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863. God and COVID-19

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University
The Truth Network Radio
November 18, 2020 7:00 pm

863. God and COVID-19

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University

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November 18, 2020 7:00 pm

BJU Science Professor Dr. Bill Lovegrove teaches in chapel about a Christian perspective of COVID-19.  

The post 863. God and COVID-19 appeared first on THE DAILY PLATFORM.

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Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. Today, we'll hear a special chapel message from Dr. Bill Lovegrove, a professor in the Division of Natural Science at Bob Jones University. His topic today is God and COVID-19. This is a controversial topic, and I'm not sure that any of us are really eager to get up here and talk to you about it.

But I am the essential science teacher, and if there was ever a topic that could be called essential, that every BJU student ought to be thinking about, this is probably it. So here I am. And why is this so controversial? Well, on the one hand, there are people who are seemingly would rather die than wear a mask. These extreme restrictions, they say, are part of a Marxist takeover of our country.

This is an attack on our freedoms. And on the other hand, other people are saying, yeah, but this is a deadly disease. We're approaching a million deaths around the world, and don't you know that you, by your ignorance and your selfishness, you are contributing to people's deaths. So if I lean one way, people are going to tweet this afternoon and call me a Marxist. And if I lean the other way, people are going to tweet this afternoon and call me a murderer.

And if I try to stay in the middle, I'll probably get called both. But I do want to be helpful and not controversial. So I want to focus more on the God side of this topic and not so much on the COVID side. However, some of you are really interested in the pandemic, and I expect there are some heated discussions going on in the dorms or will be going on in the dorms. So I want to give us all three practical suggestions for profitable COVID conversations.

And here's the first one. If you want to talk science, if that's the part of this topic that's most interesting to you, then can we talk original sources? I'm not really interested in what you heard on Twitter, what you saw on YouTube, what you read on somebody's blog. If you're going around telling people science has proved whatever, then can you show me the actual science?

Can you go find a science journal that says it? I mean, that would cut down on a lot of the confusion and misunderstanding. Suggestion number two. Maybe you think things are being driven by politics and economics more than science, and that might be true. So you want to talk politics and economics.

Well, I have a suggestion. We're going to talk about the world, not just about America, because this is a worldwide problem. We are reporting about 1,000 deaths a day. The world is reporting about 5,000 deaths a day. So whatever your political and economic explanations are, do they make sense when applied to Brazil or Venezuela or Vietnam?

Because honestly, most people in those countries couldn't care less that we have an election in a couple of months, or how much Medicare pays for COVID. And suggestion number three. Remember what the Bible says about Christian conversation. You probably know several Bible principles, and now is a good time to work on applying them. For example, Proverbs 15, 1. A soft answer turns away wrath, but a grievous answer stirs up anger.

Can't you see that on the nightly news? Or this one, Ephesians 4, 29. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying. Does that describe your conversations?

And there are many Bible principles like this, of course. There are some words I'm starting to see on the internet. A lot of places where people have discussion forums.

For example, this is Newsweek.com. They say, start a discussion, not a fire. Post with kindness. And that's not just good advice, that's actually Bible advice.

So those are my three rules. And that's all I'm going to say about COVID right now. But instead, I want to talk about God. Because the science and the politics and the economics are pretty complicated, and they're often confusing.

But the Bible is supposed to be timeless. The Bible is supposed to give us principles that apply in any kind of crisis. So I have two questions that I want to address today. Question number one, how do we think about suffering? Because a lot of people are suffering because of COVID. And I don't mean just medically. I mean emotionally.

I mean economically. There's a lot of suffering. And question two, how should Christians think about science? Because this is a science topic. Now I said those are simple questions, but they don't have simple answers. We will barely get started this morning trying to answer these questions.

But I do hope that I will get you started thinking, because the COVID-19 pandemic has brought these two questions to the forefront of everybody's minds. So let's start with one of the biggest and hardest questions in all of life. When bad things happen, where is God? This is the question on people's minds whenever there's a tragedy. When the Holocaust was going on in Germany, where was God? And why didn't He stop it? When 9-11 happened, where was God?

And why didn't He stop it? Now those were both human-caused tragedies. In a sense, there's somebody to blame.

But what about this? Back in 2004, when most of you were just kids, there was a giant tsunami in the Indian Ocean. And it killed 200,000 people in one day.

And that was a natural disaster. There's nobody to blame. People called it an act of God. So where was God, and why didn't He stop that?

Or did He actually cause it? As we approach a million COVID deaths around the world, where is God? And why is He letting so many people suffer?

One of the roots, I think, of the current controversy is that we all desperately want somebody to blame for this crisis. Theologians called this the problem of evil. The theological term is theodicy, a vindication of God. Why does a good God permit evil?

