Providing hope during a pandemic
Genesis: the vital foundation
Perhaps, like me, you found 2020 a difficult year and view 2021 with some trepidation. The ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic is seriously impacting the lives of millions of us globally—national lockdowns, followed by endless local quarantines and restrictions. Sadly, some have lost loved ones to this virus. We hear of high infection rates but some people are symptom-free. Others have been very sick with the Coronavirus and have recovered, whether quickly or slowly. For perhaps 10% of the infected, including young people, infection can result in long-term health problems—dubbed ‘long COVID’.
Many have questioned some of the decisions made by those in authority, which have had grave ramifications for all our lives. Is COVID-19 as deadly as many believe it to be? Or worse? There has been much contradictory information from every direction, so it’s perhaps no wonder many take entrenched positions, either for or against social restrictions. We all feel a sense of helplessness, in the face of the hidden threat of viral infection and/or in the context of suffering restrictions to normal life.
And where Christians are concerned, when will churches gather normally again? Many Christians have approved of the state restrictions, believing them to be for the common good. For others, the restrictions imposed on the Church by secular governments have been disturbing. Christian leaders in some nations have respectfully challenged the authorities where they have sought to legislate worship services (e.g. discouraging singing1 or communion celebrations, with ‘social distancing’ and the wearing of face-masks). During lockdowns, many believers have been troubled that governments have been denying churches the right to congregate. There have been curbs on the number of people permitted at funerals and weddings (and during the first 2020 lockdown in the UK, marriages were forbidden altogether). Whatever your personal position on these matters—not to mention the very real anxiety that millions have about contracting COVID-19 or dying as a result of the virus—we can all agree that we have been living through stressful times.
So, as we press on into 2021, can we look forward to better times? Or is this a ‘new normal’?
We all hope for better things, but where do we turn for hope? Christians should turn to the Lord for help and sustenance through troubled times. But, if the Church has lost confidence in the Bible as divinely revealed truth, where then can Christians turn?
I am reminded of what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:18–26 about hope, and its connection to Creation, the Fall, and Restoration: that the sufferings we experience now “are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (v.18). Paul, here, is referring to the New Creation, where the effects of the Fall will be eternally done away with (cf. Revelation 21:4; Isaiah 25:8). He states that the creation was subjected to “futility”, and that it will eventually be set free from its fallen state. The whole creation, including humanity, has been “groaning” in pain until now. Indeed, living as fallen creatures in a fallen world makes us “groan inwardly” (v.23). We eagerly await the New Creation—including our incorruptible bodies—where all will be set free from bondage and decay. Paul states that this is our hope: to be delivered from this fallen, sin-cursed world.
Furthermore, Genesis provides the historical foundation for science which, after the Fall, became vital to ease suffering.2 Thanks to this God-given enterprise, there may be effective treatments or preventative measures for COVID-19.
But evolution robs Christians of this historical, foundational truth. If God used evolutionary processes to create, then God is directly responsible for the pain and suffering of His creatures.3 And that includes COVID-19 and the misery it has caused, including the disruption to everyone’s lives. And how about hope for the future? If evolution (which entails the death of the unfit) is God’s tool of choice for creation—rather than the last enemy to be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26)—then can we look forward to more of the same: death indefinitely?!
And why, if God used suffering and death to create, should science and medicine battle against these things to bring a measure of relief? These are devastating implications of evolution for theology and science. Yet, how curiously inconsistent are those people who hold to both evolution and Christianity.
In case anyone reading this thinks I am exaggerating in order to make my case, consider what many leading theologians are trying to tell us about Creation these days.4 Just last year, well known New Testament scholar N.T. (Tom) Wright joined with world-leading geneticist and BioLogos founder Francis Collins to sing a song about Genesis. They set their words to the tune of Yesterday, by 1960s British pop-group, The Beatles.5
Earth and heaven in a cosmic kiss. Evolution must have been like this.
Oh, I believe in Genesis.
Shaping creatures from the dust and clay. Double helix in the Milky Way.
Oh, Genesis meant DNA.
How he made it all, fourteen billion years ago.
Wisdom, grace and love, for he spoke and it was so.
In a trice.
Didn’t listen to divine advice. Einstein wondered whether God played dice.
Now we’re trapped within a world of vice.
Why they had to fall, I don’t know; it doesn’t say.
