This is part three in a series about the coronavirus pandemic. Part 1 was titled, “COVID-19’s Impact on AiG and a Biblical Response: 11 Reminders” and Part 2, “Should We Lose Sleep over the Coronavirus.”
I’m challenging Christians not to use simplistic, knee-jerk responses to this serious topic, but to carefully study God’s Word to build our thinking.
I’ve always positioned Answers in Genesis as a biblical authority ministry. That’s always been our emphasis—to stand boldly and unashamedly on the authority of the Word of God and to take God at his Word. We've always been committed to sound thinking and biblical truth from the very first verse. In this article, I tried my utmost to provide an answer to the question posed with carefully reasoned thought based on solid biblical theology. I’m challenging Christians not to use simplistic, knee-jerk responses to this serious topic, but to carefully study God’s Word to build our thinking.
To begin part 3, we need to ask this question:
Who is God?
I love what the prophet Isaiah proclaimed:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. (Isaiah 40:28)
Yes, God is the Creator.
But before we can discuss what it means that God is the Creator of all things, we need to have some understanding of something so great, it’s really beyond our comprehension. Unless we truly understand who God is, we won’t correctly answer such questions as “Who is responsible for the coronavirus?” Secularists will claim that for Christians who do believe in God, then that God must be responsible for such a virus. However, they have no concept of a true understanding of the Creator God. And I do think that because we are finite humans, it’s easy for us to limit our understanding of God to our human terms.
For instance, I’ve had people over the years ask me if I’m a Calvinist or Arminian. My answer to them is “neither and both.” Now that sounds like a contradiction. Besides the fact that I really struggle with categorizing people into theological systems devised by man, to me, it’s an answer consistent with what the bible teaches about who God is.
The Creator God of the Bible exists in eternity, and the Scripture teaches us he is
Omnipotent: For nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1:37).
Omniscient: In whom [Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).
Omnipresent: The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3).
He is infinitely powerful, infinite in knowledge and wisdom, and is everywhere at all times. We also learn that God is three in one—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Many times in Scripture we read that God is the Creator, but we also read that Jesus created all things: Colossians 1:16 teaches us that “for by him [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Jesus is the second member of the Trinity, and Scripture states: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9).
The third member of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
Now, in Psalm 90:2 we read: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”
So God, who is one but three, exists from everlasting to everlasting—God exists in eternity. He is outside of time. Other verses of Scripture that teach this include Exodus 3:14 (the great “I AM”) and Revelation 1:8 (the alpha and omega).
We are starting to get a little understanding of who God is. But let’s get an even deeper understanding of Him.
From Scripture we learn that God knew all about us before we even existed—before the world was created: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).
Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Ephesians 1:4)
Many other Scriptures also point to the fact that God in eternity, before the foundation of the world, had thought, willed, and determined things that were decided in the eternal mind and counsel of God. These are called the eternal decrees of God.
God’s Word tells us about his eternal decrees:
As a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. (Ephesians 1:10–11, emphasis added)
This means that with God, nothing is accidental. God never has any afterthoughts. Nothing is uncertain about God’s activities as he has a definite plan and purpose about man, salvation, and the end of it all. His plan is fixed; it is unchangeable. As one of my friends often states, “God has yet to make His first mistake.”
God’s Word also teaches us that there is really no such thing as chance. Even the life of a little sparrow is in the hands of God, and nothing happens to that sparrow that’s not under his control.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. (Matthew 10:29)
All events are ultimately governed by the sovereign will of God. Nothing happens by blind chance.
“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33). Or we could read it this way: Even though we make our own decisions, it’s the Lord alone who determines what happens. How can those two things be true at the same time? But that’s the point—they are!
There’s nothing God doesn’t know about or control. As we are told, “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30).
The plan of God comprehends and determines all things and events of every kind that come to pass. If this is so, then it must mean that God has determined certain ends, and he has determined everything that leads to those ends. And nothing can or will change that.
Now at this stage you might be asking about us as human beings and our actions. How could God determine everything including the free actions of free agents? Does that mean there are no voluntary agents or actions? But aren’t humans free agents? Can’t we make our own decisions? What if I decide right now to eat an apple, isn’t that my own decision? Yes it is. But also consider this: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).
