There are many questions to answer, but I have chosen 11
1. Can the Bible offer practical understanding of sin, suffering, and pandemics?
Does the Bible have anything to say about the current pandemic? Is the Bible really relevant when it comes to dealing with any current events?
Of course the Bible has answers and insights about current events. The Bible is never irrelevant. I know we usually think about the Bible’s instructions when it comes to feelings, morality, and compassion. But it is a very practical book for everything in life. It even tells us how to think about pandemics and natural disasters of the day.
2. Can Christians address the issues of the pandemic today?
I received a text from someone who asked if this pandemic is a judgment from God. Another asked if God will protect His people from this virus. If this judgment is from God, will it affect Christians? How should we pray during a worldwide crisis like COVID-19?
As a pastor with a Ph.D. in microbiology and with a specialty in infectious diseases, I occasionally receive questions like these. A pastor-scientist is uncommon, and people find it curious how I blend the two apparent worlds together. But I explain that it is very simple. God created one world and one set of laws to govern the entire universe. If we understand the laws that govern the universe, we can understand the events that take place in our world, and, most importantly, we can make good choices for our well-being.
So how should a Christian think about the current pandemic? Is it a Chinese threat? Is it a hoax? Is it an event set up by Satan to prepare people for the coming antichrist? Should we be afraid? What should we do to protect ourselves and our children?
3. Should disease and suffering be expected in God’s creation?
Every year people get sick with the flu and cold viruses. Allergies are rampant. And then there are the organic diseases that range from age spots to cancer, from heart failure to kidney failure, etc. If you are expecting a disease-free world, then you are a very disappointed person.
Disease and suffering in the world are commonplace. They are nothing new. So what makes COVID-19 different? It is a pandemic. This means that it is a disease sweeping around the world at one time. How should we think about the current crisis as Christians? How do we explain it to others?
4. Does God want suffering and death in His creation?
We live in a world of sin, and so we should not be surprised by the occurrence of disease and injuries. We should not be surprised by the presence of evil, suffering, and death. We should expect it because it is by design of God’s creation. God did not design creation to suffer. He warned that, if the laws and rules built into creation that govern the orderliness of creation are not heeded, then there will be suffering.
The experience of suffering is evidence that God’s warnings and His laws have not been heeded. God is not responsible for the suffering in the world any more than He is responsible for the suffering that results from stepping in front of a speeding car. The laws of creation make it possible to predict the outcome.
5. Why is there suffering and death in the world?
God warns that His laws and rules should be respected, or there will be consequences. For example, the law of gravity says that all bodies of mass attract each other. The larger the mass, the greater the attraction. Apples fall to the ground, not upward into the sky. People who jump from the roof of a house fall to the ground at a predictable rate of acceleration, which means the higher the roof, the faster they will travel before hitting the ground. In other words, it hurts more.
Regardless of what you think about the origins of the laws, they exist. Regardless of your knowledge or absence of knowledge about the acceleration rate of gravity, you are still affected by it.
Sin is the same way. You do not have to understand its origin to be affected by it. You do not have to know why sin occurs to be affected by it. You do not have to believe in sin to be affected by it. Sin exists whether you believe in such a thing or not, and suffering is the predictable consequence of sin.
6. What kind of law in creation determines whether we suffer or not?
Among all the laws that exist in God’s creation are spiritual laws. These exist because creation is not merely physical. It is spiritual as well. Like the physical law of gravity, there are spiritual laws built into God’s creation that govern our relationship with God. Romans 8:2 states this law, saying, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
The law of sin and death is very simple. You sin, you die. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is more than a physical death. This is a spiritual death, and this death is described in Revelation 21:8, which says, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
7. What causes the suffering that results from natural disasters?
Not surprisingly, along with death, there is suffering. Sometimes death is quick, and other times, it is slow. But it may surprise you to know that suffering is not just a human experience. Romans 8:18–22 says, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”
Sin not only affects humanity, but it inflicts misery and corruption throughout creation, from viral diseases to hurricanes.
