October 29, 2020

Is God saying something to us?

Seen on Facebook this week:

Hear it again: “God allows trials to come our way to get our relationship back in tune with Him in order to keep us from eternal calamity.”

Is that what God is saying to us in these challenging days? Is a text from 2 Chronicles a word from heaven for us? This minister seems to think so.

In this Covid-19 pandemic, did God “send an epidemic on [his] people” for a purpose? Is God calling us to “repent and turn from the evil [we] have been doing”? If we dedicate ourselves to prayer and this kind of repentance, will God hear us, forgive us, and make us prosperous again?

Many of our spiritual ancestors would have thought so. There is a certain view of Providence (with a capital “P”) that emerges, in my opinion, from an unacceptably flat view of the Bible, one that makes no distinctions between various texts and how they apply. One that sees no progress or development in revelation.

We read a passage of scripture and if it sounds like what we’re going through, we take it as God’s Word™ spoken directly to us. And in a time of natural disaster, the word, culled from a multitude of available First Testament texts, is that God’s judgment is falling upon us. Or, as Pastor Robert Jeffress said in his recent sermon, “Is the Coronavirus a Judgment From God?” — “All natural disasters can ultimately be traced to sin.”

Nor is this merely a Protestant or evangelical perspective. In an article on LifeSite News, Catholic historian and author Dr. Roberto de Mattei calls coronavirus a “scourge from God.” Mattei quotes Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444), who declared: “There are three scourges with which God chastises: war, plague, and famine.” The professor concurs, saying —

The theology of history tells us that God rewards and punishes not only men but also collectivities and social groups: families, nations, civilizations. But while men have their reward or chastisement, sometimes on earth but always in heaven, nations, which do not have an eternal life, are punished or rewarded only on earth.

God is righteous and rewarding and gives to each what is his due: he not only chastises individual persons but he also sends tribulations to families, cities, and nations for the sins which they commit.

God is the author of nature with its forces and its laws, and he has the power to arrange the mechanism of the forces and laws of nature in such a way as to produce a phenomenon according to the needs of his justice or his mercy.

While this may be established theology for some, I think it’s bad Bible, failing to recognize the Christocentric nature of true Christian interpretation. At Maclean’s, Michael Coren agrees.

At a more serious or theological level, this is a reductive and banal spirituality that may satisfy the zealot but is dangerously crass and in fact profoundly ungodly. It depicts a genocidal God, sufficiently cruel to hurt indiscriminately, and too indifferent or impotent to be able to punish only those who have genuinely caused harm. It’s all the product of an ancient, fearful belief system that has nothing to do with the gentle Jewish rabbi of the 1st century who called for love and forgiveness, and so distant and different from the Gospel calls of Jesus to turn the other cheek, embrace our enemies, reach out to the most rejected and marginalized, and work for justice and peace.

If God is speaking to us, perhaps it is more a message about loving our neighbors, making sacrificial choices for the sake of others, praying for wisdom to know how to support our public officials and those ministering to the sick, and sharing the good news of Jesus who heals the sick and binds up the wounds of the brokenhearted, rather than a message of divine judgment.

Hebrews 1 tells us that Jesus is God’s final word for us. John 1 tells us that the unseen God is seen in Jesus. God is Jesus-shaped, and that means he comes to us incarnationally rather than in the kind of providential judgments and deliverances attributed to God in the First Testament.

Furthermore, the risen Jesus indwells his people through the Spirit he poured out upon us. The message of God to the world comes not through natural phenomena like coronavirus but through the good news proclaimed by and embodied in a people who bear his name. “War, plague, and famine” are not severe words from God. They are groans of a broken creation into which God sends his word of faith, hope, and love through Jesus-shaped people.

Comments

  1. Is it an either…

    –> “If we dedicate ourselves to prayer and this kind of repentance, will God hear us, forgive us, and make us prosperous again?”

    …or…

    –> “perhaps it is more a message about loving our neighbors, making sacrificial choices for the sake of others, praying for wisdom to know how to support our public officials and those ministering to the sick, and sharing the good news of Jesus who heals the sick and binds up the wounds of the brokenhearted, rather than a message of divine judgment.”

    …proposition?

    Might it be both? I mean, I hope all believers are praying pretty hard for the former, even as we try to do the latter.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > Might it be both?

      I don’t know. If you look at something like Hosea it is hard to get to “If we…”.

