Where is God in a Coronavirus World?

Savvas Costi writes: The coronavirus has destabilised the world we all knew. In these uncertain times, John Lennox has delivered an engaging and accessible little book, Where Is God in a Coronavirus World?designed to be read within a couple of hours (I did it in two sittings). It’s not meant to be a treatise on the topic of evil and suffering, or the idea of God’s sovereignty. Professor Lennox himself has said he felt compelled to write to offer encouragement and support to those feeling unsettled during the current crisis.[1] Given his lucid style, intellectual prowess and pastoral tone, I would highly recommend this book.

One author recently wrote, ‘we are philosophical heirs even if we don’t realise it. We have inhaled invisible philosophies in the cultural air we breathe.’[2] Coronavirus is testing the quality of our philosophies. The question now is what philosophy do we hold that is liveable given the current pandemic? As the death toll rises and the economy plummets, how are we going to navigate through these difficult challenges? Lennox writes as someone who knows how it feels to be vulnerable. In his book, he recounts a near brush with death when medical experts successfully averted a major heart attack. Being confronted with his mortality like this brought a new perspective which impacted him deeply. He later writes:

When life seems predictable and under control, it is easy to put off asking the big questions, or to be satisfied with simplistic answers. But life is not that way right now – not for any of us. It is not surprising that, whatever your faith or belief system, the big questions of life are breaking through to the surface, demanding attention.[3]

We live in a hurting world and we are moved when we hear of tragedies, be it our own or those of others. Lennox knows this all too well as he documents the sudden loss of his niece which happens near enough to his near-fatal heart attack.[4] Any reader will appreciate that Lennox is writing as someone who knows how it feels to live through the torrents of difficult times. “Why do we have pain at all?” one might ask. Lennox briefly summarises some of the benefits gained from our experience of pain, namely, how it warns us of danger, aids physical development, contributes to character formation and helps us regain perspective.[5] These are some of the views expressed in the theodicies which defend belief in God in light of evil. However, Lennox’s main aim throughout the book is not to solve the problem of evil, but to provide us with some useful pointers that might help us to get through times of hardship and pain, like living through a global pandemic.


Our worldview, which is our framework for seeing and making sense of the world we live in, affects our attitude. The book highlights how most of us will fall into one of three groups—theist, atheist or pantheist.[6] It’s at this point that Lennox clearly states his position.

Christianity has something to say about the issue of natural disasters like coronavirus – something that is not to be found elsewhere.[7]

It is at this point that the reader can pause to reflect on this statement. What is my current outlook on life, and how is it helping me to live through the challenges of today? And if you’re sceptical about the claims of Christianity, are you willing and open-minded enough to consider the claims coming from one of the world’s most enduring religions? If the sceptic is left wanting to delve deeper and investigate these claims further, then one of the main aims of the book will have been achieved.[8]

It is no surprise that given Lennox’s personal faith, he goes on to present the case that it is Christianity which offers the best resources for gaining peace and hope during times of upheaval. He is aware that for those in the West, the current cultural stream is post-Christian.[9] This would explain why he devotes a short chapter to addressing atheism. If we live in a purely naturalistic world with no God and no overriding sense of meaning and purpose that is incumbent on all of us, then why feel enraged about coronavirus? Why lament the rising death toll that we hear about in the news? We would all agree that it is a natural evil sweeping across the globe, but does atheism really enable us to call it evil? Lennox and others have shown how it doesn’t.[10] When it comes to things that we believe to be absolutely wrong, ‘being able to say so is what we give up if we embrace atheism and are willing to follow its logic.’[11] Relativism reduces our morality to personal preferences, but are we really willing to follow its logic?

I admire lennox for drawing attention to our willingness to consider these views. Other writers have drawn attention to how much of the modern era has unwittingly absorbed a reductionistic view of how we behave and form our beliefs. We’re treated as if we’re fundamentally thinking things, whereas in actual fact, ‘human beings are first and foremost lovers’ defined not by what we know but by ‘what we desire.’[12] This helps to dispel the myth of objectivity, that when we are presented with a reasonable case, that we can simply step over the line to modify our views, particularly when they make huge demands upon us. Christianity certainly does this, and my work as a teacher has confirmed this premise on multiple occasions; we are driven more by what we want than what we think. This accounts for why ultimately philosophy is limited when getting someone through the door to Christian theism.[13] I make reference to this as a plea to those who are sceptical of Lennox’s book that we offer our doubts to our biases first before dismissing the beliefs of those whom we disagree with.[14]


After highlighting how atheism is a bankrupt philosophy, Lennox addresses the question: how can there be a coronavirus if there is a loving God? This is a reformulation of the problem of evil which has arguably been the greatest challenge to religious faith. After touching upon ideas relating to free will which incurs the possibility of calamity, and the fall in Genesis chapter 3 which generates disasters like the coronavirus.[15] I’m aware that readers coming from a non-Christian background are likely to pose questions relating to the reliability of the Bible which Lennox understandably scarcely addresses in his little book. It’s not his main aim and there are plenty of other resources available to tackle this.[16] That being said, he does present a reasonable case for why God might create a world where there is the possibility for evil. Not everyone will find his ideas convincing, and Lennox himself is aware of this when he says,