This is not a question I can answer in 15 minutes. This has been debated for centuries. In fact, God gave us a whole book of our Bible just on this subject.

It's the book of Job, and it's 42 chapters long. So there's just not a short, simple answer. But I think we can frame the question, and we can start an answer by looking at a famous childhood prayer. Did you learn this prayer as a child? God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food. Do you believe that God is great? Do you believe that God is good? Then it's easy to thank Him for good things, like our daily food.

But try this. God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for COVID-19. Something about that is a little bit jarring. It's a little bit unsettling. Maybe you could make a case that we could thank God in COVID-19. But would anybody actually say you can thank God for COVID-19?

Does that even make sense? One of the most famous explorations of this topic is a book by a Jewish rabbi named Harold Kushner. By the way, no relationship to Jared Kushner.

Harold Kushner's son tragically died of an incurable disease when he was only 14 years old. And Harold struggled, like we all would, to try to figure out why did God let this happen. And in 1981, he wrote his famous book, titled When Bad Things Happen to Good People. And he frames his answer in terms of that childhood prayer. He argues that the first two lines of that poem can't both be true. If God was both great and good, He would stop evil. He doesn't.

So either He is not great, or He is not good. Maybe He loves us and really wants to stop the evil, but He's just not powerful enough to do it. Or maybe He doesn't really love us. He has the power, but He doesn't really care. Well, Kushner comes to the conclusion that God is indeed good, but He's not great. He's not omnipotent. The evil in the world is simply too strong, and even God Himself can't stop it.

Kushner wrote, quote, given the unfairness that strikes so many people in life, I would rather believe in a God of limited power and unlimited love and justice, rather than the other way around. Well, I want to tell you that is not the conclusion of the book of Job. That book and our whole Bible goes to great lengths to emphasize the awesome power of the Almighty God. Job 42.2, I know that thou canst do everything, from His creation of the whole world in Genesis 1, to His judging of the whole world in the book of Revelation. God is powerful. God is in control. He can turn the heart of pagan kings. He can quiet the storm with a word. He can do everything.

No, Kushner is wrong. God is great. But who can question the love of God either, in light of so many statements in the Bible? For example, John 3.16, God so loved the world that He did what? He gave what? He gave His Son. Or this one, John 13.15, greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Of course, God loves us. Some of you know the song, Settled at the Cross. The last line of that song says, Any doubt that you love me was settled at the cross. By the way, if you search YouTube or Spotify, guess who the top recording is?

Steve Pettit, evangelistic team. But are you thinking, I can't really understand that. That really doesn't answer it for me. How can God be both great and good, and He still allows evil? Well, the Bible's question is not, can you explain that? The Bible's question for you is, can you believe it? Listen to Hebrews 11.1. Faith is the evidence of things not seen. We can't see. We don't understand all of God's plans and purposes.

But the Bible asserts that God is great, and God is good, and the Bible calls us to have the faith to believe it. That's actually what Job said. Job 13.15, though he slay me, yet will I trust him. Job said, I don't care how bad this gets.

I don't care how hard this is to understand. The bottom line is, I am going to trust God. So go back to Hebrews 11. That's the faith chapter. And look later in the chapter at verse 33. We have the stories of people who subdued kingdoms, who wrought righteousness, who obtained promises, who stopped the mouths of lions. There's God is great. God is good for you. Stop the mouths of lions to spare Daniel's life.

But keep reading. And verse 35 takes your breath away. Because there were women who received their dead, raised to life again, but there were others, there were others who were tortured, not accepting deliverance. Others had trials of mockings and scourgings, bonds and imprisonment. Where was God for them?

Where's the good in that? To me, it's no surprise that the faith chapter ends that way, because that's the reality of life. If God delivered every Christian in every immediate problem of life, we always got miraculous deliverance, the Christian life wouldn't take any faith at all.

It's precisely when life goes wrong, it's when life doesn't make sense, that you get a chance to show that you have faith. And look at verse 39. These all, the ones delivered and the martyrs, they received not the promise. They were not fixated on this life anyway. Look at verse 13. These all died in faith, not having received the promises. The promise was never about a good life to begin with. The promise is about the next life. Some things are never going to make sense until we get to heaven. But think with me about those first three words. These all died.

Let that sink in for a minute. They all died. Daniel was delivered from the lion's den and later he died. Noah made it miraculously through the flood and later he died.

They all died, some of them martyrs at the hands of persecutors, some of them maybe just from old age, but they all died and so will you and so will I. Maybe somebody in this room has a relative that's seriously sick with COVID. Have you been praying for their healing? You can and you should pray that way.