      I am inclined to believe that **WE** are so essentially transactional that **WE** are compelled to see transactionality in everything around, above, or below us. Have we ‘done’ to God the same thing we did too wolves? Since we [primates] vie for dominance and loyalty then wolf packs must be the same way? Scientists believed that for a century… except it isn’t true, that doesn’t [or very rarely] happens. And even when we know that isn’t true the metaphor is so appealing to us that we are societally incapable of letting it go.

      Much of Scripture seems to be saying “No, look, listen…” And Humanity hears a “deal”.

    • First of all, the text was written during the exile for Jews in Babylon who longed to be restored to their homeland. It was written in the context of a certain view of the covenant between God and his chosen nation, Israel. So, the first thing that needs to be said is that a text like this is not about us at all.

      Next question: are there “principles” here that we should take to heart today? I am less and less inclined to approach scripture in that way.

      Third, I think we’ve spent years here pushing back against the transactional view of God that most people see in a verse like this. (1) We’re bad. (2) Therefore, God is mad at us. (3) So God sent bad things to discipline us. (4) If we say we’re sorry God will be happy with us again and bless us. I’m not buying it.

  2. Whether coronavirus or any other calamity is or has been God’s judgment is beyond my competence to determine. As for myself, this crisis has led me to repent of my known sins in new and deeper ways, in more life-changing ways, than repentance ever had before. But it has led to that repentance not out of any particular belief that this disease is God’s judgment against humanity, but so that I might more bravely, with a clear conscience, confront my own death should it come sooner rather than later.

    The question I continue to struggle with in the face of this plague is not about God’s judgment, but God’s love. Does God love me, does God love my wife, does God love my neighbor, does God love the many who are facing or undergoing excruciating suffering and death in the grip of this horrific affliction? Is God love?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > been God’s judgment is beyond my competence to determine

      It also doesn’t matter. This is judgement, or it is not. As their is no process for petition or appeal… #shrug One just has to deal with it. Little different than living under an authoritarian; is the king wise or mad? The answer is that he’s the king – keep your head down and your feet moving.

      • We don’t live under an Authoritarian God–though some would like it to be so. The most definitive ontological statement we have about the Father is “God is love.” The thing about love is that it doesn’t operate as an “I–it” relationship, rather as “I–thou”, subject to subject, not subject to object. Love respects the freedom and dignity of the other. The Gawd of Jeffress et al is something more on the order of Molech. To hell with that idol.

        • “God […] nowhere promised that he would be a universal moral policeman. […] In fact, when God actually showed up in Jesus, he resolutely refused to judge anyone. Far from being on the side of the police, he ended up being done in by the very forces of righteousness who were supposed to be his official representatives.”

          — Robert Farrar Capon, The Romance of the Word: One Man’s Love Affair with Theology

      • Assuming God is a reality…

        Does God love us? Each of us answers that question in our own unique conditions–which condition us toward a particular view. Sometimes we feel/sense that Love while in other conditions a sense of love is totally absent. When it’s all said and done we make some kind of determination based on a faith perspective–yea or nay are both of faith and both on the spectrum of our experience.

        My faith will say, from a cognitive footing, that God loves us and the Incarnation is he/she/it demonstrating solidarity with us in the absurdity of life–which God created.

        “[…] even God is not above dropping the subject of sins. If you think about the death of God incarnate in Jesus on the cross, what is that if not the gift of God’s silence to the world? After millennia of divine jawboning about the holiness of justice and the wickedness of sin, God himself simply shuts up about the whole business. He dies as a criminal, under the curse of the Law – as if to say, ‘Look, I’m as guilty as you are in this situation because I set it up in the first place; let’s just forget about blame and get on with the party.’ ”

        (From The Mystery of Christ… & Why We Don’t Get It)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        is the king wise or mad? The answer is that he’s the king – keep your head down and your feet moving.

        And make sure to scream Praises of the King louder than everyone else.
        “LONG LIVE BIG BROTHER!!!!!”

