God did not make COVID 19. It was caused by humans' sinful nature actualized in greed, environmental ignorance, and nature overexploitation. He did not avoid the pandemic because He could not do something contradicting His nature as love. He did not leave people alone in the pandemic. He wants them to reexamine their lives, restore the relationship with God, and treat nature well.
The coronavirus is terrorizing the world and spreading like wildfire. Only in four months (up to the time this article is written), it has been affecting 210 countries and territories around the world, infecting more than 2.5 million people, and caused more than 175,000 death. Our leaders have implemented various approaches considered compatible in their country's conditions. Our scientists have also been researching the efficacious vaccine. To help “flatten the curve” of the virus victims, societies have engaged in physical distancing, self-quarantine, wearing a mask, staying at home protocols. However the number of infected people keeps on skyrocketing, while the protocols have caused some disadvantageous effects, like financial hardships for small businesses operators and those working in informal sectors, and unfavorable mental effects, (e.g., emotional disturbance, depression, stress, low mood, irritability, and insomnia).
Confronted with fear and uncertainty since all struggles and researches have not yet given light in the frightening darkness of the pandemic, turning to God to find the solace is the best we can do. Some church friends of mine and I also tried to share our reflections on what the Bible says. Thanks to technology that enables us to discuss online. To make the results of the discussion accessible to other Christians, I put them into this article. It focuses on whether God made coronavirus or not and why He allowed it. It starts by comparing the features of disasters in the Old Testament and the New Testament and the modern world. It ended with a brief discussion on why God does not immediately stop the pandemic.
Disasters in the Old Testament
The Bible describes several natural catastrophes causing massive loss of life like the current coronavirus pandemic. The 10 plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7-11) sent by God to get Pharaoh to let the Israelite nation leave are first disasters in the Old Testament. Then a plague demolished 24,000 people because some of the Israelites fell into idolatry with the daughters of Moab and worshiped Baal Peor (Numbers 25:1-9). In the era of Noah, God sent the Great Flood to destroy the earth due to humanity's corruption and violence (Genesis 6: 9—9:17). Due to their lust and sinful behavior, Sodom and Gomorrah were completely destroyed with a rain of fire and brimstone (Genesis 19).
Those exemplary stories have three similar characteristics: they had a purpose, were preceded by warnings and were selective. The ten plagues were sent because Pharoah refused to let God’s people leave. The other three mentioned above were used by God as a last resort in very distinct moments to respond to extreme conditions of depravity and ask them to repent. The plague that ravaged 24,000 people were sent because the majority of Israelites had committed heinous sins. In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, not even ten righteous people could be found in both cities. In the Great Flood, only Noah and his family were found to be righteous around the world. So each of them had an obvious goal.
These disasters were also preceded by warnings. They were announced so that the targeted people have the opportunity to repent (Amos 3:7). In the case of Pharaoh, God sent Moses to warn him, but he finally let God’s people go after 10 plagues occurred. Long before the plague ravaging 24,000 people, the Israelites had been given the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17) but many of them disobeyed. Some years before the Great Flood, God told Noah “The end of all flesh has come before me, because the earth is full of violence as a result of them.” (Genesis 6:13). Noah was allowed to warn other people--unfortunately, nobody listened to him and repented (2 Peter 2:5; Matthew 24:39). God told Abraham his plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah due to their inhabitants’ notorious sins. Abraham was also given the opportunity to argue with God in an appeal against His decision.
In disasters, God was selective. He never ‘swept away the righteous with the wicked.’ (Genesis 18:23, 25). Only the guilty party was affected. The righteous people who obeyed God were saved. God also provided a chance for sinful people to repent. In the Great Flood, Noah, a righteous man who walked with God, was given detailed instructions for the making of the ark for survival and for gathering the animals. In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot was provided the opportunity to warn his family of the impending destruction. The angels asked him, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place (Genesis 19:12-13). Lot and his family were granted safety by asking them to leave the city and not look back. But Lot's wife looked back upon the city and was turned into a pillar of salt.
