*#7 In the Series: Knowing What & Why You Believe – November 2, 2020 – Pastor David Craig
USING THE ACRONYM: “H.I.S. L.A.W.S”
(Acronym adapted from Pastor Bob Sears)
Though written over 1600 years by 40 plus authors on 3 different continents and in 3 different languages about scores of controversial subjects, the Bible’s teachings are supernaturally harmonious from cover to cover.
Countless millions of people from diverse cultures all over the world have had their personal lives changed forever for the good and found spiritual meaning in life from the message of the Bible.
The Old and New Testament prophets (“seers”) spoke dozens of general and specific predictions which have been historically fulfilled. Among the most significant are Isaiah 53 (O.T) and Matthew 24 (N.T).
In spite of repeated attempts throughout history both to destroy and discredit the Bible, it still exists in virtually its original form and is still revered and circulated more widely than any other book on earth.
The Bible’s detailed record of historical data has been repeatedly shown (by other writings and archeological discoveries) to be accurate to an exact degree. This testifies to its writers’ reliability.
The biblical writers obviously meant their readers to accept their writings as a message from God (e.g.: O.T.: the repeated instances of “Thus says the LORD…” N.T.: 1 Th. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).
Son of God
Jesus, reported to be the authoritative Son of God by the biblical writers, plainly taught the full inspiration of both the Old and New Testaments (e.g.: O.T.: Matthew 5:17-18. N.T.: John 14:23-26, and 16:13).
The Case for the Infallibility of the Bible
(R.C. Sproul, Reason to Believe, pp. 30-31)
The case for the infallibility of Scripture proceeds along both deductive and inductive lines. It moves from the premise of general trustworthiness to the conclusion of infallibility. The reasoning proceeds as follows:
Premise A: The Bible is basically a reliable and trustworthy document.
Premise B: On the basis of this reliable document we have sufficient evidence to believe confidently that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Premise C: Jesus being the Son of God is an infallible authority.
Premise D: Jesus teaches that the Bible is more than a generally trustworthy; it is the very Word of God.
Premise E: The Word, in that it comes from God, is utterly trustworthy because God is utterly trustworthy.
Conclusion: On the basis of the infallible authority of Jesus, the church believes the Bible to be utterly trustworthy, i.e, infallible.
Ankerberg, John & John Weldon. The Reliability of the Bible.
Blomberg, Craig L. Can We Still Believe The Bible?
Cowan, Steven B. and Terry L. Wilder. In Defense of The Bible.
Jones, Timothy Paul. Why Should I Trust the Bible?
Lutzer, Erwin W. Seven Reasons You Can Trust The Bible.
*Series: Knowing What & Why You Believe – October 19, 2020 – Pastor David Craig
(Notes Adapted from Dr. William Lane Craig)
Does God exist? Here are 5 Good Reasons to Believe That God Exists:
God makes sense of the origin of the universe.
God makes sense of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life.
God makes sense of objective moral values in the world.
God makes sense of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
God can be immediately known and experienced.
C. S. Lewis once remarked that God is not the sort of thing one can be moderately interested in. If God does not exist, there’s no reason to be interested in God at all. On the other hand, if God does exist, then this is of uttermost importance.
3 Reasons Why God’s Existence Makes A Difference
Reason 1: Life is Ultimately Meaningless Without God
If God does not exist, life is ultimately meaningless. If your life is doomed to end in death, then ultimately it does not matter how you live. In the end it makes no ultimate difference whether you existed or not. Your life might have a relative significance in that you influenced others or affected the course of history. But ultimately mankind is doomed to perish in the heat death of the universe. Ultimately it makes no difference who you are or what you do. Your life is inconsequential.
Thus, the contributions of the scientist to the advance of human knowledge, the research of the doctor to alleviate pain and suffering, the efforts of the diplomat to secure peace in the world, the sacrifices of good people everywhere to better the lot of the human race—ultimately all these come to nothing. Thus, if atheism is true, life is ultimately meaningless.
