Today I received my copy of N. T. Wright’s God and the Pandemic (many thanks to the folks at Hearts and Minds Books in Pennsylvania for the amazing service). It’s a tiny book, clocking in at just over 70 pages. Wright has had a couple of shorter pieces (likely adaptations) in various sites over the last few months. I’m about halfway through the work. And while Wright introduces some of the tropes he’s known for (to the frustration of some, he likes to touch on Stoicism and Epicureanism), when he gets “going” with the Gospels and Jesus, he’s on fire. And he does it while looking at the broader context of the biblical story in a way that helps you feel the weight of the Gospel narratives’ climactic role in what God has done. One of my favorite passages so far concerning Jesus, the Gospels, and our quest for answers in relation to Jesus being “the final word”:
The New Testament insists that we put Jesus at the centre of the picture and work outwards from there. The minute we find ourselves looking at the world around us and jumping to conclusions about God and what he might be doing, but without looking carefully at Jesus, we are in serious danger of forcing through an ‘interpretation’ which might look attractive– it might seem quite ‘spiritual’ and awe-inspiring– but which actually screens Jesus out of the picture. As the old saying has it, if he is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all.
. . . Trying to jump from an earthquake, a tsunami, a pandemic or anything else to a conclusion about ‘what God is saying here’ without going through the Gospel story is to make the basic theological mistake of trying to deduce something about God while going behind Jesus’ back.