Upon completion of this writing, I intend to explore several essential considerations. First is to look outwardly, to examine the opinions of friends on the thought, “who they say God is during this pandemic.”
Upon completion of this assignment, I intend to explore several essential considerations. First is to look outwardly, to examine the opinions of friends on the thought, “who they say God is during this pandemic.” This followed by my reflections on the right hand of God’s sovereignty, over the Coronavirus pandemic, in a manner that does not free humanity from their stewardship responsibilities. Moreover, this assignment explores one of the many examples from the Scriptures, where God’s sovereignty overrides man’s disobedience; on this account, God holds the final say in spacetime. The final intention is to defend the integrity of God on the “Achilles Heel” argument of the atheist, on the question, “If God does exist, then why does evil (pandemics)”.
1. Interpreting Reality Through the Eyes of Others
Everyone has an opinion and social media made this increasingly obvious. People usually take their cues from others, we noticed the “panic buying” of toilet paper and sanitizers which occurred earlier during the outbreak which was followed by the irresponsible lack of ‘social distancing” including picture sharing on Instagram, etc, All this revealed how social media has shaped the fears and responses of people, as Alejandro De Lenga Garza said, journalist for Times, New York (Garza 2021). It’s a right to have an opinion, but it is a tragedy to have an opinion that is inconsistent with logic, reality or more simply stated, God’s word. Depending on one’s worldview, my views as a Christian could sound intolerant and narrow-minded but one cannot deny its rationality –the foundation by which my faith stands. It is an accepted fact that how one believes with regard to the questions of Origin, Meaning, Morality and Destiny control the way we live (Smit 2015). This is especially true as the world tries to make sense out of the recent Coronavirus pandemic.
It was a pleasure to discuss the views of friends on the question “Who do the people say God is during this global crisis?” The following three questions help us to understand the lenses by which they filter the current pandemic.
|Question 1: Where is God amidst this crisis – is He still sovereign over this Corona Virus?||Question 2: Why is this happening – is God punishing people?
|Question 3: What does it say about God, that a virus like COVID-19 exists?|
|Dr Deloris Thomas (PhD)||Yes, God is in the midst of the crisis. We hear of His miraculous works of healing and restoration. God is sovereign as he was in biblical times of famines and plagues.||God is love. Plagues happen because we live in a fallen world. God promises those who believe in him that he will preserve them.||God still existed when satan tempted Eve. He still existed when plagues and famines covered the earth. The question is what does it say about humanity and less about what it says about God.|
|Dr Shenley Redlinghuis (D.Min)||Emphatically “Yes”. God has already defeated every infirmity and disease & indisposition. Where is God “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
|I am not sure! Perhaps corona virus has come as a measuring rod of chastisement and correction. Perhaps we have ignored the warning signs. The Bible teaches us that God’s wrath is preceded by a warning so that people have the opportunity to repent. Perhaps the impending depravity of sin & wickedness of man’s heart are contributing factors. Perhaps in part we are witnessing the apotheosis /culmination of the prophetic timeline coming into fruition.
|The scriptures confirm that God is never caught off guard concerning the affairs of man. I sense that Covid 19, reminds us that God is ever-present and the call to return back to rectitude is upon us.
|Mr Denzel Chetty||In the midst of this crisis, we have seen many people healed, we have seen many people that have been protected from the virus through God. However, we have also seen many faithful people die by the virus, that does not take away the sovereignty of God over the Corona virus, but rather asserts God’s will for humanity.||No, to label the Corona Virus has a punishment from God, immediately calls into question all the faithful people that have been infected or died. By labeling the Corona Virus a punishment from God, it takes away the God of the New Testament as being merciful, it also hinders negatively on the theology of ultimate atonement. God allows us to rule the earth as per scripture, however, this does not mean that God is not present. God allows certain things to occur due to freedom of will.||God can use any situation, even Covid-19 to bring about a fresh revelation of who He is. Personally, Covid-19 has seen a God who we kept within closed Church doors on a Sunday, extend beyond that into communities, into families, and even into those homes of non-believers who out of urgency called upon Him.|
Analysing some of the feedback through the three main ways Christians discover the truth. Namely, Revelation, Reason and Experience, narrowed down by the two ways biblical Christians discover the truth, namely the Word of God and Christ (Smith 2015), one cannot fault the feedback on the basis of any theological fallacy. As much as these pocket-size answers magnify some very important-Character-of-God’s love and goodness, they allude also to the axis between God’s goodness (holiness) and God’s remunerative justice (Thiessen 1949). If it is beyond God to make a law and not follow through when it’s violated, then we can not make better sense of God’s punitive justice –the infliction of punishment for violating the laws of God (Gen 2:7; Rom 1:32; 2:8; 2 Thes 1:8); (85). There are at least five categories of “God’s justice” is mentioned by Cook (2019).
Another part of divine justice I wish to refer to is God’s “remunerative justice.” The tendency is to lean towards the punitive justice of God and not the remunerative justice of God is very unsavoury. While the world has stepped far out of line concerning God’s commandments, invoking God’s “specific judgment” (Piper 2020, 69), which must be met (Thiessen 1949), but what about the faithful compared to those who are unfaithful? If God rewards obedience with the same as disobedience, what is the point of being obedient? Shouldn’t the same right hand of God’s justice be equally swift to reward and distinguish the faithful–remunerative justice? (Isa 2:2; Matt 5:14; Rom 8:28; James 1:1-3; 1 John 5:4; Ehp 5:27).