We can debate for ever what a good, loving and all-powerful God should, could or might have done. But experience shows that none of us has ever been satisfied with the outcome of that particular discussion … As a mathematician, I am used to the fact that when we have tried, sometimes for many years, to solve a question without success, we begin to think that we might be better off looking at a different question.[17]

It’s at this point that Lennox helpfully suggests that with all the brokenness in our world, is there a God whom we can still trust? If we are unable to solve the problem, is there at least something that can help us through it? It is fitting that I began to write this review over Easter weekend as it is precisely the message of Easter which Lennox draws our attention to next. Christians believe in a God who suffered, who ‘took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.’[18] This is a unique claim which has sustained many Christians through hard times. It is comforting to know that God does not remain distant but has chosen to enter our world of agonising pain through the life and death of his incarnated Son. He can ‘empathise with our weaknesses,’[19] and give us hope that a life lost to the coronavirus need not be the end of the story.

The message that set Jerusalem buzzing at the first Easter – the message that riveted the first-century world – was that Jesus conquered death: that he had risen from the dead and would be the final Judge of humanity.[20]

These words are much needed for a hurting world. Where ultimate justice is an illusion to the atheist, a Christian can draw solace in a hope that goes beyond the grave. Moreover, it is naivety to believe as Karl Marx did that religion is merely the opium of the people because of the comfort it brings for those fearful of death. Czeslaw Milosz has rightly argued that, ‘a true opium for the people is a belief in nothingness after death—the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders we are not going to be judged.’[21] Christianity can’t just be wishful thinking because of the demands it places upon us. Lennox reminds us that because Jesus is appointed Judge of the world, ‘there will eventually be an ultimate answer to the deepest human questions.’[22] An outlook like this can galvanise us to endure dark days in the belief that the best is yet to come. Of course, this can only work if the resurrection of Jesus really happened.[23]


The final chapter of the book focuses on how Christians should respond to the pandemic. Lennox helpfully encourages us to heed the advice given from government, maintain perspective and be at the forefront of caring for those in need.[24] He closes the book with the line, ‘Peace in a pandemic? Only Jesus can give that.’ The book will be a source of comfort and guidance to believers. For unbelievers, it’s a great introduction to offering some useful reflections to those ‘big questions’ we now find ourselves confronted with. Further thinking and reading will be required,[25] and perhaps more importantly, going for a virtual coffee with a Christian friend via Zoom – or even better, meeting up to discuss this further once lockdown has lifted and the pandemic has passed. I hope this book gains a wide readership during these challenging times for its brevity and style. Who knows, maybe Lennox will have demonstrated how ‘the God who wore a crown of thorns is worth some more of your time and thought.’[26]


[1] I would highly recommend listening to his 30 minute interview with Justin Brierley here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNZ-2zFWUuU

[2] This was taken for James K.A. Smith’s brilliant book, On The Road With Saint Augustine (2019), p20.

[3] Lennox, Where is God in a Coronavirus World? (2020) p13.

[4] Ibid, p19.

[5] Ibid, p17-19.

[6] Ibid, p20. Lennox references the work of James Sire here.

[7] Ibid, p21.

[8] Lennox makes this clear at the end of the book.

[9] Lennox doesn’t use this phrase in his book, but he expounds the idea. A post-Christian culture is one that has shunned Christianity whilst seeking to maintain the benefits of the religion. John Mark Comer has likened this to a rebellious teenager who rejects the authority of their parents whilst still seeking to live under them with all the benefits that they bring, like paying the bills, food, shelter, etc. Mark Sayers calls it, “the Kingdom without the King.” For more, I recommend listening to their excellent This Cultural Moment podcast.

[10] Read Christian Smith’s book, Atheist Overreach (2019) for more on this.

[11] Page 31 of the book.

[12] See James K.A.Smith’s excellent book, You Are What You Love (2016).

[13] Although I don’t have the source, Blaise Pascal is quoted as having once said, ‘the supreme achievement of reason is to teach us that there is an end to reason.’ Arguments alone will not bring someone to Christian faith. Good and helpful as they might be (See 1 Peter 3:15), ultimately we need revelation.

[14] I am aware that this also applies to me with my beliefs too! This is where having intellectual humility helps us. For an excellent short clip on intellectual humility, watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MW7ItaybXCY

[15] It’s a common misconception that the Bible’s account of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God led to the rise of moral evil only but fails to explain natural evil. On page 39, Lennox reminds us that ‘cursed is the ground … it will produce thorns and thistles’ (Genesis 3 v 17-18). This suggests that the curse has fractured nature itself, and offers an explanation for the existence of bad viruses.

[16] I would commend Amy Orr-Ewing’s, Why Trust The Bible? (2005) as a start.

[17] Page 42-43 of his book.

[18] Matthew 8.17.

[19] Hebrews 4.15.

[20] Page 45 of Lennox’s book.