The provision of a chance to repentance, besides in the stories above, is clearly shown through the story of Niniveh. Due to its inhabitants’ sins and wickedness, Niniveh would also have been destroyed. But they listened to Jonah and repented, called for a fast, put on sackcloth, and turned away from evil and violence. Seeing this, “God relented of the disaster that He had said He would do to them, and He did not do it.” (Jonah 3:10).
Disasters in the New Testament
The New Testament mentions two disasters, i.e. the sudden collapse of a tower in Siloam that caused 18 deaths, and the slaughter of innocent Galileans by Pilate's soldiers in the Temple (Luke 13 1–4). Although the killing of the Galileans was more political rather than natural, it can be included in the various tragic events that are beyond ordinary people's control.
Different from the catastrophes in the Old Testament, disasters in Jesus’ era seem to be not ‘purely’ natural. The sudden collapse of a tower in Siloam causing 18 deaths was due to environmental ignorance, careless engineering, defective planning, unheeded warnings, and time and unforeseen occurrence. The slaughter of the innocent Galileans by soldiers in the Temple was related to the evil of politics. In short, rather than natural, they are due to human errors.
These disasters were also not a result of God's judgment. There is no indication that the victims of both incidents have done something wrong. Jesus emphasized the victims were not dead due to their sins: "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no!" (Luke 13: 2). This indicates that different from the catastrophes in the Old Testament that were selective, the disasters in the New Testament do not discriminate between good and bad people.
In this occasion, besides explaining that disasters can hit both righteous and wicked people, Jesus did not only talk about mortality but also about the possibility of eternal punishment, which Scripture calls the ‘second death’ (Rev.20:11-15) by saying: “Unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13.3).
Next, different from the disasters in the Old Testament that were preceded by a warning, the disasters in the New Testament are without God’s warning. They typically occurred out of nowhere and unpredictable.
Disasters after Jesus’ Era
Although the New Testament reports only a limited number of disasters, it foretells that there would be disasters in the world. In Luke 21:11 Jesus says: “And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.” Our history has recorded numerous natural catastrophes and pandemic that prove this prophecy. The plague that swept through the Roman Empire and wiped out one-third of the population in 165 and the 251 plague causing 5,000 deaths per day in the city of Rome alone are two examples in the early era. The 1931 catastrophic flood that claimed millions of lives in China, the 2005 earthquake that killed over 73,000 people in Pakistan, the catastrophic tsunami in South Asia occurred in December 2004, the 2005 Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf states, the 2017 mudslides that killed more than 200 people in the Philippines, and the 2019 tornadoes in the American Midwest that affected about 50 million people are examples in the modern time. And today, most parts of the world have been suffering from COVID 19, and no expert can give solid predictions on when it will end.
Did God Make COVID 19?
These recent catastrophes, including COVID 19, have at least three similarities with the disasters in the New Testament. First, they occurred without God’s warning. Second, they are not a result of God’s judgment as they victimized people unselectively. Third, they seem to be not ‘purely’ natural because, to some extent, humans have contributed to these natural disasters. These disasters are not ‘purely’ natural because God made everything “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Water was God’s good creation, but due to excessive deforestation and pollution causing climate change water can turn to flood. Earthquake does not indicate weakness or incompleteness of God's creation. It is essentially a mechanism the earth needs to “adjust” itself in order to maintain its proper balance and to allow nutrients and minerals to cycle from the ocean to the earth’s surface. Earthquake becomes a disaster when humans build settlements in areas prone to it.
In a similar way, a virus must have been included in the good creation of the universe (Genesis 1). Viruses are important microbial predators that influence global biogeochemical cycles and drive microbial evolution. Roossinck says, “Viruses, like bacteria, can be important beneficial microbes in human health and in agriculture." Coronavirus originally lived in bats. But it becomes lethal due to humans' overexploitation of nature. It infected humans because their activities excessively overlapped the habitats of bats. Thus, God did not make COVID 19!
