April 8, 2020
Time for a deep dive into Reformed theology. As Evangelical Presbyterians, those are our roots. Reformed, Biblical, Augustinian, Calvinist theology, of varying degrees and stripes. I recently finished a book on the Great Halifax explosion of 1917, and now have started a book on the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Heaviness in the time of quarantine isn't a bad thing. It can't all be "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness."
Let's start with worldview. Your worldview shapes how you see people and events in the world around you, as well as how you respond to them. As an EPC pastor, I have a worldview shaped by Biblical, Reformed theology. That's how I see what we're struggling through right now.
One of the things on display through this pandemic is the human capacity for kindness and helpfulness. People are serving their communities with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love. That's honoring the image of God in which we were created. As I like to say, most people, most of the time want what's best for their families and their communities. That's how we were created to be.
But Biblical, Reformed theology also recognizes the sin that will always be a part of our world. People are not perfect. We all make mistakes. And everything we do is corrupted or corruptible by original sin.
So why the blame game during this current crisis? Why point fingers? Why the armchair quarterbacking? People always want someone to blame, right? We need a way to explain the unexplainable. "If only…" and "They should have…" create the illusion of controlling the uncontrollable. People are imperfect. Bureaucracies of any kind are, at times, lumbering and inefficient. To expect otherwise is to not understand human nature. The world is not perfect. Big surprise, right? Sometimes things happen and there's no right answer or best answer.
It's fascinating to observe human nature through the lens of a Reformed worldview. This worldview also helps us understand God and His plans for our lives.
Are viruses good? Absolutely. They were created by God. And by good, I mean in the sense they were created for a purpose. Viruses serve an important part of the ecosystem. However, as we've already observed, sin permeates all of creation. Humans can cause viruses to jump the species barrier by our ignorant action…such as what goes on in the horribly
appropriately named "wet markets" of China.
As Adam Tucker, administrative staff person at an evangelical seminary, reminds me, "We know that God exists as Goodness itself." Even a virus couldn't exist without God's sustaining power, and we can trust that He will bring about good even from the worst evil. While God does not will evil for its own sake, He does permit certain evils to occur.
I love how Thomas Aquinas put it:
Hence, corruption and defects in natural things are said to be contrary to some particular nature; yet they are in keeping with the plan of universal nature; inasmuch as the defect in one thing yields to the good of another, or even to the universal good: for the corruption of one is the generation of another, and through this it is that a species is kept in existence. Since God, then, provides universally for all being, it belongs to His providence to permit certain defects in particular effects, that the perfect good of the universe may not be hindered, for if all evil were prevented, much good would be absent from the universe. A lion would cease to live, if there were no slaying of animals; and there would be no patience of martyrs if there were no tyrannical persecution.
Here's how Paul put it, centuries earlier, in Romans 8:28 - "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
Honestly, I don't know how you process what we're going through now without belief in the God of grace and mercy. How do you make sense of human behavior? How do you understand our place in a sometimes dangerous world? And what do you hope in when tragedy strikes? I love the faith and resiliency of the people of Covenant Church. So many of you are staying connected through email and texting. I love hearing from you.
As we move through this crisis in reasonable, rational, and responsible ways, we remember the amazing demonstration of God's love through Jesus Christ. He died for our sin in our place and removed the barrier that separated us from Him. That's why praise is forever on our lips.
I close with this quote from C.S. Lewis:
"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
Be of Good Cheer!
With Much Love and Affection,