[21] The Milosz quote can be found here: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1998/11/19/discreet-charm-of-nihilism/?fbclid=IwAR3r5UmeEQLAou6S5G_WYUObI_op9jmoUSJEGlqS203BSnoOoHYEKz39p4s

[22] Page 46 of Lennox’s book.

[23] For an accessible presentation of the arguments that Jesus really did rise from the dead, I would commend chapter 5 of Andrew Wilson’s, If God Then What?(2012) and chapter 13 of Timothy Keller’s, The Reason For God (2008).

[24] Pages 50-58.

[25] As well as the books listed above, the best book I’ve read on suffering so far has been Timothy Keller’s, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering (2013).

[26] Page 62.


Savvas Costi is a graduate from the London School of Theology who currently leads the Religion and Philosophy department at a secondary school in East Sussex. He lives with his wife and daughter.


If you enjoyed this, do share it on social media, possibly using the buttons on the left. Follow me on Twitter @psephizoLike my page on Facebook.


Much of my work is done on a freelance basis. If you have valued this post, would you consider donating £1.20 a month to support the production of this blog?

36 thoughts on “Where is God in a Coronavirus World?”

  1. In many ways Savvas Costi has written a good article and writes, “Coronavirus is testing the quality of our philosophies.”
    However he then undermines the good he wrote with an untenable view of Gen 3; “After touching upon ideas relating to free will which incurs the possibility of calamity, and the fall in Genesis chapter 3 which generates disasters like the coronavirus.[15] I’m aware that readers coming from a non-Christian background are likely to pose questions relating to the reliability of the Bible which Lennox understandably scarcely addresses in his little book.”
    This is simply untrue as viruses earthquakes and the like have been on this earth for billions of years and not introduced at the Fall. It is offensive to say that those from a non-Christian background will question this. Is Savvas saying that I and mot Christians are not Christians? The footnote is clearer on this;
    “[15] It’s a common misconception that the Bible’s account of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God led to the rise of moral evil only but fails to explain natural evil. On page 39, Lennox reminds us that ‘cursed is the ground … it will produce thorns and thistles’ (Genesis 3 v 17-18). This suggests that the curse has fractured nature itself, and offers an explanation for the existence of bad viruses.”
    That is sheer theological fantabulisation as so-called natural evil – death, disease, pain, earthquakes, tsunamis were there from the beginning of the earth 4.6 billion years ago. The only way out of this is to insist that the earth is a few thousand years old and animals did not die before humans appeared. After all trilobites were bitten by predators 500 million years ago as the photo shows.
    Suffering in all its forms is natural to this earth and has been there for billions of years. To say it was due to the events of Genesis 3 is both wrong and false in every sense and turns God into a vindictive ogre. I do not worship an ogre. Yes, we do need to test the quality of our wold-views.

    https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2020/04/28/is-covid-19-evil-a-christian-answer/

    Reply
    • Hi Michael. Thanks for this. I’ll check out your article later and give a response. It’s a good challenge, but initially I think there is more common ground between us than you think.

      Reply
    • Thanks Michael.

      Firstly, I’m with Lennox, C. S. Lewis and yourself in thinking that evil in the universe appears to antedate the sin of Adam and Eve. If you have it, please see page 84 of John Lennox’s Seven Days That Divide The World (2011) for a concise summary of this position.

      Secondly, Lennox himself expresses a problem with the term Natural evil in his Coronavirus book saying, ‘this terminology is somewhat unfortunate, since the word “evil” has moral connotations and neither earthquakes nor viruses are moral agents’ (page 14). There’s common ground there too.

      Lastly, I would part with you in accepting a state of affairs where a virus resulting in the death of large numbers of people is just a natural part of God’s design. I don’t believe that to be the case and that is what I mean when saying it has resulted from the curse referenced in Genesis 3.

      Reply
      • I find the idea of a Satanic fall way back before Adam has no biblical support and makes no sense. (I have NP Williams on it and came across it decades ago). It means that for billions of years creation has been a mixture of good and bad. However in my geological work I’ve never been able to find any test to see whether something was good or bad e.g. massive faults some billion years ago were cuased by earthquakes then. Were they satanic or natural?

        I don’t have any of Lennox’s books but am glad he does not like Natural evil.

        I do not see how we can away from the fact that suffering is written into the whole universe from the beginning – and thus in a sense is part of god’s plan.

        Reply
        • Im pleased to see the reference to N P Williams’s Bampton Lectures on Original Sin. Although written in the 1920s it is a superb piece of historical theology, extremely clear and beautifully written. I first heard of “Nippy Williams”as curate odf St Stephen’s Gloucester Rd as his son was in the congregation..and as i later discovered, married to Justin Welby’s mother.

          Reply
  2. As the media today reinvent the clapper-board warning, “The End of the World is Nigh” with the pervasive and expansive world-wide but subjectively personal, subliminal message of Covid-19 “Your end is nigh,” does the church know the what, why and how of the Good News of Jesus, let alone the very real difficulty in restrained times of how to engage, beyond the zooming-in of local church virtual gatherings?

    What is disappointing, is that there seems to have been little of depth from prominent CoE Christians.
    In that absence, it is edifying to look beyond what seems to be the closed world of some in the Anglican world as it approves or disdains those outside its denomination borders .