The King appears to be free to be making his decisions, but God is controlling him as he controls the rivers.
So how can we have a free agent being totally controlled at the same time? Well this means there are things that God has told us about himself and this world that our finite minds just cannot reconcile. This is called an antinomy. This means that it’s a position in which we are given two truths that we cannot fully reconcile as finite human beings.
Our fallible, finite human minds can’t reconcile the fact that God tells us that there’s an interrelationship between all events leading to the end God has determined, which of necessity includes the actions of free agents.
It’s that relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s reasonability that we see all through Scripture. Only God can bring them together as the Scripture teaches us that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
Now if this is so, then it also means the sinful actions of men come under this decree. Scripture teaches this truth. Consider the following examples:
This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:23)
For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:27–28)
So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:8)
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20)
We must understand that God is never the cause of sin.
These illustrate that even the sinful actions of men are in the hands of God. But we must understand that God is never the cause of sin.
The Struggle Is Not New
Habakkuk understood that the Lord in his omniscience sees all things good and evil, but that he does not look upon the sins of men with pleasure and approval. “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13).
But he struggled with reconciling God’s purity and holiness and understanding his justice in permitting the sinful acts of men and what they did to God’s people, but all as a part of fulfilling God’s eternal plan.
We must understand that though we as fallible humans can’t reconcile these (just as the prophet agonized over), nonetheless we must accept there will one day be an ultimate reconciliation when we are all with the Lord in glory. At the present time, we “see in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Let me emphasize again¬—God is never the cause of sin. God’s Word teaches “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13).
Also, in Romans 5:12 we read, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” .
It’s important to understand that God is not responsible for sin, we are! We sinned in Adam. So why did God decree to permit sin then? Well the answer is we just don’t know.
So though we can’t fully reconcile it, the decrees of God do not deny the existence of free agents and their sinful actions, and yet though God has given us this freedom, he is sovereign over it all so that what he has decreed comes to pass. Now at this stage, I can hear someone saying, “But how can God decree everything and yet hold us as humans responsible for our actions? God seems to be unjust and unfair. How can he do this?”
Ah, but God knew we would ask that question. And he has given us his answer:
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles. (Romans 9:19–24)
We cannot grasp the ultimate working of God’s mind. As we read in Daniel:
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35)
The point is that all the decrees of God are unconditional and sovereign. In no way are God’s decrees dependent in any sense on what humans might or might not do. They’re only dependent on God’s will and purpose. At the same time, he works through the free actions of men to bring to pass that which he has determined.
While we live bound by time on this earth, we cannot understand this but must accept it.
So What Has This Got to Do with the Coronavirus?
Well, now that we understand more about God himself and how he works, let us consider one of the attributes of God—his goodness. This helps us understand a very important aspect of the original creation, when God said everything he made was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). We need to understand what is meant by “good.” Consider this passage:
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:18–19)
Jesus was telling the man asking the question that he is God, as only God is good. God is infinitely good and the source of all goodness. There are numerous passages that teach us about the goodness of God.
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6)
God is a God of infinite love:
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:7–10)
We can also look at Jesus (who is God and is the Creator of all things) and see his nature: he healed the sick; he wept at Lazarus tomb; he raised the dead; he had compassion on people.
When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)
God makes it clear in his Word that the reason for sickness, pain, and suffering is because we live in a groaning world as a result of our sin:
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (Romans 8:22)
We are also told that one day there will be a restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). We read of this restoration:
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
It’s important to understand that God created everything he made “very good.” There was no death, suffering, or disease. This means viruses and bacteria were not disease forming originally. In fact, most bacteria and viruses in today’s fallen world do not cause diseases but have specific good purposes. Scientists are finding that viruses seem to have an important role in transfer of genetic information. So there were no coronavirus-caused diseases in the “very good” world God created.
God does not call the disease-causing coronavirus “very good.”