I'm not minimizing or discouraging that at all. It's fine to tell God that you want him to do that. But what are you really asking God for? Is your prayer that every time anybody gets sick, God will always heal them? And if we pray that way, doesn't that amount to essentially, Dear God, please let my grandpa live forever. Is that what you're praying, heal him every time he gets sick? I don't think we can pray that way. We know that's not God's will. Or maybe you're thinking, don't let him die of COVID, like let him die of something else, like cancer or a heart attack.

A stroke is a better way to die, as if we get to choose how people are going to die. That doesn't seem like what we should pray either. When I think about it, I think when we pray for somebody to be healed, what we often mean is, God don't let him die now. I know my grandfather is going to die someday, but I'm not really ready for him to die now. And I think that's an okay thing to talk to God about. People in the Bible do that. But really, we don't know when it's someone's time to die, do we?

We don't get to choose how many years is enough. We have to say if it's God's will. God chooses to take some people at a very young age, and I don't know why.

We call this the sovereignty of God, and it's the ultimate answer to the mysteries of life. I may not know why, but I can have faith that God is great, and God is good, and he has good reasons for what he's doing. Look at this verse again.

They all died, but they all died in faith. We have barely scratched the surface of this topic, and we don't have more time. But I want to suggest, if you want to dive into this issue more deeply, that our seminary teacher, Leighton Talbert, has written two very helpful books. Beyond Suffering is about the book of Job. Not By Chance is about God's sovereignty. And those books would help you.

And there's this, too. Rabbi Kushner, who wrote that famous book, he had a televised debate back in the 80s with a leading conservative theologian by the name of Norman Geisler. You can find the whole debate on YouTube. And if you watch that debate, you'll get a pretty deep exploration of this topic.

And by the way, if you watch that debate, you can learn something else useful as well. These two men strongly disagree on their theology, but they are very respectful of each other. There is no sarcasm, no insults, no mocking, no misrepresenting. It's the kind of Christian conversation that we were talking about a few minutes ago.

So that's my first question. How do we think about suffering? Well, I think in terms of God is great, God is good, and I need to trust Him.

But in the few minutes that we have left, I want to talk about my second question. How should Christians think about science? Not just COVID, but any science. I think two extreme views are widespread in our culture. In my lifetime, I've watched the growth of these two extreme views, even within the Church. The first of these we call scientism. This is the view that science is the one true path to truth. Richard Dawkins said bluntly that science is better than religion because science works.

And apparently religion doesn't. The effects of scientism show up in the Church when people want to reinterpret the Bible in the light of science. Whenever the Bible and science disagree, science must be right because it is the one true, dependable, authoritative source of truth. And the result is things like theistic evolution. But as we come into the 21st century, there's a strong backlash to scientism, and not just among religious people. Our scientific advances have not produced the utopia culture that we hoped for. And scientists have biases. Scientists make mistakes.

Scientists are influenced by the culture around them. Science, it turns out, makes a disappointing religion. And don't we all know in our hearts that we are more than just a body?

We are a soul. You can't explain love and consciousness, many aspects of the human experience, just by science. And so scientism is being quickly replaced with postmodernism. Postmodernism is tricky to define. Even its proponents disagree about what exactly that means. But to me, the core idea is the suspicion that there is no absolute truth. Science is not a pathway to truth, and neither is religion or philosophy or anything else. Everything you believe, they say, is a product of your culture and your background and your experience. It's often expressed as, what's true for you may not be true for me.

So we all have our own truth. I want to show you an example of these two ways of thinking about science. But this is a complicated example, and I need you to listen carefully and think carefully, or you will completely miss the point. So don't go away confused today. Listen very carefully.

As I show you a video from YouTube that's been watched over a million times. The place is Cape Town, South Africa. The year is 2016. A student movement called the Follists is pushing to decolonize Africa. And what they mean is to remove all Western influence and recreate a purely African culture. And some students in that movement are meeting with the science faculty. And they are discussing how to decolonize science.

Listen carefully. So can I respond to your submissions because I wanted to directly respond. I was actually thinking about this coming year because I thought that it was going to be one of the coming questions, how do we even start to decolonize science because science is true because it is science and what can you do? And my response to that was, if I personally were committed to enforcing decolonization, science as a whole is a product of Western modernity and the whole thing should be scratched off. So if you want practical solutions to decolonize science, we'd have to restart science from, I don't know, an African perspective, from our perspective of how we've experienced science. For instance.

Did you get that? The way to decolonize science is to scratch it all. To start over from an African perspective. Now, she goes on to give a really interesting example. And listen carefully as she gives this example. Somebody in the audience shouts out, it's not true! And watch her reaction. We start science from, I don't know, an African perspective, from our perspective of how we've experienced science.

For instance, I had a lecture for all the science people. There's a place in Ksabialikana and they believe that through the magic, the black magic, they call it black magic, they call it witchcraft, that you are able to send a lightning to strike someone. So can you explain that scientifically? Because if something that happens, if something happens, excuse me. Black magic, it's not true.

