I wrote this article in my April 24 Newsletter. Here is the first part:
1. Did God Send Covid-19?
We have been studying the book of Job for our Thursday night CSF meetings and we are going to be in Job for a while as there are so many things to pick out of that story. If you are unfamiliar: Job was a man with many possessions and family and all sorts of things. Satan makes a bet with God that if Job lost it all, he would curse God. God allows Satan to take it all away but Job continues to praise. Then Job and his friends debate why God allowed this to happen for dozens of chapters before God shows up and speaks to Job but doesn’t really answer his questions.
While we readers know God allowed Satan to do this, Job and his friends do not. Job’s friends insist Job has done something to merit such punishment and must confess. Job agrees that God caused it, but disagrees that he deserved it. The punishment he experienced seemed way out of proportion to any crimes. What is important to remember in all of this is that while God allowed these evils to happen to Job, God did not cause them. The reader knows this but Job and his friends do not.
Job’s questions of why this suffering and evil happened echo our own questions. Whether big natural disasters, plagues or suffering that strikes individuals, we cannot help but ask why. Today the question is about Covid-19 (aka, coronavirus). Did God send the coronavirus? A very well-known preacher and theologian (John Piper) released a book about the coronavirus. I’m not going to link it because I find Piper’s Calvinist view of God incredibly distasteful. After illustrating God’s goodness and sovereignty, Piper asserts that “everything happens because God wills it to happen” (39). Thus, obviously, “the coronavirus was sent, therefore, by God” (41). Piper’s view of God (which is where I think all Calvinism logically leads) says that God determines everything. Such a view must admit then that, in the end, that cancer, AIDS, Ebola and all diseases were sent by God. Likewise, all murderers, rapists and other acts of violence were caused by God.
Personally, I find such an understanding of God to be disgusting and abhorrent.
I want to spend this newsletter discussing what it means for God to be sovereign, whether God causes or allows evil and suffering and what our human role is. A pastor I know and who blogs quite a bit , Joel Kime, has posted a few wonderful posts on this same subject (and his posts are much shorter, more concise and readable than mine):
Some People Believe the Virus is God’s Judgment on America.
Is God a Universal Puppet Master?
Why God has Authority is Better than God is in Control.
In this post, I am not going to dive into the Christian Bible. Instead, I want to look at some theologians, saints and authors from church history. The debate about who God is, what it means for God to be sovereign and human choice is one that, for all Christians, begins with the Bible. All these Christian thinkers are interpreting the Bible. What I hope to do in this newsletter is share some Christian thinkers that have helped me in my understanding (ones I think have a better grasp of the God revealed in Jesus and The Bible).
(These are a few of the books that I’ve been wrestling with the last couple years..)
If you want to read the rest, click here. Here are the rest of the section headings:
- Did God Send the Coronavirus
- Augustine and Calvin
- Calvin and the Calvinists
- Ockham and Aquinas
- John Cassian
- Maximus the Confessor
- True Freedom: Ability to Choose Good
- Isaac the Syrian
- Conclusion: Closing the Book on the Deterministic God