    From the beginning of April here is a link to a podcast with John Lennox, “Where to find God during Covid-19”
    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/podcasts/gospelbound/john-lennox-find-god-during-covid-19/

    And for more grist to the mill for thinking Christians here are links to
    1 “Peace in Times of Suffering and Uncertainty”:
    https://youtu.be/-a3j26a05H0
    2 “Hope in Times of Fear” – why the resurrection of Jesus offers you unshakeable hope in times of crisis – the pandemic poses a very practical question :
    https://youtu.be/iB2rS71FcUM

    Both will test those of us with the short attention span of today. But there are more of us today that have more time to fill.

    Both are from Tim Keller.

    Reply
  3. Can we find a reasonable explanation for why pastors/preachers/teachers around the world ask why God ALLOWS pandemics? When we should instead be asking who causes them? Since all events in creation are caused by God or the devil or in the case of human sin are incorporated into his purposes? And since there is no mystery category of events (arising from the fall or any other cause) in which God says “there was nothing I could do”?

    The reason why almost all leaders ask if God allows suffering, when the Bible shows throughout that God causes at least some of it, is because they have bowed to the alternative gospel (which is now more dominant than the real one) which says that God loves only with positive acts and that the chief problem with us is that we are unloved instead of sinners. This gospel also makes the cross completely unnecessary since if God is not holy or just (both of which would require him to act negatively for these things to be more than theory) then there is no reason for Jesus to die. If God was to love the way that the alternative gospel says he loves he would simply announce that we are forgiven. I mean if decent people like ourselves can manage to do that without making such a fuss, why can’t God? So, to spell it out if it isn’t obvious, the majority of “the church“ no longer believe in Christianity. If someone’s beliefs deny the need for the cross how can such people be considered to believe in Christianity? How can they be considered to be Christian? And therefore how can their churches be considered to be churches? Without the cross there is no Christianity. If any doubt should be cast on those statements that I just made it would be due to people’s willingness to turn away from this alternative gospel back to the real one – but my efforts in the last few years to see people do that appear to have been completely unsuccessful. It should therefore not be any surprise if God chooses to wipe away people committed to this wrong path. With such people denying throughout that he is up to such a thing. Followed by God building a new church – since nothing will stop God doing that.

    The article shows that Lennox too has bowed to this alternative gospel. He allows Christianity to be examined from the perspective of its usefulness instead of from the perspective that there is a God and he deserves to be worshipped whether we find him useful or not. And so Ian says about his book:

    “He goes on to present the case that it is Christianity which offers the best resources for gaining peace and hope during times of upheaval”.

    What if drugs did? Would that make them the truth?

    There is only one entrance door to God and on the door is written holiness, sin, justice, hell, mercy, and repentance. Once you have walked through it Christianity’s usefulness isn’t up for discussion – our sin compels us to turn to God instead of to make judgements about how useful he is. That’s what a real Christian is – somebody who has become convinced that God, in revealing the deepest things about ourselves that we were incapable of discovering – has the right to be turned to in respect of truth and life. Instead of to be judged. So we need to stop trying to win the world by acting inconsistently with God having already shown us through inner witness, and in the gospel we preach, that there is an absolute standard of behaviour, that we fall short of it, and that creation shows (not to mention the gospel!) that God is merciful.

    The few people who still believe the real gospel need to turn back to preaching the gospel as if it is self justifying. Because it is. And those who don’t submit can expect to be treated as salt which has lost its saltiness – to be merged with the world (Matt 5:13).

    Reply
  4. Thanks.
    Anything by John Lennox is worth reading or listening to. I thought his series of Lent talks on the BBC some year’s back the best I’ve ever heard.

    Reply
  5. Here is some deeply personal end- of -life Christian Theology, testimony, from Dominic Smart (a past Keswick Convention speaker) who died this week.
    https://youtu.be/TySd1fjEma4
    Thanks to David Roberston for re-posting the the gentle and humble interview. Around the 10 minute mark the with all else theology stripped away his foundation beliefs are revealed in a child-like simplicity.
    Even if he was not known to many who visit Ian’s blog it transcends denominations.

    Reply
  6. We start with the question, what philosophy do we hold that is liveable? Then, from Lennox,

    When life seems predictable and under control, it is easy to put off asking the big questions, or to be satisfied with simplistic answers. But life is not that way right now…
    And,
    If we live in a purely naturalistic world with no God and no overriding sense of meaning and purpose that is incumbent on all of us, then why feel enraged about coronavirus? Why lament the rising death toll that we hear about in the news? We would all agree that it is a natural evil sweeping across the globe…

    I haven’t observed a lot of outrage about the virus: people are trying to avoid it at all costs and meekly accepting the costs. But is the virus a ‘natural evil’? What on earth does that phrase mean? Despite the call to philosophical rigour and courage, the question, so far as I can see, is ducked. ‘Big questions’ are not addressed.

    We can debate for ever what a good, loving and all-powerful God should, could or might have done. But experience shows that none of us has ever been satisfied with the outcome of that particular discussion.