It doesn't happen. But she's going to insist on her point. And she's going to use Newton's law of gravity as an example. Listen. So I will finish. See, that very response is the reason why I am not in the science faculty.

I did science throughout my high school years and there was a lot of things that I just, yeah, but it's fine. But Western modernity is the direct antagonistic factor to decolonization because Western knowledge is totalizing. It is saying that it was Newton and only Newton who knew or saw an odd map and then out of nowhere decided that gravity existed and created an equation and that is it.

Whether people knew Newton or not or whether whatever happens in Western Africa and modern Africa, the thing is the only way to extend gravity is through Newton who sat under a tree and saw an apple fall. So Western modernity is the problem that decolonization directly deals with, to say that we are going to decolonize by having knowledge that is produced by us, that speaks to us, and that is able to accommodate knowledge from our perspective. So how do you react to that? The world has reacted to this video with scorn and derision. They laugh at this young lady and her ideas.

But that is not why I showed you the video. I think you would be wrong to laugh at this young lady for two reasons. Number one, it's really wrong to mock anybody, even if you strongly disagree with them. But number two, I don't think she deserves to be laughed at. I don't think she's dumb. I think she's fairly intelligent. I think she's fairly articulate. I think she has the wrong worldview, but she has taken that worldview to its logical conclusion. I think she's wrong, but she might hold her worldview more consistently than you hold yours. That's the sign of a thoughtful person. So I think you would be wrong if you were inclined to mock her.

Instead, I want you to think with me about what she's saying. Do you believe in black magic in witch doctors? Or are you with a guy in the audience who says, it's not true, black magic is unscientific, it contradicts the known laws of science, it's impossible. People who believe in a supernatural world where miraculous things happen that violate the laws of physics, those people are crazy, right?

Let me say that again. People who believe in a supernatural world where miraculous things happen that violate the laws of physics, are they crazy? Or is that actually what you believe? I do believe in a supernatural world where miraculous things happen that violate the laws of physics. I don't think it's witch doctors, I mean God and his power. But I also know from the Bible that the devil and his demons have some power.

Are you sure that witch doctors controlled by demons might not have done some unexplainable things? I don't know for sure, but I'm not gonna laugh about it. To me that's a sobering thought, not a funny thought.

And what if it's America, not South Africa? And it's you in the chair, not her. And you are explaining to a room full of scientists that you actually believe that Elijah called down fire from heaven on his enemies. And Jesus walked on water, and Jonah was swallowed by a fish. And someone in the audience shouts out, it's not true!

And then they mock you. I mean, whose side are you on here anyway? I'm not on the side of the scientist who's mocking any kind of religion. But I'm not actually on her side either, because she wants to throw away science completely. She thinks every culture can have its own science. She thinks there's room in science for black magic. That's not right either. See, the guy in the audience has been influenced by scientism, and he thinks if it's unscientific it's false.

And the young lady has been influenced by postmodernism, and she thinks it's all personal opinion. They're both wrong. I think it's possible both to respect science and to believe in miracles. This is the way we do it in essential science. Genesis 8, while the earth remains, sea time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease. That's divine law. That's science.

Joshua 10, 13, the sun stood still. That's a miracle. That's divine intervention.

God does miracles, but in between the miracles, we do science. So apply this to COVID. If you get COVID, you can pray to God for a miracle of healing. And He can, and He might do that.

But He might not. And if God doesn't heal you, the virus is going to take its natural scientific course. And various preventative measures, various treatments, are going to work or not work according to God's laws for biology.

Your opinions and your personal truth are not going to change anything. So if I could just summarize, as Christians, we don't worship science. We don't look to it for all of our answers. But we don't mock it either, because that's the way God made the world to work. We believe that God is great.

He has unlimited power. We believe that God is good, even when we don't understand. And so we trust Him.

And we use our knowledge of science to act wisely in the face of what is actually a deadly disease. God is great. God is good. Let us trust Him and wash your hands.

That's not very good poetry, but it is good advice. Let's pray. Father, thank you that you've revealed in your word how great you are. Thank you that you've revealed in your word how good you are. And we express today our confidence in those two truths. We believe that you can do anything. And that we believe that you are working all things for good, even the trials that come in our life.

We know that you created a world that follows the laws of science that you yourself have designed. We know that you intended us to study your world and learn from it and live in this world wisely. Help us to be people of faith. Help us to be people that are wise. In Jesus' name, Amen. You've been listening to a special chapel message from Dr. Bill Lovegrove, a professor in the Division of Natural Science at Bob Jones University. Join us again tomorrow on The Daily Platform.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-26 16:36:16 / 2024-01-26 16:47:06 / 11

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