What you believe about God matters. For instance, if you equate God’s sovereignty with Him micromanaging and controlling every single event in human history then you will struggle and even question His motives during times like these. God caused the Coronavirus pandemic is the ultimate conclusion we must make from this faulty theology.
Why would God cause needless death and suffering? The simple answer is that He doesn’t cause these things. We cause them, our poisoned environment causes them, there’s a whole host of other reasons why bad things happen in this world…but none of them are because God caused them. At least, this is not Classic Christian theology. This deterministic idea of God’s sovereignty finds its origin in Stoic and Gnostic philosophy, not divine revelation, as I’ve said before in my post, “Why We Still Need Reformation”:
This humanistic doctrine seems to conflate His omniscience or omnipresence with causation. It supposes that if God foreknows something then we are fated to do it, or because He holds all things together He controls our every action. This commits a fallacy in modal logic (Dr. William Lane Craig explains that fallacy here).
God, at the core of His essence, is love (1 John 4:8). And love requires free will. God could not be love if we have no free will.
Sovereignty means that one has supreme and ultimate power; it doesn’t mean meticulous control. And, in God’s supreme and ultimate power, He chose to give us freedom of choice (See my post, “Sovereignty Through Love.”) This would be much like a good king having sovereignty over His kingdom. While he has complete authority and power over his subjects, he doesn’t meticulously control their every movement.
Furthermore, it’s clear from Scripture that God gave us control over this earth:
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen.1:28 NIV*)
16 The highest heavens belong to the Lord,
but the earth he has given to mankind. (Psalm 115:16 NIV* )
God gave us responsibility for taking care of this planet. So, the question we should be asking is, “Why would WE let this terrible thing happen?”
One thing we’ve proven as human beings is that we’re very good at blaming others, including God, instead of taking responsibility for our own actions. This goes back to Adam and Eve, and the M.O. hasn’t changed since:
12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”
13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen.3:12-13 NIV*)
But we see in this account that God held Adam and Eve totally responsible for what they had done. Not to mention, it would be quite sadistic and cruel if He caused them to do this! This is why this form of theological fatalism is incoherent and untenable with God’s nature.
There are several other reasons why bad things happen in the world which I won’t go into here, but there’s one thing I want you know right now that’s critically important in times like these. While God is not the author of evil, nor pandemics, He does use these times to help us grow as human beings.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom.8:28-29 NIV*)
Think about it. How many times have you learned a valuable lesson or grown stronger in faith because of trials you went through? The hard truth is, we grow as human beings by overcoming difficulties and trials.
There’s an old saying, “Adversity reveals genius, but prosperity conceals it.” This is true. Think of the innovations and medical breakthroughs that will likely happen because we’ve had to overcome this current pandemic. And, ultimately, God uses these times of crisis to help us fully mature as His sons and daughters.
Ironically, saying that sovereignty means having meticulous control is a very weak form of sovereignty. It’s like an insecure husband totally controlling every movement of his wife because he’s doesn’t trust her and is afraid she’ll run away.
Beloved, God is not insecure! Love thrives where two free persons choose to give of themselves for the other. This is exactly how God loves.
God’s sovereignty is superior because He honors us by giving us free choice while still accomplishing His eternal purposes. Frankly, I would not worship a God who is so petty and insecure that He must control us like automatons. That’s not love. And, thankfully, that’s not God!
So I say, look up. God is at work in you and in me! And He will help us get through this crisis, just like He has every other crisis in the past. A better question for us to ponder than “why” during times like these is “what.” What is God doing in me in these current circumstances? What are my opportunities for growth here?
Our theology will either work for us, or fail us, during times like these. And when it does fail, know the problem is not with God; the change needed is from us. Make sure what you believe actually works.