        • anonymous says

          sounds like a quote from Russia of old

          czar to Putin, what’s the difference . . . the oligarchs steal from the people, and the most of what is sold in the super-markets is vodka, plenty of vodka, to pacify the serfs and keep them quiet while Putin and his buddies send the people’s wealth to foreign banks for their own use

          Big Brother here gets his ‘ritual dear leader’ round of worship from his minions whenever they gather for a public meeting and each tries to outdo the other with how great the leadership of the trump has been
          (severe sounds of sucking up for the chorus)

          did you know that the repub senators had a ‘secret’ meeting in February giving them the ‘heads-up’ about the coming trouble and how it would affect the stock market, so WHILE THEY CONTINUED TO HOLLER ‘HOAX’, these jerks were selling off their own stocks at the height of their value . . . they saved millions while the virus spread

          what happened to the Repub party? we are gonna need a wholelot more t.p. to clean up their mess when this is done

    • senecagriggs says

      Awesome comment Robert F

    • I hear you Robert F. I ask the same questions, though I wish I was one of those who never seems to doubt those things.

    • Robert, I love your heart and honesty.

    • Christiane says

      Robert, sometimes we are blown off course to save us from something worse ahead that we cannot see coming

      Good comment, thoughtful as always, Robert

    • Good thoughts, Robert.

    • Robert, this is where I think my interpretation holds up better.

      “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you.” (F. Buechner)

      Our faith is not wrapped up in identifying how God does or doesn’t manage his universe. It is wrapped up in Jesus, who came to be with us, who died our death, laid in our grave, and rose to make us new and give us hope of new creation.

      The world is what it is. One thing it is is a place where viruses like the new coronavirus emerge. That’s the world. Not God. God is the One with us, helping us to know and do beautiful things in the midst of it all.

  3. If God judges us as Jeffress and so many others assert, then Paul and God are in a terrible conflict.

    Love never gives up.
    Love cares more for others than for self.
    Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
    Love doesn’t strut,
    Doesn’t have a swelled head,
    Doesn’t force itself on others,
    Isn’t always “me first,”
    Doesn’t fly off the handle,
    Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
    Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

    Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
    Puts up with anything,
    Trusts God always,
    Always looks for the best,
    Never looks back,
    But keeps going to the end.

    (I Cor 13, The Message)

    Paul is describing the Christ, who is the Image of the Father.

    Some idiots need to learn to do theology better and stop maligning God.

    • As Calvin once said (apocyphally), “God made humanity in His image, and humanity has been returning the favor ever since.”

    • –> “Some idiots need to learn to do theology better and stop maligning God.”

      I’ve been thinking lately that we Christians need to do a better job of showing people Jesus, and spend less time showing them our theology.

  4. And if God *is* sending us a message with this, He’s making sure it sticks…

    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/615370/coronavirus-pandemic-social-distancing-18-months/

  5. senecagriggs says

    I don’t know how, but as a conservative Evangelical, I certainly think the Covid 19 virus serves God’s [ often mysterious ] purposes.
    ____________

    Tonight I am going to briefly handle three questions that have come to me recently. The first asks, “Why was it such a great sin for King David to order a census of Israel?” This refers to 2 Samuel 24:1-17, where God’s anger burned against Israel because David took a census of the fighting men. Even Joab, David’s thug general, knew this would bring trouble, saying, “Why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?” (24:3). As soon as David did it he, too, knew it was a sin. God’s wrath was so stirred up that 70,000 people died as a result. But, interestingly, the biblical account never explains why this was a sin.

    What makes this more interesting is that the chapter begins by saying that the LORD incited David to do this, apparently by giving Satan permission to tempt him. The parallel account in 1 Chronicles 21 says, “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” The record in Chronicles places this right after a great victory over the Philistines, so the sin was probably related to a problem with pride and self-reliance. A census was preliminary to a draft of soldiers and a levying of taxes. It seems, therefore, that David’s intent was to increase the royal power in a way that contrasted with humble reliance on God. As Deuteronomy chapter 17 so strongly insists, the human kingship of Israel was to be noticeably dependent on God’s divine kingship. For Israel’s king to build up the same kind of power common to pagan kings was tantamount to repudiating God’s over-kingship. This seems to have been the nature of David’s sin so that God was angered and acted to nip it in the bud.

    https://www.tenth.org/resource-library/articles/why-was-davids-census-a-great-sin

    • Just maybe everything in the Bible CANNOT be harmonized.

      The two accounts of David’s census constitute two different perspectives from different time periods. Each account is an interpretation by each writer and their redactors. And, those writers are coming at the events from a position of transactionalism.