Reason 2: Without God We Live Without Hope
If God does not exist, then we must ultimately live without hope. If there is no God, then there is ultimately no hope for deliverance from the shortcomings of our finite existence. For example, there is no hope for deliverance from evil. Although many people ask how God could create a world involving so much evil, by far most of the suffering in the world is due to man’s own inhumanity to man. The horror of two world wars during the last century effectively destroyed the 19th century’s naive optimism about human progress. If God does not exist, then we are locked without hope in a world filled with gratuitous and unredeemed suffering, and there is no hope for deliverance from evil. If there is no God, there is no hope of deliverance from aging, disease, and death. Although it may be hard for you as who are younger to contemplate, the sober fact is that unless you die young, someday you—you yourself—will be an old man or an old woman, fighting a losing battle with aging, struggling against the inevitable advance of deterioration, disease, perhaps senility. And finally and inevitably you will die. There is no afterlife beyond the grave. Atheism is thus a philosophy without hope.
Reason 3: If God Exists, You Can Know His Love Personally
On the other hand, if God does exist, then not only is there meaning and hope, but there is also the possibility of coming to know God and His love personally. That the infinite God should love you and want to be your personal friend! This would be the highest status a human being could enjoy! Clearly, if God exists, it makes not only a tremendous difference for mankind in general, but it could make a life-changing difference for you as well.
Now admittedly none of this shows that God exists. But it does show that it makes a tremendous difference whether God exists. Therefore, even if the evidence for and against the existence of God were absolutely equal, the rational thing to do, I think, is to believe in Him. That is to say, it seems to me positively irrational when the evidence is equal to prefer death, futility, and despair over hope, meaningfulness and happiness.
5 GOOD REASONS TO BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS:
(1) GOD MAKES SENSE OF THE ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE
Have you ever asked yourself where the universe came from? Why everything exists instead of just nothing? Typically atheists have said the universe is just eternal, and that’s all. But surely this is unreasonable. Just think about it for a minute. If the universe never had a beginning, that means that the number of past events in the history of the universe is infinite. But mathematicians recognize that the existence of an actually infinite number of things leads to self-contradictions.
For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well, mathematically, you get self-contradictory answers. This shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind, not something that exists in reality. David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician of the twentieth century, states, the infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea (David Hilbert, “On the Infinite,” in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. with an Introduction by Paul Benacerraf and Hillary Putnam [Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964], pp. 139, 141).
But that entails that since past events are not just ideas, but are real, the number of past events must be finite. Therefore, the series of past events can’t go back forever; rather the universe must have begun to exist. This conclusion has been confirmed by remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics.
In one of the most startling developments of modern science, we now have pretty strong evidence that the universe is not eternal in the past but had an absolute beginning about 13.8 billion years ago in a cataclysmic event known as the Big Bang. What makes the Big Bang so startling is that it represents the origin of the universe from literally nothing. For all matter and energy, even physical space and time themselves, came into being at the Big Bang.
As the physicist P. C. W. Davies explains, “the coming into being of the universe, as discussed in modern science . . . is not just a matter of imposing some sort of organization . . . upon a previous incoherent state, but literally the coming-into-being of all physical things from nothing” (ABC Science Online, “The Big Questions: In the Beginning,” Interview of Paul Davies by Philp Adams, http://aca.mq.edu.au/pdavies.html.).
Of course, alternative theories have been crafted over the years to try to avoid this absolute beginning, but none of these theories has commended itself to the scientific community as more plausible than the Big Bang theory. In fact, in 2003 Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin were able to prove that any universe which is, on average, in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be eternal in the past but must have an absolute beginning. Vilenkin pulls no punches:
“It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning” (Alex Vilenkin, Many Words in One: The Search for Other Universes [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p. 176).
That problem was nicely captured by Anthony Kenny of Oxford University. He writes, “A proponent of the Big Bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the universe came from nothing and by nothing” (Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence [New York: Schocken Books, 1969], p. 66).