Now this fact needs to be considered carefully by those who believe the fossil record was laid down over millions of years before man. The fossil record is a record of death, with evidence of animals eating each other and evidence of diseases like cancer in the bones of creatures. If a Christian believes the fossil record is millions of years old, then they are, in essence, stating the God calls death and disease “very good.” Thus disease-causing viruses like this novel coronavirus would be “very good.” Now all viruses were “very good” originally, but because of our sin in Adam, now there’s death, disease, bloodshed, and suffering in the world! God does not call the disease-causing coronavirus “very good.”
Now could God be allowing the coronavirus situation as judgment? Yes, that is possible (though we can’t say for sure). Throughout the Old Testament there are many examples of God using various means, including pestilence, to bring judgment on people because of wickedness. And there is much wickedness in our world today that God will righteously judge one day.
Who Is the Devil?
The Bible is not a book about angels—it’s primarily a book about God and his relationship to man. So we don’t have a lot of details about angelic beings. Presumably, they (including Satan) came into existence at some time during the creation of all things as Colossians 1:16 tells us, “For by him [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” It makes sense that God created Satan (the devil) at this time.
Also, Genesis 1:31 makes it clear that everything God created was “very good.” So all beings originally must have been “very good.” Now in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6, we read that at some stage certain angels rebelled and fell into wickedness.
And in Genesis 3:1 we read that the devil came to Eve to get Adam and Eve to doubt God’s Word (God’s clear instruction to Adam to not eat the fruit of one tree as an act of obedience) and become their own gods—deciding what is “right” and “wrong” for themselves. Now Adam was the one given the instruction by God, and so when Adam took the fruit, he chose to listen to Satan and set himself above God, putting the whole world (including the human race) under the “power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). The Bible makes it clear that through Adam came sin, and through sin came death. Thus our sin in Adam is responsible for all the harmful things (such as a disease-causing coronavirus) that happen in this world.
Here are some verses of Scripture that describe the devil (my emphasis):
in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 2:2)
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
We can sum up what we know about the devil this way: The devil’s power is tremendous. He is a tyrant and dominates unredeemed humanity because of what we in Adam did. All human beings have been defeated by the devil just as our ancestor Adam, as a perfect man, was defeated by him. The devil deceives minds, blinds men, and persuades the human race to hate God. No human can stand against him. Man became the slave of the devil. It’s only those who have trusted Christ for salvation who can have victory over the devil. The devil is a defeated foe—defeated at the cross when Christ suffered the penalty for sin and rose from the dead.
Now having said that, we also need to understand that the devil cannot do anything that God doesn’t allow. Consider:
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:6–12)
Satan had to ask permission of God to inflict harm on Job and was allowed to do so, but only within the limits God himself had set.
Is the devil responsible for the coronavirus?
It’s certainly possible (and we don’t know) that God has allowed Satan to use the coronavirus to try to inflict harm on people and on the church. But if so, God permitted this and will use it for his purposes (Romans 8:28–30). God does allow circumstances to test us, try us, and train us (Hebrews 12). But Satan can only do what God allows as he is in ultimate control of everything.
Who Is Man?
Humans are created beings—created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). But humans are also sinners. Our sin in Adam (Romans 5:12) brought about the groaning world. So our sin resulted in death, disease, and suffering. Because of this, some viruses and bacteria now cause diseases. Thus a disease-causing coronavirus is not God’s fault—it’s our fault.
Romans 8:22 tells us, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” The whole creation was brought under a curse because of Adam’s sin (and our sin in Adam). This curse will be removed in the eternal state when Christ will restore the creation to the way it was in the beginning.
So, who is responsible for the coronavirus? God, man, or the devil?
So, who is responsible for the coronavirus? God, man, or the devil?
The one true God exists in eternity and decreed he would create a perfect universe with a planet teeming with life that was all very good. He also decreed he would make Adam & Eve in his image, to propagate the human race. In eternity past, he decreed he would permit sin for his purposes, knowing death, disease, and suffering would ensue because of man’s actions. He created angelic beings, including Satan, for his purposes, knowing that Satan would tempt man to fall into sin. God had determined in eternity through all this to redeem a people as a bride for his Son. Human beings are free agents living on this earth, but nothing happens outside of God’s control, and everything that occurs will never and can never be inconsistent with the eternal decrees of God.
That puts the coronavirus in the right perspective.