The world is trying to make sense of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lock-downs that have accompanied it. One area of interest has been God’s part in all of it. In Part 1, we looked at biblical reasons why calling the COVID-19 pandemic “judgment” is incorrect.
What problems are associated with thinking of and referring to the COVID-19 pandemic as God’s judgment?
- As noted in the previous article, there is no revelation that supports the claim that God is, in fact, judging anyone/anything with this pandemic. Biblical faith is based on revelation.
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”Romans 10:17
So, without any biblical revelation to support the claim that the COVID-19 pandemic is, in fact, a judgment from God, such claims cannot be made “in faith.” Again, as was said previously, God could be judging people, behaviors, etc. based on what He has done in the past. However, such dogmatic claims are speculative. Unfortunately, these kinds of claims are made all the time in evangelical circles.
- Since there is no objective revelation upon which to claim God is judging humanity with COVID-19, all such claims are subjective, constructivist.
How many times have you heard, “I just know God is doing this because…”, and what follows does not have a biblical counterpart or justification? For example:
When I broke my arm, I just knew God was chastising me.
I know God is just trying my faith with all of this financial hardship.
I know God took him/her home early because he/she wouldn’t live for Him.
I believe these statements are made from a subjective analysis, not an objective one. Our culture is consumed with this kind of constructivist mindset. (For a brief explanation and to see how this mindset can skew our Bible reading, see my post here.) That is, what is “real” is what I feel or think about it (see transgenderism). But reality isn’t about what I think or feel, it is about what God has said/revealed.
When we make subjective claims, we are not helping the culture around us see the objective, stable, trustworthy God as He is revealed in the Bible. Instead, we are complicit in their belief that all beliefs about reality are merely perspectives on reality.
- Claiming that COVID-19 is a judgment from God reinforces our culture’s legalistic view of God.
Our culture does not really know the God of the Bible; but they think they do.
“Many people whose view of God is not shaped in a significant way by Christ still believe in a transcendent god of some kind. Yet such a god can never save them. Those who do not know God through Christ can have only a legal knowledge of God, not an evangelical one. A legal knowledge of God makes God unbearable unless his teeth are pulled in some way, since his Law crushes and condemns us unless we are in Christ.”Michael Lockwood, Unholy Trinity, p. 158
A legalistic view of God is a form of idolatry (see Galatians 4:8-10). I am not arguing that we cease from preaching the Law to incite an awareness of sin. However, when we double-down on a message of judgment in the midst of a culture’s suffering, we reinforce an attitude about our God that is entirely incorrect.
- By calling it judgment, we fail to see the message of COVID-19 while trying to apply a meaning, or purpose, to it.
We like life to be simple and straightforward. We want to know the real reason behind something, without the spin. We want to know the one, simple, silver-bullet explanation for why something is the way it is. With our scientifically trained brains, we cannot accept a paradox, that there could be more than one reason for anything.
Well, too bad. Get over it. God is greater than your need for a silver-bullet explanation of life. In Judges 1-3, the Bible offers five different explanations for why Israel did not completely settle the Promised Land as they were told to.
“To suggest that there is inconsistency here would do despite to the basic Hebrew approach to life, with its highly developed conception of the sovereignty of God… all five reasons could have suggested themselves to the same Hebrew mind at various times and in differing contexts.”Arthur Cundall, Judges & Ruth (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries), pp. 25-26.
The point? God could be doing a thousand different things for a thousand different reasons. You can’t know them all. So, look for the message without fretting over the meaning.
Just what is the message (or messages) we should be taking away from all of this? Part 3 will answer that question.