    Who brought the virus into being? God. SARS-CoV-2 is an amazingly canny piece of engineering, just as the body has amazing ways of coping with it, occasionally defeated though they be. Who is the author of the locusts? God. Again, these works of nature are wonderfully designed; but they are also appalling. I don’t see any mileage in suggesting (in the silence) that Satan created these evils, or that they are accidents of nature beyond God’s control. God himself, moreover, is not embarrassed (Deut 32:39, Isa 45:7, Lam 3:38).

    Lennox’s philosophy is a compromise between secular and godly thinking. Like nearly every other church leader, he accepts that the world created itself over billions of years, as per the standard naturalistic account, but with the causally redundant add-on that God guided the process. Where is the philosophical power in that view of the world? Where is ‘spirit’, the breath of life, if everything evolves into being? What is ‘evil’, if everything is natural?

    When the prophets speak of pestilence, disease suffered by populations not simply individuals, they do so invariably in the context of judgement. But it is of course a very difficult thing to talk about judgement when so few are willing to listen, in the Church as well as in the world. The Church has no sense that ‘all our days pass away under his wrath’ (Ps 90), namely the sentence of death. The world at large does not believe in God at all – something quite unknown in world history before the 20th century. It has no sense of any reality beyond this life, chiefly because it unquestioningly accepts that the world created itself and therefore does not need God to account for its existence. We live accordingly.

    But might it not be precisely because of this philosophy that God has brought this pestilence upon us? Repentance should begin with us, the household of God, for we have gone along with this Satanic world-view. We don’t understand death as something imposed on humanity – as the judicial wrath that Jesus came to assuage. As Easter people, we tremble behind locked doors (Jn 20:26).

    Of course there have been plagues before now, including in this gospel age when judgement on the nations is put off to the end of the age. But surely it is always right to ask, corporately and individually: are we right with God? If 95% of the population does not worship God, least of all him who made heaven and earth (Rev 4:11), and the remaining 5% is content to stop gathering for worship in order to ‘save lives’, then the answer has to be no. Ultimately no lives will be saved if the Church does not understand and communicate who God is.

    Even were our philosophy to boil down to no more than Job’s, it would be better than what we now have to offer. At least he recognised that we can ask the most difficult questions, that no purpose of God’s can be thwarted, and that if there are things we do cannot understand, it is still right to humble ourselves before him.

    Reply
    • I consider that any worldview or theology that denies the brute fact that the earth is billions of years old is simply false and conclusions drawn from it are wrong.

      We have known that the earth is ancient for over 250 years and before anyone says it is godless, a high proportion of early geologists were devout Christians. The corollary of that is that suffering preceeded humans by millions, if not billons of years

      Reply
      • Michael,
        You wrote:
        1 “I consider that any worldview or theology that denies the brute fact that the earth is billions of years old is simply false and conclusions drawn from it are wrong.”
        It seems that you haven’t read much of the writing and teaching of John Lennox in this regard. He doesn’t espouse young earth, creationism. A Consultant cardiologist was greatly interested in my recommendation of Lennox’s “God’s Undertaker- has science buried God?” But he has written others.
        2 “The corollary of that is that suffering preceeded humans by millions, if not billons of years.”
        How do you know that? If suffering is a human construct, concept, or merely relative, subjective?

        Reply
        • Geoff, I think it’s pretty obvious that animals and no doubt other life forms suffer. There was disease and death long before humans, not to mention predators killing and eating their prey. Im sure you’d agree that the prey suffered pain. There are different levels of suffering, and humans suffer more at least mentally and emotionally, but let’s not deny that non-human life also suffers.

          You’re right in saying Lennox does indeed accept the standard understanding of the age of the earth, the Big Bang etc. But he believes, for example, that humans are a ‘special’ direct creation by God. He does not believe humans evolved. Although his book God’s Undertaker is useful, much of what he wrote on evolution is simply wrong (or without good evidence), and shows the dependence of a non-biologist on a select few of other scientists, such as Behe. Ive noticed that those Christian scientists who have written against evolution such as Lennox are invariably non-biologists, so they have no expertise in the subject matter. I find that rather odd.

          Reply
          • Peter,
            Does pain always cause suffering in the animal world animated purely/ largely by survival instinct.
            Human body pain is a necessary health warning, which if you watch Dominic Smart’s testimony, wasn’t manifest in stages of cancer.
            Are there any good purposes in suffering? Western secular view in general, is that there isn’t.
            John Lennox is learned, qualified in the philosophy of science its limitations what may be regarded as Scientism. I’d suggest that is a great contributing factor in where he draws lines in the sand.
            At his Keswick Convention teaching on Genesis some years ago, ( which is one of the best attended weeks I can recall) ” day” represent an indefinite period of time, not 24 hours. The text did not contain the definite article “the”. Chatting to some German? visitors at the book stall, they said their German language Bible did not have the definite article.
            So “back in the day” as a figure of speech today, isn’t a day.
            For an introduction to some of the philosophy underpinning the western view of suffering, I’d suggest looking at “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering” by Tim Keller.

