Corona-virus. We’re hammered with ‘explanations’ and ‘solutions’ from leaders of science, but where are the leaders of faith?

“Whither shall I flee from thy presence?”  

Psalm 139

“I agree with people like Richard Dawkins that mankind felt the need for creation myths. Before we really began to understand disease and the weather and things like that, we sought false explanations for them.” 

Bill Gates, interviewed by Rolling Stone in 2014

A Chief Rabbi, an RC Cardinal, and an Anglican Archbishop walk into a pub…

This is a bad joke of course, because in April 2020 we were all locked out of English pubs, as we are today. Some pubs will never reopen, already abandoned by their owners: derelict and boarded-up eyesores where they were once landmarks of English towns and villages. Churches are haemorrhaging money too, and their bells and choirs are sadly silent, some perhaps permanently.

Despite there being no room at the inn, in April 2020 England’s faith leaders Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and Archbishop Justin Welby came up with a workaround: a virtual meeting. The video call has had only 2000 views so far, suggesting that the good people of England are, with me, not convinced that our Judeo-Christian faith leaders have much meaningful to say in these challenging times.

My faith community is the Church of England, High Anglican wing.  I admit to feeling not much intellectual kinship with the Archbishop, or the incumbent C of E management’s apparent need to accommodate the Woke movement.

The best word to describe the three-way video call is “nice”.  The three men are nice to one other. I imagine they come across as nice to the viewers who manage to get through the whole megillah, lasting 23 minutes. 

We hear:

  • God sustains us in our suffering
  • The importance of prayer
  • The value of faith
  • The value (at least occasionally) of space and silence.
  • The need for forgiveness
  • etc.

I can’t disagree with any of that, but such platitudes are predictable from our religious ministers, and do not register with those of us who have heard them thousands of times before. Little wonder that people of our post-Christian nation are seeking the answers from Bill Gates.

Things deteriorated for me when the discussion turned to Almighty God.

“I feel the presence of the Almighty with me, as I’m sure you do right now”,
says the Chief Rabbi. 

“I do, I do, I do”,
says the Cardinal.

But then the Cardinal goes on to say,

“I struggle when people question where is God in all of this? Why is God letting this happen? And it does strike me there are two very important lessons. One is, this is an event of the natural order… It’s not a question of how this came about. Science [sic] tells us that now. It poses the question, what should change in my way of life?”

How has the Cardinal arrived at this conclusion if, at the same time, he senses the presence of God Almighty? Presence is a big word.

The Lord of History was not and is not surprised by this corona-virus, and its impact on the history of the world.

If we are going to use the word “natural”, we also need to use the word “supernatural”. Indeed, all Jewish and Christian theology worth its salt is based on this duality: the world we see, and the domain that is concealed.

Yes, God imbued Earth with so much agency that He can call Earth to “bring forth” the green life, but God has dominion over all things, and can bless or curse all things. Things revert to desert and war and famine if we fail to harmonise our lives to God, who is Life. “Choose life, or choose death, blessing or cursing”, said the lawmaker. 

Consider the Ten Plagues on Egypt. Some exegetes have attempted to explain the first nine ecologically: The Nile turning to “blood” being the crimson tide of red algae that sometimes afflicts the Nile. It carries with it the anthrax bacterium, which thrives in marsh. The anthrax-laden algae kills fish, which means that when frogs lay tens of thousands of eggs per frog, there is no predator, hence a plague of frogs. Frogs denude the banks of the Nile of available sources of food, causing the many millions of frogs to die. A plague of insects now proliferate on the dead frogs. Cattle graze on land infected with anthrax spores and become diseased. Humans eat the anthrax-infected cattle which causes a plague whose signs of infection are black sores and boils… Indeed, the only plague on Egypt that cannot be attributed to natural causes is the final plague, which finally led to Pharaoh’s temporary change of heart, allowing the Israelites to escape through the Sea of Reeds. The 10th plague cannot be attributed to nature: it was an act of Almighty God. In any case, the timing of the plagues, whether some were ecological domino-effect or not, was divinely ordained.

Pestilence can hardly be detached from the divine schema. In the Christian Apocalypse, there are four horses (more or less cut-and-paste from Zechariah): FamineWar, Pestilence and, the common denominator, Death. These four phenomena have never been far from each other in the recorded history of civilisation, and seem to curse us when we radically turn away from God, or abuse His Name in the name of religion. Let’s face it, Germany’s ecumenical Protestant Reich Church, and Pope Pius XII’s accommodation of Hitler, and then the Stalinisation of the eastern half of Christendom, were never going to lead to God’s blessing, or even tolerance, of the Christian nations.

