Especialy at times of crisis we are to be on our toes to articulate the Christian faith. Questions of theodicy (explaining suffering and injustice while believing in an omnipotent God) and even challenges to the faith arise both in the Christian community and in the general culture.
As foundation for such dialogue certain things are to be to kept in mind. The first is that we teach and confess that God is good. He is compassionate and merciful, desiring the salvation of all people. Consequences for sin do exist, but only to bring the sinner back to a vital relationship to God. While there is breath in the body, there is also hope for life and salvation.
The coronavirus pandemic is not in any way a punishment for sin. Only a true prophet can perceive God’s using a disease to straiten the people. We have no such word. God is not the divine masochist who delights in suffering. Disease has no clear theological meaning. Why does it exist? It is part of the natural world, but also part of the fallen creation (see Gregorty Boyd).
We follow Blaise Pascal (Pensees) in his assertion that life is misery without God. To believe in nothing (nihilism) is to dwell in darkness and wretchedness. The opposite of belief in God is not freedom, but the worst slavery.
Not all questions can be answered. Pastors and theologians can not in good conscience claim that they know it all about this vast universe and its God. Sometimes we must say, “I don’t know.” But, we are obliged to answer the questions that can be known. If we do not know the answer to what can be known, we are to find out the answer.
There is evil in the world that we must fight, as God fights it (see Gregory Boyd’s God at War and Satan and the Problem of Evil). Christians are warriors for God. We are called to join the fight with the weapons Paul describes: the breastplate of faith and love, the helmet of hope and salvation (I Thessalonians), and the whole panoply of God (see Ephesians 6).
Do we obey the government’s instructions? We do as long as what it commands does not counter the Christian faith. The authorities are to be respected and obeyed unless they lead us away from God and the life of the Church.
In our encounters with others, let us witness to the faith in difficult times. Let us do it with gentleness and respect (I Peter). Let us pray that we may endure faithfully through the pandemic.
Michael G. Tavella
March 31, 2020
John Donne, priest 1631