Question: Did God cause the coronavirus pandemic? If not, why did He allow it?*
In the last month I have been asked with great frequency, “Did God cause the Coronavirus pandemic. If not, why did He allow it if He is indeed omnipotent?” Whenever we seek to answer such questions, we must first express our humility, remembering the Apostle Paul’s admonition, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (Rom. 8:23-24 CSB).
Fortunately, God has revealed a great deal about Himself and His purposes in Holy Scripture, and it is there that we must turn for the closest we are going to be able to get to definitive answers.
God has revealed to us that because of the Fall (Genesis 3), “The whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now . . .” (Rom. 8:22). The Bible reveals to us that literally nothing is the way God created it to be and that the whole creation is warped and distorted by sin, including but not limited to, humankind.
So, when people ask, “Did God cause this to happen?” the answer has to be, “No, He did not.” Why? The Bible tells us that “no one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). The Psalmist tells us that “the works of his hands are faithful and just” (Psalm 111:7) and “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
Thus, God cannot be the author of evil. The question then becomes, if God is omnipotent, why did He allow the CVP to perpetrate such pain and such suffering? God is omnipotent, thus all-powerful. He is also omniscient, thus all-knowing. As a function of His omniscience, He has always known what has happened or will ever happen. That does not mean He dictates that it happens that way. If God were going to allow Adam a choice, He had to allow Adam to make the wrong choice and to live with some of the disastrous consequences. Yet, in the immediate aftermath of the Fall, God sought out Adam (Gen. 3:8-9) and while pronouncing judgment, first promised ultimate redemption through the “seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15).
The story of God’s redemption of man and the rest of creation, both cursed, marred, and warped by the impact of the Fall, is the story of God’s ultimate triumph over Satan and the pain and suffering wrought by the “tempting one” (Matt. 4:3) who walks the earth “like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8) and ultimately over death itself (1 Cor. 15:50-57).
Yes, God is omnipotent. However, since He is omnipotent, He can choose to limit Himself in order to give fallen men the opportunity (when convicted by the Holy Spirit) to respond to Him with confession, faith, and allegiance to Jesus and thus to worship Him freely and willingly, rather than being compelled to do so.
Please allow me to illustrate this in the following way. I am a huge Texas Longhorn fan and have been since I was six years old. On January 4, 2006, Texas played the two time defending national champion USC for the national title in the Rose Bowl. It has been voted by at least some sports reporters as “the greatest college football game every played.” Both teams were undefeated, and they entered the game ranked #1 (USC) and #2 (Texas) in the nation.
It was quite a game, a “real nail-biter.” When Texas pulled out a 41-38 victory in the last minutes of the game, I was emotionally drained. I felt I had played the game myself. Now, I have watched the game a half dozen times since then on video, and I have been so relaxed that I have even dosed off a couple of times when I was watching the replay late at night. Why? The answer is simple; I know how it ends. When God looks at human history from the beginning, He knows how it ends. He sees and experiences everything that has, is, or ever will happen simultaneously. C. S. Lewis calls it “the eternal now.” And He has always (eternally) had this knowledge and experience.
Nothing surprises God. Did God will Adam to sin? No, but He always knew he was going to and made plans to overcome it before creation. Did God know the Jews were going to reject Jesus as Messiah? Yes, and He eternally had a plan to overcome it. Ultimately, God’s will prevails in all those who by faith in Jesus are His children.
We can rest in the absolute assurance that God is “working” all things to the good of those who are the “called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
As Joseph explained to the brothers who traded him into slavery in Egypt, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that my people should be kept alive . . .” (Gen. 15:20). In other words, what the devil and Joseph’s brothers intended for evil, God redeemed for good and His purposes.
“Did God cause the Coronavirus pandemic?” No. “Did God allow the pandemic to happen?” Yes.
At present it appears that the occasion of this pandemic started in a horrendous failure of security protocol in a Chinese government laboratory, exacerbated exponentially and grotesquely by the duplicity and censorship of the Chinese government in not alerting governments around the world to this incredibly contagious virus and the terrible dangers it posed.
Can God ultimately redeem the pandemic for good? That depends entirely on how we as Christians and as a nation respond to this terrible tragedy.
In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul exhorts the Ephesian Christians, and us, to understand that the “days are evil,” and as Christians we are to be “redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:16). The word “time” is kairos, meaning time in its propitious, not chronological moments, and “redeem” is a business word, meaning “to cash it in for profit.” This is a propitious moment. Will we allow God to use us to redeem this moment by proclaiming and doing the will of God, offering help to the suffering in Jesus’ name and telling them that God loves them and that there is eternal meaning and purpose to life. Let us be about our heavenly Father’s business.
*On April 6, my SES colleague Adam Tucker, Director of Recruiting and Admissions and an SES graduate, penned a column titled “Did God Make the Coronavirus?” His article, with which I am in complete agreement, coupled with this article, exemplifies what we do uniquely at SES. Adam’s approach is philosophical, mind is theological, and we expose our students to an integrated approach incorporating philosophy and theology in all of our classes.
Dr. Richard Land, BA (magna cum laude), Princeton; D.Phil. Oxford; and Th.M., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) and has served since 2013 as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Land has been teaching, writing, and speaking on moral and ethical issues for the last half century in addition to pastoring several churches.