8. Why does God allow His creation to suffer and breakdown?
In the beginning, God created a perfect world. But because of sin, Adam and Eve were cast out of the tranquility of the Garden of Eden. God no longer furnished them with cultured food that naturally grew from the ground. He made them work the land to grow their food by the sweat of their brows. Due to their sin, God made the land less fruitful. He withdrew His blessing of sustaining fruitful vegetation. This produced a hardship on all life, plants and animals. There was a worldwide ecological impact because two people sinned.
As the human population grew and as man’s disregard for God and His laws increased, God once again judged the world, this time with a worldwide, cataclysmic flood. This changed the world again. The crust of the earth moved and shifted. Valleys and basins were formed as mountains sank into the crust. Mountains were formed where valleys once were. Earthquakes shook the earth with massive movements, and volcanoes poked through the earth’s crust and cracks. Molten magma poured into the oceans, vaporizing vast amounts of water into the air. Subsequently, clouds formed, and rain poured from the sky.
As the surface of the earth cracked, flattened, lifted, and sank, the waters flooded over the entire surface of the earth. The aftermath of clouds and volcanic ash blanketing the atmosphere blocked the warmth of the sun’s rays, and the earth’s surface cooled. The geology of the earth changed, and so did the living conditions.
9. Is the pandemic God’s judgment on the world today?
Ever since the flood, the changes in the earth’s surface have changed the weather. Uneven heating of the earth’s surface produces weather phenomena from local rains to hurricanes and tornadoes. These occur as warm air masses rise and cooler air masses rush along the earth’s surface. All of these natural disasters are a testimony of God’s judgment against sin. The volcanic shields that cover thousands of miles of earth’s surface, the huge cracks in the earth, the deserts, and volcanoes continue as visible testimonies that God judges sin.
They are reminders that sin brings suffering, hardship, and death. They are the predictable and natural consequences to God’s judgment against sin.
10. How does sin actually lead to the breakdown of God’s creation?
From geology to genetics, there is an increase in entropy of God’s creation. We know sin is the cause of this entropy. But how does sin cause entropy? How does sin cause things to wear out, break down, and spin out of control? How does sin reduce fertility in the soil and stir the winds to form hurricanes?
Colossians 1:16–17 explains, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” God created all things and sustains the existence of all things. And with this understanding, we gain insight into the origin of entropy in creation.
God responds two ways to sin. First, He withdraws from sin. Second, He judges sin. Hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanoes remind us of the effect of God’s judgment against sin. The burning out of the sun and the limited lifespan of man remind us of God’s withdrawal from sin.
11. How does God prevent entropy?
God’s omnipresence sustains the existence of all things. But, because of sin, He no longer sustains order and perpetuity in creation. Sin leads to an end. Sin leads to death. And until the end is reached, there will be a continual unraveling and wearing out of all things. This is entropy.
Everything is winding down toward an end point. Everything wears out. However, once sin is vanquished forever, God will sustain the eternal existence of a new heaven and new earth. Entropy and wearing out will be vanquished with sin. Deuteronomy 8:4 gives us a clue that this is how it will be. As Israel wandered through the wilderness for forty years, God preserved them and sustained them. “Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.” Their clothes, their shoes, and their health were sustained by God.
Hebrews 1:10–12 declares the contrast of today’s world with Christ, saying, “And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.” When creation is free of sin, it will remain unchanged, even as God Himself remains unchanged.
This brings us back to the point of addressing our current state of affairs. We live in a world of sin, and so it is not surprising that there is suffering and death in the world. The COVID-19 is one more reminder of this fact. We live in a world of sin, and we share in its griefs. This pandemic is a natural, predictable outcome of a world breaking down.
But there are practical things you can do to protect yourself and your children. Be informed, pray for wisdom, and understand the crisis.
Learn more about practical decisions you can make and about how to think about the pandemic in these two articles by Dr. Briney.
Viral diseases, like CoV-2, must run their course. The complications are what need to be treated, such as pneumonia, cough, fever, and headache, as well as the social complications of panic, complacency, and overwhelming the healthcare system. Be informed, and make good choices. Use common sense to avoid being infected. Pray for health and wisdom.
Dr. Briney earned his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Arkansas, specializing in immunology and infectious diseases. Click the button below to contact him with your questions or comments.