2. Interpreting Reality Through My Eyes
a. Where is God amidst this crisis – is He still sovereign over the Corona Virus?
Pharaoh responded in defiance, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (Exo 5:2). Well, he soon discovered God’s retributive justice (Deut 32:35; 2 The 1:6-7a), a divinely administered just punishment to the wicked for their actions, Cook (2019). God administered ten plagues to judge Pharaoh’s pride and uprooted His people from bondage to forge ahead into destiny. God’s general will reigned sovereign despite the wickedness of man and the disobedience of His covenant people. Amidst all the cataphoric drama, God was in perfect control, with a remnant at his beck and call (1 Kings 19:18; Ezk 9:4-6; Rev 7:3-8).
As we fast-forward to 31 December 2019, according to WHO, when the coronavirus disease was first reported from Wuhan, China, followed by its current catastrophic global effects. If we ask the question, where is God? A biblical Christian must find the courage to believe that He is still a solid rock, we can stand on right amid these uncertain times (Piper 2020). This rock, like Piper, further adds, “it is not fragile, it is not sand… it is not reserved for the by-and-by.., he is the rock under my feet now!” (15).
b. Why is this happening – is God punishing people?
The question “is God punishing people?” is a difficult one. If we were alive in ancient Athens or Rome and the Covid-19 pandemic struck, I would imagine that the song of the city would be something like “we’ve angered the gods, or we hadn’t offered the right sacrifices,” as Piper stated it. In stark contrast, first-century Christianity came as a breath of fresh air. Outside of the Church and the faith, the concept of mercy had no cultural or religious foundation (Piper 2020). Quoting from Spark’s work, The Triumphant of Christianity, Piper shows how God’s love extended to all who needed it in the ancient world (91), especially during times of national disasters such as famines and plagues. As the wealthy in fear fled to the mountains for safety, Christians took a more radical stance. What did they do? They took to the streets to offer help. This helps reframe the taunting question from, Why? “Why has God allowed this to happen?” To the rather more central, What? What can we do during this time of crisis? (9). When people are thinking about their mortality and frailty of life (Psm 39:4), which is a far cry from a hedonistically self-revolving life. Then perhaps we have this moment to respond to the invitation of a groaning all creation and manifest as the sons of God (Rom 8:22), His love, truth and mercy to a world that needs it?
One side to the question of punishment is yes. The other perspective is to see it as “purification”, not as a punishment or condemnation (Piper 2020). This notion was shared among my leadership early last year; as a Pastor, like many others, one was trying to make sense out of this crisis. The purification that the Lord spoke to me about included the kind that will start from the pulpit. He talked to me about “theological purification.”
c. What does it say about God, that a virus like COVID-19 exists?
If all things were created by him and for him (Col 1:16), God reserves the right to use anything to bring His will to pass, including a virus. However, could the “coronavirus outbreak, as in all other calamities, be a physical picture of the moral horror and spiritual ugliness of God-belittling sin?” (Pipier 2020). Could the ten plagues be a sign of the physical judgment for violating the ten moral laws or commandments of God? In the same way, God gave Pharaoh a chance to turn his heart to Him, could it be that God is doing the same to a wayward, defying and arrogant world today (65)? Death through sin ultimately is the reason for all suffering and misery. We have a broken world as a result of the first Adam’s disobedience (Rom 5:12). Everything God created was “good” (Gen 1:32).
Unfortunately, by the result of man’s disobedience, creation has been subject in God’s punitive justice to futility, bondage, corruption (Rom 8:20-22). Still, for those who us in Christ, we are exempt from condemnation (Rom 8:1). Therefore, purification is not condemnation (64); purification is prioritisation for the believer (Matt 6:33, 22:37). But God’s dealings with a depraved world require a different approach. The depraved is not seeking or thinking about God. They do not lose sleep for not praying or not tithing or defying God (66), but they do feel pain and fear and anxieties. Therefore through a world that is already subject to futility and corruption, God could use the Cov-19 virus as He has the Ten Plagues to humble the proud and bring many to repentance in our day (Psm 136:8; Matt 23:12; James 4:6). Are we ready as the Church? Are we prepared to come in through the gate of the sheepfold, the front door (John 10:7), through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not conspiracy theories to obey the “what” found in the Great Mission (Matt 28:19)?
In summary, we have seen how God historically moved sovereignly over man’s disobedience and always had a remanent reserved such a Joseph, Moses, Daniel, who did not bow to gods, but served God’s will, regardless. Finally, on the question of the existence of evil, God stands blameless and justified. All misery and pain entered through sin, yet even in man’s most depraved state, God is still the lifesaver reaching out to rescue whosoever would believe.
- Cook, Stephen R. 2019. “The Theological Categories of God’s Justice.” Thinking on Scriptures, 16 November 2019. https://thinkingonscripture.com/2019/11/16/theological-categories-of-gods-justice/ (Links to an external s
- De LA Garza, Alejandro. 2020. “How Social Media Is Shaping our Fears Of –and Response to –the Coronavirus .” Times, 16 March 2020. https://time.com/5802802/social-media-coronavirus/
- Piper, John. 2020. “Coronavirus and Christ.” Illinois: Crossway publishers.
- Smith, Kevin G. 2015. “Essential Theological Resources.” Johannesburg: South Africa Theological Seminary.
- Thiessen, Henry C. 1949. Lectures in Systematic Theology, edited by Vernon D. Doerksen, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
- Wright, Tom N. 2019. God and the Pandemic. Britain: Ashford Colour Press. eBook ISBN 978–0–281–08512–5