Consider the 1918/1919 flu pandemic: War, Famine, Pestilence and Death roamed Earth together, and following the October Revolution set the scene for three or four generations of world war and Cold War (which was very much real war, Communist revolution, and mass starvation in many parts of the world). And consider in our times Yemen, an Islamist war zone that has created widespread famine and the worst outbreak of cholera in modern times. To exacerbate things in 2020, the Middle East (including Yemen) and East Africa saw the worst plague of locusts since the Ottoman-Syria locust swarms of 1915.

God has allowed the corona pestilence to happen, and has allowed it to have an overwhelming impact on all nations. And unusually, for a pandemic, the richer nations, despite their advanced medicine and sophisticated healthcare, have been hit harder than the poorer nations (at least by the disease itself; some poorer nations have been economically devastated by the rich-nation lockdown). Perhaps we should accept there might be spiritual reasons, rather than accept scientific ‘explanations’ of the experts who are baffled but are too proud to admit it.

It seems to me that the three faith leaders want to account for calamity by denying the omnipotence of God, or at least evicting God from what the Cardinal calls the domains of ‘nature’ and ‘science’. But Almighty means Almighty, at once imminent in all nature and transcendent to it.

Belief in God Almighty, or Omnipotent, is the opening of the Credo shared by almost all denominations of Church, West and East. Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem. Like many observant Jews and Christians (and Muslims), I do accept that God, the Creator, is Omnipotent. In other words I do not believe that God has left the Creation to its own devices (as in the Deist philosophy that has been continuously popular in parts of the Church of England since the 18th century).

Of course, to a certain extent, God has left us to our own devices: our human self-conscious free will. But our free will is limited because God’s will ultimately will be done on Earth. Similarly God allows Creation to do its thing, to an extent. Genesis does not say that God individually fashioned all the diverse life on earth; it says that God commanded Earth to “bring forth” all the diverse kinds of plants and creatures. In other words, God defined the rules, geometries, beauty, and taxonomy (“kinds”) of life. God animates Earth with life, and gives Earth agency (read the third and sixth days for instance) to bring forth the great biodiversity, and the power to evolve. But this is not to deny the omnipotent power of God, including over all of Earth, nay every atom of the cosmos.

Nothing happens unless God allows it to happen. To suggest otherwise is to undo the Jewish and Christian foundations to Western civilisation, and we are left with merely ‘cultural’ and ‘liberal’ Judaism and Christianity, or even Christian Atheism. We believe that God revealed the Torah at Mount Sinai. We believe that God resurrected Elijah; we (Christians) believe that God resurrected Jesus, the Son of Man. We believe that God has the Almighty power over the world to keep His promises to the world. But to believe such things and at the same time to believe that God cannot prevent a deadly (to humans) coronavirus crossing from a creature into a human being is to swallow a camel and strain at a gnat.

I suggest that not only must we accept that God allowed ‘Covid-19’ to happen, but we have no intellectual grounds for dismissing out of hand the possibility that God made Covid-19 happen.

I know that the Chief Rabbi, the Cardinal and the Archbishop would all agree that God keeps God’s promises to the world. In the great divine sweep of history as God brings all things into the ultimate Good, there might well be a divinely-ordained reason for Covid-19, a reason that makes sense in the context of eternity, and the ultimate Peace (Shalom) on Earth, when all is very Good. The great and consistent promise is that the world will come into the knowledge of God – as surely as the waters cover the sea.

Of course, when we properly acknowledge that God is Almighty, theology ceases to be merely nice and starts to become challenging.

I should say that I think it would be wicked to suggest that any individual who has suffered or prematurely died from any disease, or poverty or war, has incurred the wrath of God. We cannot dismiss the possibility that God can inflict suffering on an individual, but it is not wise and moral, in my view, to contemplate any individual’s suffering (including our own suffering) in this way. The Book of Job provides some of the best Biblical answers (and questions) on the indiscriminate nature of suffering. And throughout the Bible, many good individuals and people suffer extremely. True justice, we are taught, is only known in the context of eternity.

In the video call, the Chief Rabbi says the “will of God prevails”, then echoes the Cardinal in saying, “sure enough, this is a natural phenomenon”. The Archbishop confers, but goes on to say we must pray for the protection of health workers and key workers from the disease. In other words, he is advocating petitionary prayer for God to intervene to physically protect (intervene in nature in other words) health workers and keep them safe. Such petitionary prayer presupposes that the power of God is without limits: omnipotent.

And so it seem to me that our three faith leaders have a kind of cognitive dissonance with regard to the omnipotence of God. All things in nature – including human nature – that are perceived as not good are wholly attributed to nature, whereas all things in nature that are perceived as good are attributed to God Almighty.

