Jan 23, 2009

Review of Christopher J. H. Wright's The God I Don't Understand

Wright, Christopher J. H. The God I Don't Understand: Reflections on the Tough Questions of the Faith. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008.

Thanks to Andrew Rogers at Zondervan for the review copy.

I have long appreciated the writing of Christopher J. H. Wright. In particular I have been both enlightened and encouraged with his work in the area of Old Testament ethics and missions. As an author he is easy to read and biblical in his approach.

In the book at hand Wright turns his attention to some common faith-challenging topics: the problem of evil, the divinely-ordained destruction of the Canaanites, the Cross, and the end of the world. I appreciate Wright’s willingness to rush in to places where “angels fear to tread.” His identification of the issues, different views, and potential solutions is clear and thoughtful. I found his treatment of the Canaanite conundrum particularly helpful. I also appreciate the stated goal of the author to help Christians to sustain their faith.

That being said, there are a few areas where I was less enthusiastic about. For example, there were times when I felt that that author was really discussing the people I don’t understand rather than the God I don’t understand. This is not entirely surprising given the nature of this book, but I note it nonetheless. I also felt that Wright’s characterization of positions in the end times section was a bit harsh and unfair, and his argumentation is weak at points. The harshness was evident for example in his title for chapter ninth: “Cranks and Controversies.” To be fair, I may be taking exception to this since he would probably consider me as a pretibulational premillennialist to be a “crank.” But even if I didn’t have my eschatology quite right, I am not sure that calling me a “crank” is helpful in moving the dialogue forward or sustaining me (and others like me) in my faith. I suggest that Wright characterization of pretribulationalism/premillennialism was unfair in that he seemed to straw man a bit, by taking some of the weaker examples of the view and treating them as normative (see pp. 163, 165). Finally, I would suggest that the author might be guilty of the pot calling the kettle black in condemning premillennialists for holding to a literal millennium in Revelation 20 and then proceeding to argue that chapters 21–22 should apparently be taken literally (see. pp. 195–6). What is the hermeneutical basis for making such a move? I would also argue that Wright’s discussion of Matthew 24:40–41 is also wrong in that the position that he condemns is not one held by many pretibulationists.

Reservations aside, I think The God I Don't Understand is worth reading and my appreciation for the work of Christopher Wright as a whole remains undiminished.

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