      • I am a devout Christian and a geologist. I have spent much of my life independently (not as a creationist) thinking, researching and writing about the matter you regard as settled. I do not accept, on the brute facts, that the earth is billions of years old, nor that the facts are incompatible with Scripture’s testimony from Genesis to Revelation that God created the heavens and the earth.

        In relation to the matters being discussed your statement that suffering preceeded humans by millions/billons of years does not in any case seem to get us very far.

        Reply
    • Hi Steven,

      I understand the point you are making. But don’t we have to be careful not to attribute evil to God? Or, based on the teaching of Job, to suggest we know why what is happening is happening?

      And perhaps more cognisance should be taken of the fact that God seems to choose to be bound by his own rules? Thus he cannot lie (Num 23:19). And Jesus had to die. And perhaps some works of the devil he ‘cannot’ simply swat away?

      Colin

      Reply
      • Hi Colin

        Whether the thing under consideration is ‘evil’ you have to decide, but ultimately God is the author of all things, and viruses are not anomalous. The created order is full of predation, disease, suffering, and ultimately all creatures die. Any attempt at thinking theologically and intelligently about the world has to deal with this fact, preferably without ending up at Manichaeism – which seems to be where your first question is heading! Rom 5:12, 8:20, 9:21 give us pointers, but as Michael Roberts indicates, these have no force in a Darwinian world-view.

        Steven

        Reply
    • ‘Like nearly every other church leader, he accepts that the world created itself over billions of years, as per the standard naturalistic account, but with the causally redundant add-on that God guided the process. Where is the philosophical power in that view of the world?’

      Im not sure what you mean by ‘created itself’. When you throw a ball into the air and it falls back down to your hand, is that because God is directly guiding the ball up and down, or is it because of gravity, a property of the universe that God designed, and which follows certain ‘rules’? (so that, for example, the force of gravity on the moon is a 6th of that on earth due to its smaller mass).

      Given that many, many Christians accept the scientific understanding of the age of the universe and earth etc, it would seem it does have power. For me it actually reflects His glory. I find the universe and the complexities of life amazing. For my own part, when I was on the road to faith one of the stumbling blocks was the apparent requirement to accept a literalistic understanding of Genesis 1 & 2. Given my own scientific background (studying physics and maths at the time at university) I found that difficult, indeed impossible. It was only after reading other views of those same chapters was I intellectually satisfied to continue. I would suggest that the literalistic understanding of those first chapters continues to be a block to faith for many, where they see a contradiction between the Bible and reality. But there is no such contradiction.

      You seem to be arguing that this virus outbreak is part of God’s judgment (‘When the prophets speak of pestilence, disease suffered by populations not simply individuals, they do so invariably in the context of judgement. But it is of course a very difficult thing to talk about judgement when so few are willing to listen, in the Church as well as in the world’). Given that the vast majority of people who have died from this virus are the elderly, I find that a rather odd judgment. If anything it is a judgment of those societies that continue to kill, sell and eat wild animals. Perhaps, like global warming, God is saying if you continue to abuse my creation, then there will be consequences for all humanity. Perhaps.

      I am concerned with your apparent call for Christians to return to church buildings for services. It’s as if illness and death doesnt matter too much to you, both for those who attend and anyone else they come into contact with. That’s just irresponsible. Ironically it would have the opposite effect on people’s views of Christians and therefore their faith – they’re really stupid, arrogant and anti-science.

      Peter

      Reply
      • The reason why you find the universe and the complexities of life amazing is because they are. The Earth is not such a simple thing that it’s like throwing a ball into the air and – poof! or billions of years later if you think anything is possible given enough time – there it is. You have chosen a fundamentally atheistic understanding of life, whereby the miraculous power of creation is transferred from the Creator to the creation: the spirit of Romans 1:25. The point about the theory of evolution is that it argues that life comes of itself. Life is purely a material thing, including your mind: just atoms generating the illusion of being a living being, with a rational mind. Darwinism itself is a product of these mindless atoms. Insofar as life is wonderful, it is Nature that is wonderful, and in perceiving God, you are just spiritualising your brain’s sense of wonder. That is why Brian Cox, David Attenborough and the like are so strong on the sense of wonder. They want you to share their sense that what you misguidedly think is the glory of God is actually the glory of the visible, the power of the universe to create itself. Your explanations being the same as theirs, your sense of wonder is indistinguishable from theirs.

        … a contradiction between the Bible and reality. But there is no such contradiction.
        There obviously is a contradiction.

        Contrast Abraham. His faith in God’s power to do the impossible, to be true to his word, was accounted righteousness. Your belief that God did not bring things into existence by his word of power is a very different faith.

        Given that the vast majority of people who have died from this virus are the elderly, I find that a rather odd judgment.
        You seem to be suggesting that the elderly are more innocent and less responsible for the present state of society than the young. Be that as it may, Jesus’s message is the same, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).