As I said, all this stuff is nice. But nice doesn’t cut it. And ultimately, it seems to me, nice does more harm than good, because it makes thinking people suspicious of our faith leaders and perhaps therefore suspicious of faith in God. The children’s hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful is fine for children, but if our faith leaders want thinking adults to return to faith, we need to do better than nice.

Explicitly accepting God’s omnipotence in the Creed, but then implicitly denying God’s omnipotence in the vicissitudes of life, can only lead to pessimism, not least when we consider the destiny of our soul, and the soul of those nearest and dearest to us.

We cannot second-guess God, but we can see there are things radically not right in the world, from the Communism in the East, the Islamism in the Middle East, and the Scientism in the West. Throughout the world we see systemic financial corruption and general greed. There are radical problems with the Church itself, not least in England, including the revelation in 2020 of thousands of cases of sexual predation of children since 1970 in the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in England. We had no right to be content with the loveless way the world was in 2019.

In many nations, people are persecuted for their religion, either by peoples of other religion, or by the Communists. In China, where there are more practicing Christians than in Europe, the persecution of Christians and Muslims is severe. Persecutions of Christians by Muslims is severe in Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and many other Muslim nations today, according to the Christian charity Open Doors, which has now published its World Watch List for 2021. I was surprised to see on the watch list that India, which has 64 million Christians (5% of the population) is now ranked in the top 10 persecutors of Christians (due to Hindu nationalism).

And as I have written often elsewhere (including this recent piece in the Times of Israel), the Church (not least the World Council of Churches), the United Nations, many governments, and many NGOs, are deeply antisemitic/anti-Israel. For instance, the United Nations Human Rights Council in its history has condemned Israel (the only nation in the Middle East and North Africa that has human rights) more times than all the other nations of the world combined. In 2020, the UN – which Colonel Richard Kemp rightly calls an antisemitic “mob” – made more country-specific condemnations against Israel (17) than all other nations of the world combined (6)!

Israel, the blessed nation, the apple of His eye, the light unto the nations, must not be used as the world’s scapegoat. Should Israel improve? Of course she should: she is to be the head nation, not the tail (Deut 28:13). Rather than wishing for her obliteration, the nations, united, must encourage and help her to be the house of prayer for all nations. The many Christian and Muslim nations with superessionist pretensions must allow the one Jewish nation the space to be the dignity of Israel. Prayerful dignity is difficult for a tiny nation that is surrounded by, and must defend herself against, nations with unhinged and murderous regimes that believe that Israel is the metaphysical obstruction to their goals. And, frankly, some of the Christian Europeans nations that engineered the Holocaust are, today, outsourcing their genocidal antisemitism by funding Jihadist irredentism and funding the corruption of children through antisemitic education. (Search the website NGO Monitor for a catalogue of the obsessive anti-Israelism of the UN, EU, the World Council of Churches, the Islamic bloc (OIC), and many of the world’s NGOs.)  

The world is upside down. Perhaps, who knows, the crowned white horse (Revelation 6:2) of pestilence with his arched bow chaotically seeking targets in all nations, is demanding that nations think in quite new ways, within the nations and between the nations.

Alas, 2020 was not all bad. It saw the “Abraham Accords”, and, for some, a new way of seeing Israel.

God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.


“And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
(Genesis 12:2-3)

About markpickles

Scientific Technical Writer, Artist: Blog: Blog mainly covers antisemitism, philosophical theology and the philosophy of science. In spare time fighting anti-Semitism/anti-Israelism, and writing book that synthesises monotheistic, philosophical and scientific worldviews. Twitter:
This entry was posted in Antisemitism, Christianity, Ecology, Great Britain, Israel, Political philosophy, Theology, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Corona-virus. We’re hammered with ‘explanations’ and ‘solutions’ from leaders of science, but where are the leaders of faith?

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  2. joesk1d says:

    Where to start?

    There is so much in the essay, so much observed and so much concern for the nation state we know as Israel today.

    I read an article today that reveals 260 times more deaths since vaccinations began in Israel.

    I am a simple soul, am not well read but what do we know about this area of land the world calls Israel?

    It’s been the homeland for the Jewish people officialky since the end of WW2.

    And the Jewish people?

    Of all the people dwelling on planet earth today, they keep the Torah and follow to the best of their ability, it’s instructions.

    They are then by default living evidence of the existence of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

    Now, ask yourself what entity would want to rid the world of any evidence that God exists?

    Then you will understand why these people have been persecuted and will be persecuted until the Messiah comes.

    Now, nothing more can be said on this subject without the answers to some questions.

    Why did Jesus talk in parables?

    Is there anything that God can’t do?

    What is the Bible for?


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