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

The title of Wright’s book at first can be a bit confusing. The book may sound like it’s a book on an unknown god, whom the Athenians worshiped on Areopagus mentioned in Acts. The book, however, is hardly about an agnostic approach to God, but rather, it deals with the character of God, whose ways in the past, present, and future, can be difficult to understand. Hence, the subtitle gives away the essence of the content. The book is on four tough questions, from which Christians tend to shy away. They make up the four distinct sections of the book: What about evil and suffering? What about the Canaanites? What about the cross? What about the end of the world?

Wright’s approach to these questions is not so much for an outsider looking in. It doesn’t have an apologetic tone, which is refreshing to read. There is no lambasting of a strawman, there’s no sleight-of-hand tricks of divine rhetoric. There is however, a honest approach to the complexities of the question. For instance, the issue of “evil” is not simply, who is evil? Rather, it’s a question of nature, origin, and offense. Evil is a matter of creation’s fall, and the ultimate redemption that occurs at the cross. The conquest of the Canaanites is not simply a matter of gruesome violence, but the reasons behind the violence within a framework of a just God, who punishes his own people. The discussion of the cross engages in the popular notions of the human ‘self’  and punishment, but also the biblical dealings with both guilt and shame. The end time is full of controversies, but not without hope in its ultimate climax and restoration.

Wright works through these things within the context of culture and church. His awareness of common objections and defeaters helps him to navigate through the trenches of difficult questions. He has biblical passages, which saturate the discussions, as well as hymns, which give reason for praise.

I first heard Dr. Wright years ago when I was a student at Yale. I remember him delivering a sermon at my church, and then, discussing some key things going on at Langham. Frankly, I can’t remember that much about that first encounter, but I was convinced that he was learned–very well spoken, very honest, very passionate–all of which characterize this effort to give an account of a God, whom Wright has begun to understand.

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