Pastoral Reflection Regarding Coronavirus Epidemic - Part 1

How do we view this coronavirus from a biblical-theological world view?

As we encounter what for us is a new and probably once in a lifetime experience of a worldwide epidemic, we find that people including ourselves tend to respond from pole to pole.  Some fear the absolute worst both for our country and for our loved ones. Others have no fear because we are young and healthy, or because we don’t live in ____ (NY, China, etc.) or we can mute our fears with a que sera sera kind of fatalism (unless the virus hits closer to home).  I suspect we are all somewhere along the spectrum of these feelings.

While getting a biblical theological worldview may not solve many of our issues of testing, alleviate all fears, etc, it can help us get oriented to how the Bible views such pestilence and plagues (of which there are numerous references in Scripture).  A simple way to put such disasters is through a biblical grid of God’s creation, man’s fall, God’s redemption and the future glorification. We will examine the first three theological categories which hopefully can get us oriented with our feet on solid biblical footing.

The Fall – this epidemic is a result of the fall (see The Coronavirus is a result of the Fall).  The fall of Adam and Eve into sin resulted in both a curse upon creation itself (Gen 3:17-18) but also the entrance of death and all the intermediate causes of death (Gen 3:19).  So these would include such things as pandemics and disease. But the fall is not isolated to such evils such as the coronavirus, but also the inheritance of our sin nature. This would include our responses to the virus in a godless manner (hoarding, anxiety without God, foolhardy imperviousness – without seeing our dependent creaturely status before God – see Martin Luther article p. 5-6 - https://blogs.lcms.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Plague-blogLW.pdf)

The Creation – God created the earth to flourish, to be fruitful and multiply rather than for death.  He instituted government for our good in His common grace, for the welfare of each nation in the effort against the pandemic, though of course all governments are fallen and imperfect.  God has also given through common grace people who really do want to be helpful – whether Christian or non-Christian – through public health, health care workers, services of mercy throughout the world, some who work in overwhelmingly hard areas.  In the best of humanity, God created all men, believers and unbelievers in His image, to be fruitful and multiply, to seek to grow life. Finally, God in His common grace has preserved people throughout history through good and bad (as someone on FB said – “this too shall pass”) 

Now what would happen if we were to ignore either of these two large theological categories in our thinking about the coronavirus?  If we ignore the fall, then we might think that this world is all there is and we had better just make the best of it. But including the fall in our thinking we know that this is not the way it is supposed to be.  The world is not how it ought to be, death is just wrong, and living apart from any hope is God or the resurrection just leaves us all alone to fight coronavirus and the overwhelming forces of death all by ourselves. 

Discussion thought:  How does the doctrine of the fall help you to grapple with all that is wrong in our world today?  How might you thank God for His common grace found in health care workers, government aid, our families and many other good gifts in the midst of trying times?