Should God receive credit for the turning of the tide of the coronavirus global pandemic?
Not according to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Speaking earlier this week, the Empire State’s chief executive, who is Catholic, was blunt:
“The number is down because we brought the number down,” he told reporters. “God did not do that. Faith did not do that. Destiny did not do that. A lot of pain and suffering did that…That’s how it works. It’s math. And if you don’t continue to do that, you’re going to see that number go back up. And that will be a tragedy if that number goes back up.”
Governor Cuomo is partly right – and significantly wrong.
New York’s governor is correct in saying that behavioral changes have had a positive impact on the decreasing rate of spread of the virulent pathogen. It’s a law of science and logic that if you separate people from each other you inevitably lessen viral transmission of COVID-19.
But as a person of faith, I also believe God is in the middle of everything—including people’s decisions to self-isolate and abide by the government’s directives.
In other words, as a Christian, I believe it’s impossible to de-link God from any aspect of our lives or our world.
Secularism’s rise has been marked by an increasing belief that man, not God, is at the center of all things.
Of course, this non-religious perspective is hardly new. Almost 500 years before Jesus was even born, Protagoris of Abdera, a Greek philosopher, famously stated, “Of all things the measure is man, of the things that are, that they are, and of the things that are not, that they are not.”
In more recent years, President Reagan used to like to tell the story of the farmer who poured years of sweat and effort into a once rocky, unfertile territory. He invited the pastor of his church out to see his progress one Sunday afternoon.
“Oh, my,” the Reverend stated, looking admiringly over the rows and rows of vegetables and fruit trees. “The Lord has really blessed you.”
“I wish you could have seen this land when the Lord was doing the work by Himself,” grunted the farmer.
It’s a humorous story, but how many of us, like Governor Cuomo and the farmer, often credit ourselves – our intellect, hard work, cleverness, curiosity, or connections – with our success?
It’s true that our actions have consequences – but God is sovereign, and He will ultimately have His way.
In theological terms, that seeming contradiction is known as an “antinomy.” God is sovereign – but man still has free will. Our actions do matter.
Given our limited vantage point, though, it’s impossible to square the seeming dichotomy.
I would contend that God put it on the hearts of people to do whatever they could do to lessen the spread of COVID-19. I also believe that He led Franklin Graham and his team at Samaritan’s Purse to set-up a field hospital in the middle of New York City’s Central Park.
According to reports, the team’s medical workers have treated over 100 coronavirus patients, decreasing the pressure on the city’s traditional hospitals.
On a related note, there was a story in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal pointing out that the Kansas City Chiefs’ victory in this year’s Super Bowl may very well have saved thousands of lives.
Had their opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, won the game instead, there would have been a parade in San Francisco that second week in February – a potential “super spreader” event at the very time the virus was beginning to ravage the area. As it was, the virus had not yet made its way to Kansas City, thus making its citizens less vulnerable for their city-wide celebration.
Did God arrange a Kansas City Chiefs’ win? It’s impossible to know – but we do know He sees “the end from beginning” (Isaiah 46:10).
It takes a lot of hubris to claim sole credit for anything – especially victory over a virus.
As one with deep faith in God’s overarching sovereignty in our world, I believe there is so much we cannot see – mysteries and movements that mean everything – yet that remain hidden to our earthly eyes. In these uncertain times, how encouraging it is to be reminded that, as the old song says, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”