        If anything it is a judgment of those societies that continue to kill, sell and eat wild animals. Perhaps, like global warming, God is saying if you continue to abuse my creation, then there will be consequences for all humanity. Perhaps.
        The way we treat animals – the despicable conditions chicken, ducks and turkeys suffer, for example, in order to satisfy our demand for cheap meat – is one instance of how the sense of wonder inspired by God’s creation counts for nothing. We abuse his creation just the same. I doubt whether he sees any distinction between wild and domestic animals, having breathed the breath of life into them both.

        I am concerned with your apparent call for Christians to return to church buildings for services. It’s as if illness and death doesnt matter too much to you, both for those who attend and anyone else they come into contact with. That’s just irresponsible. Ironically it would have the opposite effect on people’s views of Christians and therefore their faith – they’re really stupid, arrogant and anti-science.
        Again, you put words into my mouth; I didn’t mention buildings. When the Sanhedrin tried to stop the apostles speaking and teaching publicly in the name of Jesus, they sought to silence them. But the apostles replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard. … We must obey God rather than men.” Faced with the choice, you have judged that, here too, the better part of righteousness is to follow men.

        Reply
        • My point about the ball was simply to show it doesnt need God to actively ensure it follows a particular course if He has already designed His universe with particular properties. I would argue the same for evolutionary mechanisms.

          Evolution doesnt argue that life comes of itself. Evolution is dependent on an already-living organism. It simply describes how life, once started, developed. Whilst it is possible that God designed the universe such that life could ‘begin’ on its own, I suspect it does indeed require the divine spark.

          ‘You have chosen a fundamentally atheistic understanding of life, whereby the miraculous power of creation is transferred from the Creator to the creation: the spirit of Romans 1:25.’

          Strong words. It would seem then that many millions of Christians have an atheistic world-view. Strange. And of course wrong. If God ‘started’ the Big Bang, and provided the universe with properties and mechanisms such that it developed as it did, how is that transferring the power of creation from the Creator to His creation? The universe wouldnt exist without the Creator. Its beauty, power and complexity does reflect on its Creator. That is where I would differ from the likes of Cox who is currently unable to see beyond the creation. I do.

          ‘Contrast Abraham. His faith in God’s power to do the impossible, to be true to his word, was accounted righteousness. Your belief that God did not bring things into existence by his word of power is a very different faith.’

          Well as a Christian I believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus, by itself impossible, so you can hardly claim my faith is different. This is the problem, if other believers dont view the first two chapters of Genesis literalistically as you seem to do, then you view them as atheistic and cast aspersions on their faith. I think that’s pretty awful.

          Regarding the elderly, Im not saying that they are less innocent than anyone else, but it seems a rather odd judgment on society as a whole if 80% of deaths occur in the 70+ age group. Rather I think it is an inevitable consequence of man’s continued abuse of the creation, than some sort of direct judgment.

          Regarding worshipping together, no you didnt mention buildings, but having said that those who would have normally met together for worship have now stopped, I think it was reasonable of me to assume you were referring to church worship, as that is where the vast majority of that 5% gathered for their worship before this virus outbreak.

          As for your last comment, it is not a choice between obeying God or men (the example you give is completely irrelevant to the current situation), but rather a choice to use your God-given brain to use your common sense, and not be arrogant about God’s will.

          Reply
          • God ‘started’ the Big Bang, and provided the universe with properties and mechanisms such that it developed as it did.
            In other words, he created the raw materials of the universe in such a way that the universe from the Big Bang onward became progressively ordered of itself. So it’s as I said, the miraculous power of creation is transferred from the Creator to the creation.

            [The theory of] Evolution doesnt argue that life comes of itself.
            Correct; it argues that life comes from non life. Life is merely a highly organised form of matter. Biologists are still trying to come up with a plausible scenario for the origin of the first replicating DNA-coded cells. But no one in academia is suggesting, as you do, that God stepped in after 10 billion years to get things going.

            You believe all animals, which must include yourself, are just complex biological machines, with no soul. You think, somehow, that rationality, emotions, consciousness, love are all just manifestations of atoms. Whereas God castigated Israel for worshipping images of humans and animals that had no breath in them, you turn living humans and animals into machines that have no breath in them, and think, because millions of Christians share your view, that’s OK!

            Of course it’s an atheistic view. It was because Darwin did not believe in a Creator that he looked for another way of explaining the world. Huxley rejoiced. Marx rejoiced. Lenin rejoiced. Hitler rejoiced. You seem unable to understand the nature of the thing you find so intellectually satisfying: that it deconstructs the supernatural. Your sense of wonder is not a perception of reality, because according to your own account what you marvel at is the end-result of ‘properties and mechanisms’ inherent in atoms operating over billions of years – operating, according to the theory of evolution, by chance, not Providence. You therefore worship atoms as the creative power. The pioneers of Darwinism and neo-Darwinism were quite clear about the fact that they had rendered God redundant. Richard Dawkins equally so. I am simply agreeing with their own understanding of what they believe to be reality.

