Our current global crisis has presented some fantastic opportunities, and at the moment, secularists and Christians alike are making the most of it all — though perhaps Christians aren’t being as effective as they might be. Case in point: a piece penned by N.T. Wright and published today at Time mag. I genuinely hope it was titled by Time’s editors, and not Wright, because “Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To” is kind of gleefully anti-Christian, and makes almost no sense.
The horrific title aside, up to a certain point, the article starts off decently enough. But then it gets very confusing.
I fully agree with Wright’s notion that we shouldn’t go around making pronouncements as though we know exactly what God is doing. We are not omniscient.
But the title of this article is a pronouncement, which is hugely problematic because it’s plain wrong. As Christians, we have been given actual words from God: real revelation of His character, real definitions for sin and righteousness, as well as genuine hope and answers for the world around us.
It would be insane for me as a Christian to declare Christianity offers no answers about the Coronavirus. What on earth are we Christians even doing if our faith offers no answers and “it’s not supposed to”? We may not be able to offer all the answers, but it is simply a false assertion that we have no answers.
This claim that “Christianity offers no answers”, is about as ridiculous as a child pouting, “Mom didn’t say anything,” because when they asked to go out to play, Mom said, “No, and clean your room.” But not getting the answer we want is drastically different from not being given an answer at all.
Christianity Has Real Answers
Christians know that the reason we have disease present in our world, is because sin has brought death and destruction since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden (Gen. 3). We know that God’s purpose throughout time was to save for Himself a people (Eph. 1:5, 2 Tim. 1:9, Titus 2:14). We know Jesus, who was pierced for our transgressions, is the answer to our sin (Is. 53:5, 1 Pet. 2:24). And we know that apart from repentance, turning from sin, and being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, no person on earth has any hope (Acts 4:12, Rom. 5:10, 1 Pet. 4:17-18, Jude 1:5).
A quick comparison of Scripture with our nation’s collective decision-making and behavior would show us that our nation very much deserves God’s correction and judgement. Even if the only thing we looked at was the most recent abortion statistic, we know without a single doubt that our nation has sinned grievously against the Lord.
As Christians, we know that Coronavirus is not a surprise to God (Psalm 46, Isaiah 41, Amos 3:6-7). We also know our holy God is the only hope of the world (Jer. 14:22, Eph. 2:12). Jesus is the only one we look to for salvation (John 6:40). Jesus is the one through whom we are more than conquerors, and even through significant trials and suffering, nothing separates us from God’s love (Rom. 8:37-39). And the Christian’s hope is that Jesus is making all things new (Rev. 21:5) and He will wipe away every tear from our eyes one day (Rev. 21:4).
These are all solidly effective answers to Coronavirus.
Not an Empty Lament
Wright commends us to the practice of lamenting, and I do agree; yes, we are supposed to lament. But lament isn’t an empty and general feeling that we float out into the universe. Nor do we simply lament what we’ve lost, as Wright seems to suggest.
Certainly, we can recognize and grieve losses. Our way of life is upended, our meeting together as saints face-to-face is halted. The economy is wounded, supply chains suffer here and there, and the world is grappling with an overall sense of loss.
Wright says, “Lament is what happens when people ask, ‘Why?’ and don’t get an answer. It’s where we get to when we move beyond our self-centered worry about our sins and failings and look more broadly at the suffering of the world.“
But look through the Psalms, as Wright recommends in this article, and please see that lament recognizes sin’s very real and tangible effects on the world and on us personally. And if we’re patterning our lament after the Psalms, our lament should include our repentance for our participation in sin – and our recognition that we have culpability as individuals and as a nation. Lament points us to God, to seek His face, and to align our thinking in agreement with His.
Wright says our feelings of sadness and lamenting should lead us to recognize that God is grieved over this, too – but why? What is the greater purpose of all of this lamentation? Wright says it’s so that we can become “small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell.” So that “new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new scientific understanding, new hope” can emerge.
But no. No, friend, this is not true. Look to the Word. Get your definitions from God Himself.
Scripture repeatedly calls us to lament so that God forgives and heals. We do not lament into a general universe.
We lament for sin, to a holy God, so that He turns and heals our land. And those elements are conspicuously missing from Wright’s article, as well as from most of the secularist writings on lament in the last several weeks.
Offer them Real Hope
God isn’t telling us this isn’t real pain. He doesn’t wave His hand and say, “Pooh pooh! This isn’t hurting you.” He’s not dismissing the virus, but neither does His grief do nothing.
His grief over sin led Him to save Noah and his family. His grief over sin led Him to save Israel from the demonic gods of Egypt. Jesus came to us, died for us, rose again victorious because God’s grief doesn’t throw up His hands and say, “What can I do?” He takes action and deals with sin. And He dealt with our sin all the way to the cross.
And this is the great answer Christianity offers to the Coronavirus. If you’re wondering whether this is a sign from God, the answer is broadly, yes.
This is a sign that sin devastates the world. This is a sign that humans are finite and our days come to an end. And this is a sign that our only hope – in life and death – is our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. Offer that answer because it’s the answer Christianity is supposed to give.