Why did God allow COVID-19? Why did God allow coronavirus? This question is one that many people want an answer to, whether Christian, religious, or atheist. Christians say often that “nothing happens without God’s knowledge and control,” so it appears that, if COVID-19 is a real pandemic, a terribly tragic disease, then it didn’t happen without God’s knowledge and control. God foreknew it would come to the world. He is sovereign over it.
Sovereign is one word many conservative Christians use to say that God is powerful over everything that happens, that nothing happens that God can’t subdue or tame. The doctrine is called The Sovereignty of God. So, if God knew about COVID-19 in advance, if He has control over coronavirus, why does it even exist in our world at all? Why didn’t God just prevent it from happening in the first place?
Well, the answer depends on whom you ask — in the Christian world, that is. Atheists will tell you that bad things happen in the world because, contra Christianity, there is no God. God is a figment of the human imagination to find someone to blame that doesn’t exist. Other religions offer their own explanations. Christianity, however, has a divide of its own. Some Christians during this time are busy making up answers to the question as they go along. They have no answer from God yet claim to speak for God. And that’s why Christianity is looking more and more like “the emperor with no clothes”: that is, Christianity claims to have answers when in reality, it has none.
Former Southern Baptist Pastor and The Atlantic contributor, Jonathan Merritt, has gathered some of the outrageous Christian responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in his article titled “Some of the Most Visible Christians in America Are Failing The Coronavirus Test.” The article mentions a church billboard with the question, “Is the coronavirus a judgment from God?” on it. President Trump Cabinet Bible Study leader, Ralph Drollinger, has said that the disease is “God’s consequential wrath on our nation.” Perhaps less shocking than these is the recent Joshua Fund study carried out late last month in which 44% of Christians surveyed said that the COVID-19 pandemic is a “wake-up call for us to turn back to faith in God.”
So, with the church’s visible billboard sign (mentioned above), it’s a good question to approach. While I think you want to know the answer to this question, be prepared: the answer just might not be what you seek. With that warning in place, let’s approach the question.
Is the coronavirus pandemic a sign of God’s judgment?
Did God send the coronavirus pandemic around the world to teach us a lesson? Is the coronavirus pandemic a sign of God’s judgment? What evidence do we have that the coronavirus pandemic is a sign of God’s judgment?
When we say that the COVID-19 pandemic is “a sign of God’s judgment,” we’re presuming a few things. First, we’re saying that God is responsible for the pandemic because He caused it, He is the cause or origin of it. Next, we’re assuming that, since God is the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re also assuming that God intended to send the pandemic because He wants to punish the world. The pandemic has one goal: to punish the world and bring mankind to its knees, in a sense. This is, of course, if we assume God has an intended goal for the pandemic.
For now, let’s explore whether or not God is the cause of the coronavirus pandemic.
Is God the origin/cause of the coronavirus pandemic?
Did the coronavirus pandemic originate with God? The problem with asking such a question is that one assumes God is responsible for something that humans are responsible for. From what can be known about COVID-19, it originated in an animal market in Wuhan, China (Hubei province).
USA Today says in its piece regarding whether or not the virus originated in a Chinese lab that “the consensus among researchers studying the spread of the virus pinpoints COVID-19’s likely to a ‘wet market’ or live animal market, in Wuhan, China.” There seems to be a hypothesis that coronavirus originated outside of China, though there is very little evidence to make the case for it at this time. COVID-19 could have originated in bats and passed from bats to other animals, then to humans at the Wuhan animal market. Perhaps a person playing with the animals didn’t know they were infected. Perhaps the disease has been airborne from the start. What researchers can say with certainty is that it spread from animals to humans initially, and is now spreading from person to person also.
When someone says that “God caused the coronavirus pandemic,” they’re saying that God is responsible for it. It’s the same, age-old “Is God responsible for evil?” question. The answer remains the same: No, God isn’t responsible for evil. And COVID-19 is an evil disease upon this world. There’s nothing good about its terrifying presence. Nothing.
Despite its evil, there are some who believe that God is the hand behind everything that happens. “If it happens,” they say, “then God has a hand in it.” These individuals, called Calvinists, emphasize sovereignty so much that they deny human responsibility at all. John Calvin himself said that even the leaf that falls from the tree doesn’t do so without God’s specific permission. Even someone beaten and left for dead experiences such pain because God is behind it:
“If one falls among robbers, or ravenous beasts; if a sudden gust of wind at sea causes shipwreck; if one is struck down by the fall of a house or a tree; if another, when wandering through desert paths, meets with deliverance; or, after being tossed by the waves, arrives in port, and makes some wondrous hair-breadth escape from death – all these occurrences, prosperous as well as adverse, carnal sense will attribute to fortune. But whose has learned from the mouth of Christ that all the hairs of his head are numbered (Mt. 10:30), will look farther for the cause, and hold that all events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel of God” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Chapter 16, “The World, Created by God, Still Cherished And Protected By Him. Each And All Of Its Parts Governed By His Providence,” Section 1).
John Calvin says that every outcome, whether good or bad, is “governed by the secret counsel of God.” God is behind even the disasters, though Calvin doesn’t say how God works behind the scenes.
To attribute disasters and tragedies to God is a heinous thing indeed. Calvin didn’t mind swallowing it and accepting his theological assumption, but it’s problematic for many Christians to accept. Scripture tells us that God is not responsible for the first sin, that the first man, Adam, is responsible for it (Romans 5:18-19). And God is not the author of sin and evil. The Scriptures themselves state that God is not evil and He doesn’t tempt anyone (James 1:13-15). Man is the reason for his sin and temptation, not God.
In the same way sin has a human cause, I’d say there’s a human cause to the coronavirus outbreak: someone in a live animal market contracted the virus and it has passed from person to person ever since.
Human cause of the coronavirus pandemic
Not only did the virus originate in the animal market, but Chinese authorities were slow in reporting the outbreak to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Dr. Li Wenliang alerted Chinese authorities about the disease in early December, but authorities forced him to recant and keep his mouth closed about the disease. Weeks later, the Chinese state finally reported the coronavirus outbreak to the CDC.
These are human causes for COVID-19. And yet, when asking why God allowed coronavirus to happen, some (Calvinists) say that God is the cause of it. And yet, that is an assumption that must be proven. The truth of it all is that Christians don’t have any conclusive proof, no quotations or words from the Lord Himself, regarding His role in the coronavirus outbreak.
And those who claim that God is the cause for the coronavirus pandemic are not speaking for God, but rather themselves. Those who take their own thoughts and words and attribute them to God are false prophets, and their statements are false teaching.
God’s judgment lies on every soul that attributes something to God for which God Himself doesn’t accept credit.