      Q. What do you get when two Rabbis discuss Tanakh?

      A. Three arguments.

      Yes, the text is a narrative–many in fact. Yes, there are “facts”. But, here’s what pried me away from my earliest training of seeing the Bible as a flat field of Facts…

      The OT is a collection of ARGUMENTS. This is evident even in the first 2 chapters of Genesis–two different stories in play. The story of Ruth is a rebuttal of Ezra’s marriage “reforms”. The historical books present several different views of the kings and Kingdom, but one constant is the ever-present assertion that Israel/Judah/the King did evil in the sight of YHWH and that’s why all this calamity is happening–and even when the perfect king (Josiah) comes to the throne, leads revival and reform but then dies confronting Necho and despite all the only answer for why shit happens is still “…he did evil in the sight of the LORD his God” (Jehoiakim).

      The other constant running argument is that between Priest/Temple and the Prophets. The Priest assert that purity and conformity to the sacrificial laws is absolutely necessary for national prosperity. The Prophets say that YHWH despises their ceremonial correctness and instead demands “uprightness”–social justice.

      In the Gospels Jesus grabs these threads and draws them through his heart of love and wisdom. The OT answers none of the questions it presents and settles none of the arguments presented about Who God is and what He’s like. Jesus settles all the arguments; “If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.”

      ;o)

      • the ‘god of wrath’ is an evil destructive pagan god, not seen in Jesus Christ, but still worshiped by fundamentalists
        who visit their own venom on ‘the others’ with great glee and finger-pointing

  6. It, a naturally occurring virus, is certainly an impetus for us to do as the ancients did. It is certainly proper in light of the horror of the thing to take stock of ourselves, our behaviors and our charity or lack thereof. Just like when a family member dies and we go to the funeral we stop to more clearly focus on life, it’s span, it’’s joys and bitter iniquities, we as a human family are now dropped into a corporate disaster that gives us cause to reflect. The theology is different, the result is quite the same. We are stopped in our tracks, we are humbled and we are praying.

    • Good advice in all situations. Take stock of ourselves.

    • Excellent, Chris!

    • Yes; it seems to me that there’s a world of difference between “plague -> judgement -> it’s your fault” and “plague -> judgement -> what may I have done wrong?”.

      The Israelites default posture after every defeat or disaster was “what did we do wrong?”. And that is the only constructive way *to* think. What are you going to do, call into question God’s judgment? What can you do about it, even if you were right? As I believe Jordan Peterson said: it’s kind of axiomatic that God is right, and it’s our job to work out how we’re wrong.

      Which doesn’t mean that I think that every bad thing that happens to the nations is “God’s fault” or “our fault”, but every painful experience definitely is an invitation to reflect and possibly, repent.

      And I don’t see why God wouldn’t be sovereign over what happens at a national and international level. It’s certainly not ME controlling stuff at the level, and I doubt it’s you!

      • And maybe what God is saying to us is something as simple as “hey, guys, you’re mortal, remember? Start looking beyond your stupid material goals, stop pretending you’re going to live for ever. You can’t take all this junk with you when you go.”

  7. The place where the people of God worshiped God when this was written was the temple. The temple was were God lived. The people of God were instructed to trust and believe in God by faith, over and over again they did not. So Jesus is the new temple. Not as a nation do we believe and trust in Jesus as Emmanuel , Lord and Savior. Jesus teachings and Jesus’c comfort and promises are for individual believers as if you are not a believer you cannot really know and follow the pathway laid down by God. As a sinful human person who does not accept Jesus as being who he said he was , you do not believe or know of the true power and love of God. So if this part of the OT does no application to our present world, then why include the OT in the Bible. We are not a theocratic Christian nation, we are (were) a nation of Christians. If the Christians in a nation as individuals put their trust , prayers and actions into depending on God making every effort themselves to solve the problem, would that be appropriate? Pray like everything up to God, Work like everything is up to you. So you must believe that God is more than a 1st century rabbi if you believe he is indeed what he said he was, God on earth , who should trust and believe in . As a nation of individuals we should pray to God in the name of Jesus as individuals. The problem I have with the line of thought that we start to cherry pick and isolate what is relevant in the OT. Why is there a need to try to convince people of nations that a nation as a collection of individuals can turn away from God? and follow Jesus? Solomon built the Temple because God told him to. We as a nation act a certain way because we believe Jesus told how to believe as individuals and translate that to our national course.
    So does the OT apply to us for instruction or is it , like many early Christians thought only for the Jews.

