How can a deadly virus be part of a world created by a good and loving God? If you’re struggling with that conundrum right now, you’re not alone. When tragedy strikes, whatever form it takes, it raises huge questions for many of us. If you don’t have all the answers, that’s ok. You’re only human. God understands that.
John Lennox is the Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, a philosopher of science, and a powerful defender of Christianity. He knows that the world is in pain at the moment. There’s the physical pain many are suffering through illness. There’s the emotional pain that comes from isolation, uncertainty, and loss of life. And there’s the intellectual pain that comes from trying to make sense of suffering.
Talking to Neil Johnson on Vision’s 20Twenty program, Lennox said he realised early on how quickly Covid-19 could spread through exponential growth. He felt compelled to explain what Christianity has to say about natural disasters such as pandemics. “I just sat at my desk for a week, many hours per day, and sent the manuscript to a publisher on a Saturday night. And he had it in print by the following Wednesday, which must be a world record.”
Now available in 23 languages, ‘Where is God in a Coronavirus World’ reveals how the Bible addresses these big questions. Lennox believes Christianity tackles these issues head on, and offers a hope that can’t be found anywhere else, be it in other religions or in atheism.
But he says it isn’t something which can be delivered in a soundbite. “It goes much deeper than that. And I feel it’s credible, because it deals with not only the intellectual side, but also the comfort side.”
“When we look at peoples’ reactions to this, we see that some people are saying this is the judgment of God. Directly on individuals or nations and so on. Or if you think of pantheistic religions, they may say, some of them, that this is the outworking of peoples’ karma. They haven’t behaved well in their past life, and now they’re being judged. So we mustn’t help them, because that would just be forcing them to suffer more in the next life.”
This worldview is addressed directly in the Gospel of Luke, who interestingly was a doctor himself. He writes about a crowd confronting Jesus, upset by reports that Pilate and his soldiers had massacred worshipers. This, Lennox explains, is a “moral evil”. Jesus asks the crowd whether they felt the people who suffered at the hands of those soldiers were worse than anyone else. “I tell you, no,” he said. (Luke 13:3 NKJV)
Then Jesus reminded his audience of the Tower of Siloam, which had recently collapsed, killing 18 people. Lennox explained that this is a “natural evil”. “The tower just fell. We don’t know that anybody was involved in knocking it down. So let’s take it as one of those tragedies that happens, like earthquakes, tsunamis, and Covid-19.”
“Again, he asked the crowd whether they felt the people killed by that tragedy were worse than anyone else. Again, he said ‘I tell you, no.’ But then he read a lesson from it,” Lennox explained, “and the lesson was this. He said, ‘accept you all repent, you will all likewise perish’.”