            ‘As far as we can tell from a purely scientific viewpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning. Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose. Our actions are not part of some divine cosmic plan, and if planet earth were to blow up tomorrow morning, the universe would probably keep going about its business as usual. As far as we can tell at this point, human subjectivity would not be missed. Hence any meaning that people inscribe to their lives is just a delusion.’ Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

            After 150 years of Darwinism Europe is now fully persuaded that God is an irrelevance, if he exists at all, and consequently it is virtually impervious to the gospel. Everyone except Christians understands that if there is no Creator, there is no God, and if there is no God, there is no Son of God. Joseph was Jesus’s father, because ‘Holy Spirit’ is not a recognised category of reality, and on his mother’s side he was at best, like the rest of us, a son of an ape. Darwinists write books such as Our Inner Fish: The amazing discovery of our 375-million-year-old ancestor. Naturally we understand ourselves, ultimately, according to where we think we came from.

            God still works miracles of conversion here and there, despite what the Church has done to confuse matters and turn Christianity into an irrational religion – such is his grace. But Darwinism is no more compatible with biblical Christianity than Islam is.

  7. Has the comments section been deleted? Or being blocked, redacted? Or some of them? Some hidden from view of others? Is it a conundrum? Or is, “Where is God…?” the conundrum?
    First, the comments were there, then they weren’t, then they were (including one from the author of the article in response to a comment), now they are not.

    Reply
  8. Weird that – I can now see them! Maybe it just takes the use of VPN!
    But still can’t see them from both of the household smartphones, either from the landline wi- fi or mobile service provider.
    Nor are they visible using a different search engine. even with a VPN. Anything to do with blocking cookies/trackers? It’s inconsistent.
    Great fun is this.

    Reply
  9. I read a report about viruses that said they attack weak cells first. Cancer cells are weakened cells that some viruses go for. Perhaps, in the greater scheme of things, viruses have a place in nature.
    Unfortunately nature is not now in balance. …just a thought.

    Reply
  10. The virus that kills cancer:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oncolytic_virus

    Perhaps before ‘the fall’ God would talk to man like this:
    ‘Don’t eat that. It’s poisonous’
    ‘Leave the island for a week. The volcano is about to erupt’
    ‘Take that path. A lion is further on down this one’
    In relationship it would be possible to live in a dangerous world unmolested.

    Reply
    • I doubt it, but then again it seems even today He does sometimes tell individuals not to do this or that which they were intending, such as not taking a booked flight which subsequently crashes.

      Peter

      Reply
  11. Another thing to consider re Covid-19 is that Satan sought to destroy Adam before Adam sinned. Thus if God does allow Satan to damage God’s creation we cannot automatically deduce that is because of any sinful human behaviour.

    Reply
    • My comments may be wrong about Adam being directed by God safely through a dangerous world because the Garden of Eden seems to be a place fenced off from the rest of the world. Adam lived there without being exposed to danger and the ‘evils’ of a wider world.

      Reply
  12. I don’t see a way of harmonising the generally accepted understanding (GAU) of the chronology of creation and life on earth (big bang, death, disease and predation before the appearance of mankind etc.) with a wholly trustworthy Bible. As I see it, there are two big problems: predation before the Fall in the light of Genesis 1:29-20, Genesis 9:2-3, Isaiah 11:6-9; and there is no place in GAU for subjection of creation to the slavery of corruption, in the light of Genesis 1:31 – “very good”.
    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • Yes Philip,
      You have succinctly and clearly set out the difference which seems to be irreconcilable.
      It also emphasises the character of the heart- leaping Goodness of God and his purposes reflected in the very good creation, and humans in his image, without death and disease before the Fall, a glimpse into, a fast forward to, a new creation, a new heaven and earth.
      How big is our God? Could he have created in the way of Genesis, or not, out of nothing?
      Do we live in a closed material world(s) system?
      (Some theologians have described the flood as a judgment a form of de-creation!)
      Your reference to CS Lewis, brought to mind some concise wisdom of Keller, a call to the sceptical, to “doubt your doubts” which may well have been based on Lewis.

      Reply
  13. Debates like this often remind me of something C S Lewis wrote somewhere. Something like “It is not that I want to reduce the sceptical element in your outlook – I just suggest that you don’t reserve it just for the New Testament and the Creeds – try doubting something else”
    Phil Almond

    Reply
  14. The plandemic is fake. According to Koch’s Postulates, no harmful virus has been proven to date. However, the earth is due for some judgments, Godlessness is rampant, along with many sins. Also, the so called elites agree with Thomas Malthus in regards to depopulation. And, they may get permission from God to do that due to the current rampant Godlessness on Earth. The lockdowns gave the so called elites a taste of what a depopulated Earth may be like. No lines, no traffic jams, no overcrowded airports, etc. So, they may just do it, let some mass deaths occur. Weather it is by 5g or some poisons is unknown, but Earth is overdue for some judgments, considering how rampant the Godlessness is.

    Reply
    • I normally welcome people who comment here—but what is this conspiracy nonsense?

      What do you say to my wife, a GP who oversees a Covid ward in the local community hospital?

      What do you say to my friend in London, who nearly died from it?

      What do you say to the statistical fact of excess mortality in the UK this year so far of more than 40,000?

      Please stop spreading your nonsense.

      Reply

Leave a Reply to Perry Butler Cancel reply