    • The OT is included in the Christian canon because it gives us a record of how the ancients thought about their experiences of the Divine/transcendent. It is not included because of accuracy of interpretation of those experiences. It may be more accurate to say that the OT is our guide about how NOT to think of God…

      Jesus and Paul were wise and skillful redactors and commentators of the First Testament. Few take note of the most prominent OT themes they redacted and rebutted.

    • Christiane says

      ” the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.”

      (credited to Augustine)

  8. Religion is one of the larger roadblocks that God has had to put up with in the process of getting his message through to the world. The usual religious view is that God has his finger in every pie, and, as the infinite meddler, never lets anything act for itself. People bolster such ideas by an appeal to Scripture, pointing out things like the parting of the Red Sea or Elijah starting fires with wet wood on Mt. Carmel. That won’t do, however. To be sure, I am not about to make out a case that God can’t do miracles–that he can’t from time to time stick in his thumb and manufacture a plum if he feels like it. Nor am I going to maintain that he can’t answer the prayers of those of his free creatures he has bizarrely said he would take advice from. All I want to insist on here is that most of the time he doesn’t meddle; that his ordinary policy is: Hands off.

    – Robert Farrar Capon

    (The Romance of the Word: One Man’s Love Affair With Theology)

  9. I like Julian of Norwich’s take on the wrath of God: she said that God is never wrathful, and essentially that if we feel that God is wrathful what we’re actually experiencing is a “wrath” inside of ourselves that we’re projecting onto God:

    “For I saw no wrath but on humanity’s part, and that God forgives in us. For wrath is nothing else but a rebelliousness and a contrariousness to peace and to love. And either it comes from failure of strength, or from failure of wisdom, or from failure of goodness, which failing is not in God but is on our own part.”

    The seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak is a result of sin: governments minimizing the outbreak to avoid looking bad, leaders valuing the economy over human life, individuals refusing to sacrifice their personal freedoms for the sake of the lives of others. It’s completely right that we should feel deserving of wrath for that, and that we should be angry at our own failings that echo the failings that have brought this crisis upon us. But I don’t believe for a second that God is watching this whole things saying, “Ha, ha, serves you right.”

    • I’m convinced there is a hidden systematic theology contained in Julian’s writing. She covers everything important. It’s brilliant.

      I hope she gets lots of airplay right about now.

  10. The preference of the Almighty for the poor and marginalized has been made quite explicit. I recall some talk of millstones. Perhaps locking immigrant children up crossed some sort of threshold?

    • Christiane says

      It did.

      We have to answer for such cruelty to innocent little ones. It even was let known that they did not have needed soap or dental care or clean diapers, so they suffered much. And the food and water was inadequate for them also.

      That ‘some threshold’? We placed littles and infants into a hell and now it’s our turn, not by the Hand of God, but by our own rotten hatred for ‘the others’ who came to us for asylum and found hell instead.

    • That makes the thing sound too US-centric. It’s not. It’s global. So either God has His finger on EVERYONE, or NO ONE. Don’t make this about USA’s ills.

      • In fact, as further counterpoint to your suggestion, ground zero for COVID-19 here in the states has been my backyard of Seattle, WA, a city that has pretty much bent over backward for the immigrants, refugees, the homeless, the needy.

      • Italy just surpassed China in the number of officially reported deaths.

        • And sadly, in Europe and the US it seems that a much larger percentage of younger people in their twenties and thirties are being severely adversely effected by the virus — requiring hospitalization and intensive care — than the data from Asia indicated. This virus is the devil himself…..maybe there’s more than one strain.

      • I also recall talk of beams and specks.

  11. God is always speaking to us.

    Is the coronavirus judgment? Maybe. Were the people murdered by Pilate under judgment by God, or the people killed when the Tower of Siloam fell on them? In Luke 13 Jesus says no, they weren’t, but unless people repent they too will get caught up in destruction along with others. He may have been talking about a different kind of destruction, however.

    Sometimes bad things just happen. I don’t mean to nullify the sovereignty of God, but sometimes it’s part of that. The simple answer is that it’s all part of the fall of Adam, and we are all vulnerable. So watch and be ready.

