What is your pastor telling you about coronavirus? Is God allowing it? Is God causing it?
The Bible answers these questions. But many of the religious authorities explaining this pandemic barely use the Bible.
In a report on this subject, usa Today quoted a Christian theologian from Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho. This minister talks about those who say God is “angry about sin or gays and lesbians or whatever” and is punishing the world—a view he rejects because “God is a god of love, He’s not in the business of doing evil” (April 2).
This man even denies the idea that God is allowing this evil to occur, saying: “If you buy into the theory that God is a god of love, … that doesn’t make any logical sense. Letting something horrible happen goes against God’s nature.”
Why, then, is this outbreak occurring? usa Today paraphrases his view this way: “God can’t simply prevent the coronavirus—or any other natural evils—single-handedly but requires ‘our participation and cooperation’ to fight it.”
According to this man, God is not causing or allowing the outbreak, and He cannot prevent it without our help. This is not a very powerful God. He can’t prevent disasters single-handedly, so He can’t be blamed when these things happen.
“I don’t think God is in the business of punishing and harming the most vulnerable, the people on the margins,” this minister says. So God might punish—just not the most vulnerable people.
These ideas might sound good, but do they come from the Bible? If not, then they are essentially coming from this man’s imagination.
A rabbi in this article is described as “beating back the idea that God is somehow punishing the world by unleashing a plague for the new millennium.” It quotes her as saying, “I do not think God is smiting us. My theology does not involve a man in the sky with a pair of dice saying, ‘It’s smite-the-people o’clock.’ That’s not how I understand what God is.” I’m unclear how dice factor in, but this rabbi doesn’t believe God smites.
Does this view come from the Bible? From the Torah? From the Old Testament prophets? If not, she is making it up.
“I don’t think God caused the coronavirus, but I see God’s work everywhere,” the rabbi says. “In every single person who makes the decision to love their neighbor as themselves, in every person who’s staying home even though it’s not convenient, in every doctor and nurse and health-care worker who are putting themselves at risk, in every grocery store worker. The proof of the holy is a lot of places.”
A lot of people are expressing these kinds of sentiments—that anything you think of as good is God—but it is a mistake to view anything bad as an expression of God. You can find a lot of examples of religious authorities saying these types of things. Many have been aggressively fighting the notion of divine punishment.
But they don’t tend to quote the Bible.
A recent survey of American voters found that 5 percent believe coronavirus is a sign of God’s “coming judgment,” 17 percent believe it is a “wake-up call for us to turn back to faith in God,” and 22 percent believe both of those things. That means 44 percent of Americans believe God is using the coronavirus to send a message. And 29 percent say these are “signs that we are living in what the Bible calls the ‘last days.’”
How many religious leaders are saying these things?
When one Orthodox Israeli rabbi said the coronavirus is spreading because of “gay pride” parades, another Orthodox group came out and condemned those remarks. “Trying to get people to return to religion cannot come at the price of harming others,” it said in a statement. That always happens. Anyone who even suggests divine judgment for specific sins is lambasted.
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One pastor from San Jose, California, declared March “Repent of LGBT Sin Month”—and issued a press release saying, “God’s love shows it is urgent to repent because the Bible teaches homosexuals to lose their souls and God destroys LGBT societies. Obeying God protects the U.S.A. from diseases, such as the coronavirus.”
Most of these types of statements appear on liberal websites, making fun of them. In today’s society, a preacher like this is on the extreme fringe and a target for ridicule. But there are actual Bible verses showing that God’s law does forbid those sins, and God does punish for those sins!
Yet this San Jose pastor is off-track in other ways. His statement that homosexuals “lose their souls” is misleading. He believes the change from President Barack Obama to President Donald Trump shows that America is becoming more righteous, which is unsupported by the Bible or by the facts. He is posting lengthy prayers for the nation on YouTube—despite Christ’s instruction to make our prayers in secret (Matthew 6:5-6)—apparently expecting his personal prayers of repentance to reverse the coronavirus curse and lead the nation back to God.
This is another theme you see among religious leaders: the notion that the coronavirus is igniting a religious revival.
One rabbi in Israel believes that coronavirus is drawing Jews to God. “The Jewish people lives, we are waking up, opening our eyes, stopping all the nonsense we do, and really drawing closer to Shabbat,” he told the Jerusalem Post.
This may be true of some individuals—but plenty of evidence shows the opposite trend. Locked down in their homes, millions of more people are using their time not to watch a pastor Livestream his sermon but to watch pornography and smoke marijuana. Pornography sites are offering free premium accounts, and traffic to it has increased noticeably, both in America and worldwide. Marijuana sales in Alaska, California, Colorado, and Oregon rose 50 percent at the end of March. Beer sales are up significantly, and indications are that many are bingeing on junk food, movies, tv-series, and video games. The idea that America is a righteous nation on the verge of a Third Great Awakening, or that the world is starting a religious revival or mass repentance, is a false hope!
So many of the explanations and answers being given by religious leaders are provably shallow, wrong, and unbiblical.
So is there any real hope?
Yes! Real hope is in the truth of the Bible. That insulted, overlooked and the misapplied book contains a hope that dwarfs coronavirus if only people would accept it.
It does us no good to assume what God would or wouldn’t do based on our own ideas. That is making God in our image. It is no different from carving an idol out of a piece of wood or metal and worshiping that.
Study the Bible and you see that God created each of us in His image (Genesis 1:26). He wants each of us to be full of joy, happiness, robust health. Jesus Christ said in John 10:10: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
The Bible also explains why you don’t see more of that in the world around you—why there is so much suffering. The reason is that mankind has rejected God, and God has cut mankind off from Him (Genesis 3).
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