A burning question currently saturating the internet is whether or not COVID-19 is God’s judgment sent to the earth.
Those who believe it is judgment have a two-pronged approach: one Biblical, and the other theological.
The Biblical argument is typically based on the Egyptian plagues, Sodom and Gomorrah, Ananias and Sapphira, King Herod, the book of Revelation, and numerous other texts used as proof that God does send sickness and disease either to induce repentance, mete out punishment, or both.
The theological argument comes primarily from a Calvinist position that exalts God’s sovereign power above all else – He’s God, we are not; He can do whatever He pleases.
I realize these explanations are very simplified, and those who hold such ideas have a world of detail and nuance to bring to their arguments; aspects that are undoubtedly crucial and important.
Unfortunately, there is only so much ground I can cover in an 850-word blog post. Suffice it to say, this line of thinking views God as all-powerful, that He sends sickness in the Old and New Testaments, and that disease can be used as a tool for conversion or correction.
For numerous reasons – too many to list them all here – I vehemently oppose the idea of the coronavirus (or any other sickness) as being sent from God in efforts to bring about repentance or punishment. In fact, I find the idea reprehensible.
From a Biblical standpoint, we could certainly go back and forth over the various verses. Yet, these types of conversations are especially difficult if there is not agreement concerning how the Bible is actually constructed. It is a masterpiece of a book, including all sorts of literary genres. From story to poetry, apocalyptic to ancient Near East epics, every interpreter must know that not all of the Biblical literature is meant to be read in the same way. It would be equivalent to trying to read the news and Narnia with similar approaches. One is hard facts (well, sort of :), and the other is a beautiful tale, rich with vivid allegory and imagination. Nevertheless, both are “true” in their own way.
Theologically speaking, we could debate the finer points of God’s “attributes.” We could attempt to manage the absolutely unmanageable tension between God’s radically different “qualities.” Yet, I cannot imagine a more fruitless exercise. Distilling God down to a list of attributes – some of which appear deeply conflicted – and attempting to achieve a balance between them is virtually impossible. It quickly becomes a subjectively-driven enterprise, one that I do not have the desire or the energy to engage in.
Instead, I want to highlight the logically incoherent nature of any idea that suggests God sent the coronavirus as judgment.
First, it has been stated repeatedly that this judgment is primarily a result of two sins: homosexuality and abortion. If that were the case (it most certainly is not), it would stand to reason that only the homosexual or the abortive mother would be catching the virus.
Yet, there are dear believers – people who vehemently oppose sexual immorality and abortion – that are infected. What exactly are they being judged for?
Others say it is merely a judgment because of sin. Again, wouldn’t only those guilty of the crime deserve the punishment? And since every person has sinned, why do we not all have it?
To suggest that innocent people are being impacted by a virus that God sent for sin (or sinners) is to equate Him to a dominant world power, waging war on tiny countries with utter callousness toward civilian casualties. If God is sending this to create repentance or punishment toward those with specific sins, He appears to be a terrible aim, if nothing else.
Second, and this draws the most ire, I’m committed to the idea that God is good.
I know, I know… He’s also “a God of wrath,” to which I would most certainly agree. However, inflicting your creation with a fatal disease is not an act of wrath; it’s an act of evil. It is not corrective, it is destructive. This is precisely why Paul declares God’s goodness compels men to repentance, not God’s vengeance.
Third, this is inherently eschatological. Jesus’ ministry was a signpost pointing to the coming New Creation – a restoration of everything once lost in the Garden. The new heavens and new earth are God’s restored cosmos where He dwells with man – one in which sickness, disease, and death are forever defeated.
This is God’s ultimate intention for the cosmos and his humans within it. Therefore, it makes no moral or logical sense whatsoever to assume God is sending disease into a cosmos and to a people that He is simultaneously working to renew.
That’s why I believe the coronavirus is simply that, a virus. More specifically, it is a competition with evolution, one in which we will prevail with prayer, some basic precautions, and outstanding medical achievement.
I still believe deeply in repentance, in holiness, in a life without spot or wrinkle. I also still believe that a blazing vision of God’s love and goodness is what originally, and continually, compels us to holiness, to purity, to shun the things of this world.
After all, we love Him BECAUSE He first loved us.