    • Stuff happens and we are fragile. Jesus’ response regarding the Tower of Siloam shows there is a difference between dying and being killed by God. There is no indication these people received Divine punishment for sinful choices. We rubber-neck as we pass by a serious car wreck. It doesn’t mean we’re more holy drivers than they were. It didn’t mean that Jesus’ hearers were any more righteous than the 18 men. The response he leaves us with is a decidedly Lenten one of repentance and prayer.

    • Maybe its just a catalyst for everyone to remember how to do unto others. In my optimistic view I am hoping we come together, like we did after 911, instead of moving towards an “everyone out for themselves” mentality like the zombie apocalypse movies that have peppered the TV for the past 10 years…..

  12. David Cornwell says

    One thing I’m sure of: this virus isn’t the result of God’s action against us. We can’t explain it because it is beyond our capacity to understand. The question of evil and all of its ramifications will never be satisfactorily explained in this life. How we relate to the virus; how we respond is within our grasp with the help of God. I really do not know how to pray when it comes to friends and family without my prayers being self-centered and plain old selfish. We must seek to pray through a heart purified by God who can filter out and cleanse our prayers as they flow into His heart of love.

    My standard for praying is the prayer of our Lord when He was teaching us to pray:
    “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It takes a lifetime to make this a prayer of our hearts. We can pray this petition day and night without question and without debate.

    “Give us this day our daily bread” This brings our prayer into the moment we live in. It will help remove worry about the next day and the days that follow. It prays for sustenance — from the God who loves us and cares for us, as we place ourselves into His care for everything.

    The virus can bring with it the judgment of natural consequence and it can also bring with it God’s grace toward ourselves and our neighbors. I’m not really sure what else we need to know.

    “Deliver us from evil.”

    • sometimes the delivery from evil is painful to endure, but in the crucible, we are stripped of our foolish ways

      the trials begin

    • senecagriggs says

      “One thing I’m sure of: this virus isn’t the result of God’s action against us.”

      Actually I’m thinking you CAN”T be sure that.

      • He can be sure of it; and you can disagree. Case solved. 😉

      • David Cornwell says

        Seneca –So are you saying that the virus might be a good thing?

        • senecagriggs says

          No, I’m saying we cannot really know God’s will re: the Corona virus or other such afflictions. i certainly DO believe they serve His eternal purposes however.

          • Either everything is God’s will, or nothing is. One of those propositions must be embraced if God’s Will is dealt with as an abstraction–something outside of our selves.

        • “I don’t know how, but as a conservative Evangelical, I certainly think the Covid 19 virus serves God’s [ often mysterious ] purposes.”

          Seneca
          ___________________

          IOW, if it serves God’s purpose it must be a good thing. This kind of thinking is well entrenched within Evangelicalism (not restricted to Evang., but part and parcel with).

          My response to such is then to ask, “So God does evil to accomplish his purposes?” After all, the Bible says in Is. Is. 45:7

          “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these.” (KJV)

          But, goes the rebuttal, “for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one.”

          So, apparently God creates evil, however God is not “tempted” by evil, so somehow God uses evil for his purposes without being tainted by it.

          Quite the circulus in probando.

    • “One thing I’m sure of: this virus isn’t the result of God’s action against us. ”

      Maybe the virus isn’t but those darn locusts… well that’s another story…..

    • Thank you, David. A good summation of all the good thought here today.

      Dana

  13. No one has really commented on the heart of my argument, seen in the final two paragraphs:

    Hebrews 1 tells us that Jesus is God’s final word for us. John 1 tells us that the unseen God is seen in Jesus. God is Jesus-shaped, and that means he comes to us incarnationally rather than in the kind of providential judgments and deliverances attributed to God in the First Testament.

    Furthermore, the risen Jesus indwells his people through the Spirit he poured out upon us. The message of God to the world comes not through natural phenomena like coronavirus but through the good news proclaimed by and embodied in a people who bear his name. “War, plague, and famine” are not severe words from God. They are groans of a broken creation into which God sends his word of faith, hope, and love through Jesus-shaped people.

    The world is what it is. It is a place where viruses like coronavirus emerge and wreak havoc, exacerbated by the sinfulness and futility of human efforts and systems. God is who he is — the Jesus-shaped God who lives in us and lays down his life through us to bring life to the world.

  14. Burro (Mule) says

    Sinners in the Hands of An Angry Church, Left and Right.

    Sheesh. I see so much anger loose these days that sometimes it feels like two whirlwinds have collided and are struggling for supremacy in my back yard.

