

(Christopher J.H. Wright, Zondervan, 2008, ISBN: 9780310275466)

In exchange for receiving a free copy of Wright’s book, I agreed to review it on my blog for Zondervan. What a deal! I’m always open to literary blackmail!

But I’m very happy Zondervan made the offer. In general, I enjoyed Wright’s wide-ranging survey of very pertinent theological questions. What Wright calls “the strangeness of the ways of God,” why He allows great comfort or great suffering to come into the lives of His children seems to be the underlying motivation for the book. He says, “it seems to me that the older I get the less I think I really understand God. Which is not to say that I don’t love and trust him.” (p. 15). We are meant to lament and protest evil in our world; it is wrong not to do so. Sin, as Bernard Ramm so eloquently put it, is an Offense to Reason. We are in good company as we stand before God in our confusion and grief (biblical examples are given). Wright’s motive is to build up God’s people, not betray their faith. I believe he accomplishes that task.

The Bible affirms the reality of evil and suffering, but also sets forth the love and omnipotence of God (contra Kushner, for example). In discussing “The Offence of Evil,” Wright points out that sometimes creation “fights back” when it is abused (I couldn’t help but think of that great date flick The Happening here!). Concerning “The Defeat of Evil,” Wright does not side with those who deny God’s omnipotence (Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People) or His omniscience (Boyd’s open theism).

In discussing the Canaanites, Wright suggests three dead ends in our treatment of their annihilation in the OT: (1) It’s an Old Testament Problem which the New Testament puts right; (2) The Israelites thought it was what God commanded, but they were wrong; (3) It is all meant as an allegory of spiritual warfare. I am grateful for this quote from John Wenham: “It is fallacious to regard this as essentially an Old Testament problem, and to set the ‘bloodthirsty’ Old Testament over against the ‘gentle’ New Testament. Possibly the phenomenon is more crude in the Old Testament than in the New, but of the two the New Testament is the more terrible, for the Old Testament seldom speaks of anything beyond temporal judgments . . . whereas the Son of man in the Gospels pronounces eternal punishment.” I believe Wright did a superior job of dealing with this “problem” of the Canaanites.

Wright’s discussion of the substitutionary atoning work of Christ was very helpful.

Regarding eschatology, Wright shows his wrath toward over-speculative Christians on the end-times. He seems a bit unfair toward Bible-thumping pretribulational premills like myself, but I’m a big boy and I can take it. His perspective on the new heavens and new earth was quite refreshing. Randy Alcorn’s Heaven presents a more popularized view of the same.

Wright concludes this excellent volume by saying, “So work matters. Society matters. Our contribution to human life and well-being matters.” (p. 219). I would say that this book matters too. Whether or not it was literary blackmail!

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Posted by on January 13, 2009 in Uncategorized


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