[Editor’s note: As you can guess, I am getting a lot of questions about the Covid-19 outbreak. Here is one and my attempt at an answer. I want to urge believers everywhere to not fear, but to set a good example of trying to prevent the spread of this disease by following all guidelines from our governments]
I have some Biblical Questions for your kind replies. 1. Is the Covid – 19 outbreak human error or God’s anger on mankind? 2. Why did God create harmful bacteria and viruses? Is it to punish mankind or any other purpose? 3. In the Bible God punished Anania and Saphira for lying immediately after their sin. Why? We are lying and doing many sins even after baptism. Why is God not punishing us immediately as Anania and Saphira in Acts5?
I believe that I already answered this question in the article below and in the article on the Problem of Pain and Suffering [see below]. However, let me explain one more time. Disease is not evidence of God’s anger. This virus has nothing to do with God being angry with humans. I am not a prophet, so it is really not my place to say why God does the things he does. Therefore, when I say that this is not the result of God’s anger, I am speculating on general principles, which is that disease and death are part of the natural world. I cannot absolutely disprove that God is involved in creating this disease, but I very, very highly doubt that he is.
Covid-19 is also not the result of human error. It is a natural event. Bacteria and viruses naturally evolve over time. For this reason, it is natural that, over time, certain diseases can become more contagious. You are proposing the possibility that the outbreak is a human error, which would mean that it was created in a laboratory and released. This is not absolutely impossible, but there is no evidence this is the case, so I am assuming that this outbreak is the result of natural processes. The last thing we need is people spreading false rumors that this disease was caused by humans. Coronaviruses have been around for a long time, but this particular one happens to be more contagious and more dangerous.
Although the virus is almost certainly not the result of human error, the rapid spread is the result of dense population and globalization. What would have spread only much more slowly one thousand years ago can now spread around the world in just weeks. Humans can spread the disease, but wise human behavior can also help to prevent its spread. I believe that Christians everywhere ought to help efforts to slow the spread of this disease by following guidelines such as social distancing.
This brings me to the next question. Why, then, did God allow bacteria and viruses to exist in the first place? In this world, disease and death are not the issue (although they cause great emotional pain to human beings, which God cares about for example as shown in John 11:35). The issue is not that people get sick or that people die. The issue is sin, rebellion and separation between people and God and between human beings. God’s concern is not to prevent death, which is, after all, natural, but to prevent people from being divided against one another and from going to hell–from being separated from Him for eternity.
This world is not safe, physically. As they say, no one gets out of this life alive. Whether we die of an accident, a natural disaster, an illness or simple old age, all of us will die. The fact that people die does not mean that God does not love us or care for us. As for why bacteria exist, I say that bacteria are a good thing. Without them there would be no oxygen or nitrogen in the atmosphere. Without them, we would have no vitamin K in our systems. I am not a microbiologist, but if I were, I would be able to list dozens of absolutely essential functions that bacteria have. It is true that these otherwise “good” bacteria also cause diseases, but I am not going to fault God for allowing bacteria to exist. In any case, neither bacteria nor viruses exist for God to punish mankind. Like I already said, this life is not eternal. We are not immortal. The bodies we have were not intended to be immortal but God intended us to have a different kind of immortal body (1 Corinthians 15).
What happened to Ananias and Saphyra was what I like to call a one-off thing. This is not by any means whatsoever the “normal” way that God deals with sin. I believe that God allowed this to happen one time and one time only (although I cannot prove this–it is a guess on my part), in order to make a point to the church about the seriousness of sin.. We can still learn from this one-off event even now because it is recorded in the Book of Acts. I believe that what happened to them was to help the church understand the seriousness of sin. However, for the vast majority of us, God does not interfere in natural processes as he did with Ananias and Saphyra. God is not judging us. He is disciplining us, which is a very different thing. If we will be punished, it will be after Judgment Day when our eternal destiny is set. Physical death is not punishment. It happens to “good” people and to “bad” people. The reason God does not punish us immediately for our sin is that he is a patient, merciful and loving God (Jonah 4:2 2 Peter 3:9), who wants us to come to repentance. In this life he disciplines us for our good.
In any case, I believe that the Covid-19 virus is not a judgment or the result of God’s anger, but it is the result of natural processes. Hopefully it will give people an opportunity to pause and to think about what is important, and come to God for mercy and forgiveness, but I do not believe it is the result of God’s wrath.
A Christian Response to Pandemic
All of us are struggling to know how to respond in the present crisis. Some think that governments are overreacting and others feel not enough is being done. What is the Christian response to this crisis? Is this a judgment from God? Why does God cause viruses to happen? Does he not care about human suffering? If God is so loving and so powerful, why does disease exist. I have written an essay on the question of pain and suffering. It is attached here. Problem of Pain and Suffering
Let me give the very brief version. All God created is good. In fact it is very good (Genesis 1:31). Plate tectonics are good because it recycles the minerals in the planet and produces an atmosphere, but it also causes earthquakes. Weather is good because it distributes the energy coming from the sun nearly equally around the spherical planet, but it also causes hurricanes and tornadoes. Bacteria are good because they put oxygen and nitrogen in the air and they support all higher forms of life (for example, putting vitamin K into our bodies), but bacteria also cause disease. Death is good, because, through evolution, it allows change and adaptation over time to a changing environment, but it also means that our pets die and we die as well. Suffering is not evil, but good, but it causes us emotional pain.
As humans, we certainly struggle with disease and death, but these are not the real human problem. The real problem is sin and separation between us and God and between us and our fellow humans. The reason we exist is so that we could love God, God could love us and we could love one another. The thing to fear is not disease and death but separation from God for eternity.
So as Christians, in principle, we do not fear this virus. But, like Jesus, we try to mitigate and minimize suffering, disease and death, not because they are “bad” but because this is what love and compassion demand. So, hopefully, we will not give in to fear and panic at this time (but all of us are subject to fear to some extent, even as Christians). We should take this difficult situation as an opportunity to show Christ. We do this by not panicking, by being submissive to governing authorities (Romans 13:1-4), and by finding opportunities to be a blessing, first to one another, but also to the people we are in contact with (at a social distance, of course). So let us show faithfulness, courage and compassion to our fellow believers, to our neighbors and to our family. A lot of people are asking questions they normally avoid about the ultimate meaning of life. Let us take the opportunity to help them to find the true meaning of life and of disease and death.