Based on the arguments above, it makes a much better sense that disasters, including COVID 19, are caused by people’s sinful nature actualized in human errors, environmental ignorance, careless engineering, defective planning, greed, and unheeded warnings. God is the source of good. However, due to human evil since the fall of Adam, humans' relationship with God is distant, and the distance makes evil comes. French said disasters are attributed to the “thorns and thistles” that now grow up in a fallen world (Gen. 3:18), part of the futility to which the creation has been subjected in its bondage to corruption (Rom. 8:20-21). DeYoung emphasized: “The coronavirus is a natural evil, … whose existence is the result of original sin. The root of all human pain and suffering in the world is the rebellion of our first parents—a rebellion that Christ conquered on the cross and will one day wipe away, along with all its sad and sinister effects.”
Since the sufferings caused by any disaster are due to human sinful nature, we cannot blame God for them. Conversely, we need to receive them as a consequence of our faults and
Did God allow COVID 19?
Some people ask, “Okay. God didn’t make COVID 19, but why did He allow it? Why didn’t He stop it immediately?” Since God is all-powerful who can do anything He wills, of course, God could avoid or stop the pandemic. But he would not do it because He is love (1 John 4:7-21). Love includes the capacity or freedom to choose or free will. Mankind was created in His image so that we have the capacity to love Him and one another. having the capacity to love provides us with the capacity to choose. Although He accentuated His intent that the Israelites would choose life by obeying Him, God granted His people the freedom to choose whether they will follow Him or not (Deuteronomy 30:15-19). This indicates the free will is essential in righteous character development. Without such free will, love is merely coercion, and such love is not genuine. Consequently, the relationships built on coerced love would hold no meaning.
Since God is love, He cannot act in another way. If He just stopped humans’ efforts that could result in disasters, God would be defying His nature and acting against His immutable attributes. In the context of the COVID 19 outbreak, scientific research has shown that coronavirus pandemic occurred because of the virus which was originally contained in bats has jumped into humans and the main causes were wildlife exploitation, climate change, and explosive growth of the human population. Thus, God allowed COVID 19 because He could not do something that contradicts His nature as love.
Although COVID 19 is the consequence of human evil, God does not leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). He assured that if we believe the gospel and seek to live in light of it, we can take heart that Jesus—in all His power and might—is walking with us during this age of uncertainty.
However, walking with Jesus does not mean that we are free from suffering. In the spiritual sense, suffering and trials make us more mature in faith. Peter reminds us of the benefits of facing adversities: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).
So, while facing the pandemic, God wants us to reexamine our lives. He wants to return to the harmonious relationship with him for Jesus had sacrificed himself to restore the relationship. God also wants us to reconsider how we had treated nature. It is time for us to realize that God did not tell us to exploit the nature irresponsibly. The Bible says, “… God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ (Genesis 1:27–28). Hyneman and Shore say that God actually told humans to share the exercise of power (dominion) over nature with Him. During the creation process, dominion belonged to God only. However, He gave humans the task of dominion to establish an extraordinary power-sharing relationship with humans. That is why "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (Genesis 2:15). Since research has shown that humanity’s overexploitation of nature is one of the factors behind the spread of new diseases, if we do not take care of nature, if we keep on overexploiting it, new diseases will surely outbreak.
Unlike natural disasters in the Old Testament that God purposively used to ask humans to repent and punish the guilty party, since Jesus era, there is no more catastrophe purposively used to judge the sinful. Disasters in the New Testament and the modern world, including COVID 19, did not discriminate between good and bad people. God did not make COVID 19. It was caused by humans' sinful nature actualized in greed, errors, environmental ignorance, careless engineering, defective planning, etc. God did not avoid or stop COVID 19 because He could not do something that contradicts His nature as love. Although COVID 19 is the consequence of human evil, He did not leave people and wants them to reexamine their lives, restore the relationship with God, and treat nature well.
What do you think about this article? We'd love to hear from you. Please write in the comments section below.
What do you think about this article? We'd love to hear from you. Please write in the comments section below.
Author: Parlindungan Pardede (firstname.lastname@example.org)