They did something wrong, and we long for God’s new day … (ad nauseam).
But this makes a mockery of Genesis as the Word of God. Wright has been at the forefront of re-interpreting the Apostle Paul’s teaching in light of evolution.6 He believes Paul never viewed the early chapters of Genesis as anything other than allegory, or poetry—and is very scathing of those who view Genesis 1–11 as historical (recording events that actually happened). He makes the following remarks against creationists, whom he views as false teachers(!):
“… many of us don’t think of young-earthism as an allowable alternative… That’s the danger of false teaching: it isn’t just that you’re making a mess; you are using that mess to cover up something that ought to be brought urgently to light.”7
Abandoning biblical foundations
N.T. Wright has had much to say concerning the pandemic and if God allows COVID-19 for His purposes.8 In a discussion with Francis Collins on the BioLogos forum, Wright makes a startling admission regarding the origin of natural evil (including Coronavirus) in God’s good creation:
“When I was much younger, I used to see Genesis chapters 1 and 2 as a kind of: “That’s it! God’s made it—it’s perfect—oh we spoiled it!” Whereas now… I think Genesis 1 and 2 specifically is the beginning of a ‘Project’. It’s the launching of something that God the Creator wants to do, and He wants humans to be front and centre—in helping Him take the project forward to a whole new stage… The trouble is, that because of the Fall—whatever that means—in Genesis 3, humans are ‘out of sync’, and so they’re doing things which make the world ‘out of sync’… I think the Bible doesn’t give us nice easy packaged answers—for the very simple reason that if there was a nice easy packaged answer, it would mean that there was a logical, and rational, and God-given place for evil within God’s good creation—and I think that’s simply not the case”9 (emphases added).
A God-given place for evil? No! But there is a logical, and rational answer to evil’s intrusion into God’s good creation! It’s called the Fall—which Wright effectively dismisses (saying “whatever that means”)—because of his a priori evolutionary commitment. His view is confused, though no doubt he would protest these charges. Wright has abandoned the historicity of Genesis, and with it the only reason why death and suffering exists, why suffering should be eased through science (and why we pray for healing!), and why moral and natural evil will be conquered by Christ in His New Creation. Wright is so wrong about Genesis!
Tragically, at a time when people are crying out for answers to life’s biggest questions, theistic evolution offers no hope. Biblical hope is abandoned in favour of evolution for N.T. Wright himself and for all who accept his erroneous teachings. Wright and his fellow theistic evolutionists provide no help—only hopelessness!
The Christian’s glorious hope
Nevertheless, there is hope for the helpless. God is not the first-cause of death and suffering—sin is—but God in Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death! Thanks to the divinely-sanctioned enterprise of science, founded upon the dominion mandate of Genesis 1:26, 28, suffering can be alleviated, including things like COVID-19. Ultimately, death, suffering, and evil will be completely vanquished, because Jesus Christ our Creator and Saviour, rose from the dead. Praise God that Jesus, the Last Adam, paid for our sins and that of our forefather, the First Adam. Jesus, therefore, will finally abolish the consequences of the Fall in the New Creation. Because the Bible’s history is true, we have confidence that the Bible’s future is true. Now that’s real hope!
References and notes
- Epidemiology studies have shown that singing is a high-risk activity even if only one infector is present. For instance, the Sydney diocese of the Anglican church in Australia negotiated with the state government to resume worship services without singing. Many other countries have seen similar state legislation passed in this regard. Return to text.
- Kulikovsky, A.S.,Creation, preservation and dominion: part 1—God, humanity and the created order, J. Creation 23(1):86–93, 2009. Return to text.
- This point is powerfully made in: Bell, P. Evolution and the Christian Faith, Day One Publications, Leominster, pp. 97–117, 2018. Return to text.
- Ref. 2, Bell, pp. 147–170. Return to text.
- N.T. Wright and Francis Collins sing Genesis, 13 July 2020, biologos.org. Return to text.
- Sibley, A., Why Wright is wrong on creation, J. Creation, 29(1):37–41. Return to text.
- Cited fully in ref. 5, Sibley, p. 38. Return to text.
- Wright, N.T. God and the Pandemic, SPCK, London, 2020. Return to text.
- N.T. Wright and Francis Collins, God and the Pandemic, 12 July 2020, youtube.com, @ 43:55–46:05. Return to text.