    My wife is addicted to fundamentalist anger on Spanish fundamentalist media, so I get a lot of it. The Hosean/Deuteronomic strain is very loud there – there is one in particular who seems to think that the coronavirus is God’s response to unauthorized sex, but last week it was an earthquake in Chile that was God’s response. My response was that if God was so upset about unauthorized sex, He’d better do away with us all at once and get it over with, not toy with us like a sociopathic cat with a masochistic mouse. It did not go over well.

    If we suffer less from epidemics than our many times great-grandparents, it’s not because we commit fewer sins, but because we wash our hands.

    Then, in my own communion, the bishops have started issuing tickets to ensure that services remain below the 50 congregant limit. Although they are supposed to be offered on a first-come-first-serve basis, there are the Usual Suspects who see favoritism and cronyism everywhere. I wonder how they would have survived the recent Soviet regime, where the bishops were all in bed with the KGB and services were highly restricted.

    • Clay Crouch says

      The Episcopal Church welcomes you!

    • This is profound Burro!

      If we suffer less from epidemics than our many times great-grandparents, it’s not because we commit fewer sins, but because we wash our hands.

      If that is true, then it kind of washes this whole discussion, IMHO.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      … there is one in particular who seems to think that the coronavirus is God’s response to unauthorized sex, but last week it was an earthquake in Chile that was God’s response. My response was that if God was so upset about unauthorized sex, He’d better do away with us all at once and get it over with…

      Once again, the Angry Church’s obsession with Pelvic Issues.
      (And they’ll follow any media who feeds that Anger. Or any Man on a White Horse who whips it up and promises payback.)

  15. Iain Lovejoy says

    I think the problem is thinking the coronavirus, or any of the other trials and tribulations of this flawed world are anything personal: it is just a virus doing its virusy thing without any thought or consideration for us. It is “sent by God” but only in the sense that God is as much the God of viruses as he is tge God of us, and he enables the coronavirus to do its coronavirusy thing according to its nature just as much as he enables us to live in accordance with ours.
    Perhaps that is what the Chronicles passage is about – when we forget God he leaves us to get on without him, for good or ill, and we are at the mercy of all the “changes and chances” of this world. Prayer is a way of making it personal again – it’s not a magic wand to take away problems, but a different way of interacting with God and with the world through God. We stop drifting randomly through the world and start progressing towards his ultimate kingdom again. The kingdom will be free of death and suffering, and as it breaks through these are relieved, but it is not a direct cause and effect.

  16. Michael Bell says

    Lots of excellent comments in this post. We will be continuing the conversation tomorrow, but in a slightly different vein.

    • I was just thinking, “Man, a lot has changed since Mike Bell’s last post, and especially just TWO posts ago.”

      Looking forward to your insight and wisdom!!

      • Rick, to put into perspective how much has changed in a week here in Maine—our local weekly paper hits the stands on Thursdays, so I assume they’re putting it to bed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Last week’s issue had ZERO articles on coronavirus/covid-19, only a letter to the editor and an editorial. Now the number of cases statewide has gone from 1 to 52 and we’re all under de facto house arrest and unemployed, with schools, restaurants, etc, closed and no con-trails overhead to and from Europe. Email inbox choked with info, and oh, yeah, facebook. One week.

        • About five days ago a FB friend asked, “How many of you know someone who’s been diagnosed with this?” (With the subtle yet not-too-subtle underlying point being: This is all much-ado-about-nothing.) My response: Ask that question again in 30 days.

          Since then we’ve heard actors and actresses with it, athletes and coaches being diagnosed, and now a cousin’s uncle has died from it and a friend’s mom is in ICU because of it. And my dad’s retirement community is in lockdown because an employee and a resident have it.

          All the people who were quick to brush this off and claim it’s all much-ado-about-nothing…I just want to smack them.

    • M. Bell, Looking forward to answering the bell tomorrow.

    • Will there be graphs? I actually like your graphs, Mike.

  17. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    In this Covid-19 pandemic, did God “send an epidemic on [his] people” for a purpose? Is God calling us to “repent and turn from the evil [we] have been doing”?

    There’s one commenter over at Wartburg Watch who’s been Witnessing(TM) this with proof-text after proof-text (all OT) about God Chastising through Pestilence. Guy has a one-track mind on the subject. Calls any skeptic “a Scoffer”.