I recently read an online article by N.T. Wright which brazenly claimed “Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To.” The article may be found here: https://time.com/5808495/coronavirus-christianity/. It served as a powerful reminder to me of the importance of maintaining the truths of God’s sovereignty and providence.
N.T. Wright is a widely-known and highly influential theologian in the broader Christian world. Because he is so well-known, this article has likely been read by many Christians and non-Christians alike, people eager to understand how exactly Christianity relates to a global pandemic. Unfortunately, Wright steers his readers completely in the wrong direction. Wright argues that Christianity has no need (or even ability) to say where coronavirus came from or why the pandemic has happened. Rather, all Christians ought to do is “lament,” pouring out their “frustration, sorrow, loneliness and sheer inability to understand what is happening or why” as the Psalmists do because “God also laments.” The implication both of this and what Wright goes on to say is that God too is struck with frustration and an inability to understand what’s going on right now. Coronavirus is bewildering to God; He just doesn’t seem to know what to do, except grieve over it!
This is further implied by Wright’s sarcastic remark at the beginning of his article: “No doubt the usual silly suspects will tell us why God is doing this to us. A punishment? A warning? A sign?” Such opinions, says Wright, are merely rationalism in Christian clothing. Attempting to see God’s hand behind the pandemic is not what Christians ought to be doing right now.
I wonder what Job would say to N.T. Wright. We read in the story of Job that God was completely sovereign over Job’s circumstances (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7). Satan was acting, but God dictated to Satan exactly what he could and could not do to Job, and Satan was forced to comply. God providentially upheld Job through it all. This included even a horrible physical ailment in chapter 2. Clearly, God is sovereign over sickness and disease. If Wright were to tell Job, “Your faith says nothing about what is going on right now; God had nothing to do with this,” would Job not be driven to despair? God has abandoned me would be Job’s only logical conclusion!
I also wonder what Jesus would say to N.T. Wright. In Matthew 24:7, Christ lists “pestilences” among the signs of His return. Such signs “must come to pass” prior to the end (v. 6). Wright apparently groups Jesus Christ with “the usual silly suspects” who consider the coronavirus to be a sign of the end drawing nearer.
Lastly, I wonder what the rider on the fourth horse of Revelation 6 would say to N.T. Wright. That rider, verse 8 says, was Death, and he was given power “to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth” (ESV). As with the other horses, that power came from God Himself and from the Lamb. Contrary to what Wright would say, the coronavirus is indeed God bringing punishment on this sinful world.
Fellow believer, don’t get swept along in the thinking God is somehow powerless with respect to the spread of a pandemic. Remember that “our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3, KJV). If standing up for the sovereignty and providence of God in such times as these makes you just another one of “the usual silly suspects,” then wear that badge with honor!