This is the only conclusion we can draw from recent events surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. Science has won. And it is a definitive victory. Even the more silent critiques of religion have begun to openly claim the victory. It is the triumph of reason over religion, brain over belief, fact over faith. Churches have closed their doors for the first time in a long time, giving in to the terrorism of the almighty COVID-19. What’s more? Weeks later, their doors remain shut with no sign of opening. They have admitted defeat. Those who yesterday claimed healing and prosperity and miracles generously bestowed by a benevolent bearded man in the sky are today cowering in fear behind locked doors.
“You know what this proves?”, the confident atheist says, “This proves that we do not need religion. No one really does. See, these religious ones have no problem abandoning their precious meetings and prayers and traditions and sacrifices when their own lives are at stake. Is this not proof enough? If nothing else, it is proof that none of their gods can save them. They do not believe it themselves. That is why they run and hide. All we really need is science. We believe in things that can be proven. And there has never been more proof that God doesn’t exist than what we’re seeing today. Now, let’s get down to business. How do we stop this virus? There’s no cure? Go home and stay there? You’re locking down the country?! Jesus!”
I do not wish to go into a defence of the stand that us Christians have taken with regard to public church gatherings, or how it makes sense that we claim to have a God who is all-powerful and yet we seem to be defenceless against this pandemic, or how Christianity actually upholds the scientific pursuit in every respect. Maybe some other time. Suffice it to say, to say religion has lost makes about as much sense as saying that science has suffered defeat at the hands of the coronavirus because a recent conference and discussion on how to deal with the coronavirus outbreak was cancelled on account of the coronavirus outbreak.
Like it or not, we’re all in this together. Christian worships have been cancelled but so have scientific workshops, and that is the main point of similarity, among us and among all communities all over the world. For the first time in most of our lives, all our plans for the foreseeable future have been cancelled. An unmistakable fog of uncertainty hangs in the air around us, as all of humanity undergoes a collective shift of focus and reordering of priorities. That much cannot be denied. And yet, for some of us, this does not cause as much of an upheaval as for others. As Christians, we know already that our plans and ways are always subject to change on account of Him who guides our thoughts and actions. While many are confronted by a questioning of their own worldviews based on everything that is happening, we remain relatively unaffected in our spirits by these physical uncertainties. Our superpower, if you want to call it that, is that we have perhaps always been uncertain in these things. Our certainty, our strong foundation and solid hope, is elsewhere completely.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps”Proverbs 16:9 ESV
For the first time in a long time, people all over the world are confronted by forces that are legitimately beyond their ability to overcome by brain or brawn. And that, is scary. Because, now, there are all these consequences that we simply cannot correlate based on our lives thus far. Things we absolutely took for granted now have dire repercussions.
At the time of writing this, several countries have entered a state of emergency or lockdown to counter the spread of the virus. We are told that if we do not wash our hands, we might contract the deadly disease, that if we venture outside of our house we might cause the deaths of many people. It just doesn’t compute! The consequences simply don’t match the action. And yet, it is true. We have seen the reports and the scientific reasoning behind all of it. It doesn’t correlate for one person’s casual evening walk in the park to serve as a carrier of suffering and death for the others around him, but that does not make it any less true. Interestingly, this is very similar to how we react to sin. It often makes little or no sense to us that the so-called “small” or “victimless” sins that we commit should result in such deadly consequences. Yet, that does not make it any less true. Just as we trust the judgement of the scientists and professionals who study the properties of the virus, so also we must trust the word of God, who created all things. And God says that there is a consequence for sin. The question is, do we believe it?
“For the wages of sin is death”Romans 6:23 ESV
That trust is everything at this point, isn’t it? Coming back to the virus, the first thing all of us seek, having understood the very real consequences, is to understand the truth about everything we are hearing. Rumours spread like wildfire causing panic about the cause of the virus, how it spreads, how many have died, how nations have given up and their leaders have been brought to their knees, how you can protect yourself, how you can’t protect yourself, and so on. And we want to know, no, we need to know, the truth about all of these matters. It is absolutely essential. There is not a doubt in our minds. We will not blindly listen to whatever anyone around us is saying. In fact, we might distrust even the judgement of those we trusted till yesterday. We have a genuine urgency, a need to see the truth for ourselves, and with that same passion, we also have a need to ensure that no one close to us is taken up by misinformation. The consequences are so real, that we will go to great lengths to overcome them. Those who hate reading will find themselves reading every article available, those who dislike listening to the news will find themselves analysing current events, and those who can’t make any sense of scientific jargon will find themselves pouring through pages of scientific journals and reports related to this pandemic. Why, then, do our Bibles remain untouched, whether during times of comfort or times of conflict? Why do we not seek with the same fervour for the truth that pertains not only to our physical lives on this Earth, but also to what comes after? Is it because the consequences of sin are not “real” enough? Is it because we do not trust that there is truth to it all? Or are we, simply, foolish?
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV
Even with all of the verifiable truths about the disease and its consequences, even with all the efforts of governments and the community at large to convey the seriousness behind it, you will still find those who disregard it all and act in foolish ways. You will see people putting themselves and others at rusk, either because they do not employ their minds to understanding and adjusting their lives to the truth, or because they have false beliefs that overshadow these truths, or because they simply do not care enough to fall in line. And you will see how all the “rational” people call out and condemn this kind of foolishness or superstition. They automatically become “evangelists” of the truth about these things, trying to persuade the fool regarding his folly, and to ensure the accurate truth is available to everyone everywhere. Is this how we feel about foolishness within our believer circles also? Or is everyone allowed to believe what they want to believe, as long as they do not step on anyone else’s toes while doing that? What is at stake here? What is our evangelism like? If it does not resemble this secular evangelism, why is that? The truth is, we have been given a great opportunity to evaluate the way we respond to very real threats and dangers to our livelihood, and to compare it to the way we react to similar dangerous realities within our belief system. We find that, for some reason, those threats are not equally “real” to us as the coronavirus is. Not real enough to cause us to jump into action. Yet.
“And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”Matthew 7:26-27 ESV
Continued in Part 2. Read it here.