But surely that doesn’t make sense! Out of nothing, nothing comes. So why does the universe exist instead of just nothing? Where did it come from? There must have been a cause which brought the universe into being.
We can summarize our argument thus far as follows:
Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
The universe began to exist.
Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Given the truth of the two premises, the conclusion necessarily follows. From the very nature of the case, this cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being which created the universe. It must be uncaused because we’ve seen that there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. It must be timeless and therefore changeless—at least without the universe—because it created time. Because it also created space, it must transcend space as well and be immaterial, not physical.
It must also be personal. For how else could a timeless cause give rise to a temporal effect like the universe? If the cause were a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions, then the cause could never exist without the effect.
For example, the cause of water’s freezing is the temperature’s being below 0˚ Centigrade. If the temperature were below 0˚ from eternity past, then any water that was around would be frozen from eternity. It would be impossible for the water to begin to freeze just a finite time ago. So if the cause is permanently present, then the effect should be permanently present as well. The only way for the cause to be timeless and the effect to begin in time is for the cause to be a personal agent who freely chooses to create an effect in time without any prior determining conditions.
For example, a man sitting from eternity could freely will to stand up. Thus, we are brought, not merely to a transcendent cause of the universe, but to its personal Creator.
Isn’t it incredible that the big bang theory thus confirms what the Christian theist has always believed: that in the beginning God created the universe? Which makes more sense: that the Christian theist is right or that the universe popped into being uncaused out of nothing?
(2) GOD MAKES SENSE OF THE FINE-TUNING OF THE UNIVERSE
FOR INTELLIGENT LIFE.
During the last 40 years or so, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicate balance of initial conditions given in the Big Bang itself. Scientists once believed that whatever the initial conditions of the universe, eventually intelligent life might evolve. But we now know that our existence is balanced on a knife’s edge. The existence of intelligent life depends upon a conspiracy of initial conditions which must be fine-tuned to a degree that is literally incomprehensible and incalculable.
This fine-tuning is of two sorts:
First, when the laws of nature are expressed as mathematical equations, you find appearing in them certain constants, like the gravitational constant. These constants are not determined by the laws of nature. The laws of nature are consistent with a wide range of values for these constants.
Second, in addition to these constants there are certain arbitrary quantities which are just put in as initial conditions on which the laws of nature operate, for example, the amount of entropy or the balance between matter and anti-matter in the universe. Now all of these constants and quantities fall into an extraordinarily narrow range of life-permitting values. Were these constants or quantities to be altered by a hair’s breadth, the life-permitting balance would be destroyed and life would not exist.
For example, the physicist P. C. W. Davies has calculated that a change in the strength of gravity or of the atomic weak force by only one part in 10100 would have prevented a life-permitting universe. The cosmological constant which drives the inflation of the universe and is responsible for the recently discovered acceleration of the universe’s expansion is inexplicably fine-tuned to around one part in 10120.
Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of the Big Bang’s low entropy condition existing by chance are on the order of one out of 10 10 (123). Penrose comments, “I cannot even recall seeing anything else in physics whose accuracy is known to approach, even remotely, a figure like one part in 1010 (123)” (Roger Penrose, “Time-Asymmetry and Quantum Gravity,” in Quantum Gravity 2, ed. C. J. Isham, R. Penrose, and D. W. Sciama [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981], p. 249). And it’s not just each constant or quantity which must be exquisitely finely-tuned; their ratios to one another must be also finely-tuned. So improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers. Now there are three possibilities for explaining the presence of this remarkable fine-tuning of the universe: physical necessity, chance, or design.
The first alternative holds that there is some unknown Theory of Everything (T.O.E.) which would explain the way the universe is. It had to be that way, and there was really no chance or little chance of the universe’s not being life-permitting.
By contrast, the second alternative states that the fine-tuning is due entirely to chance. It’s just an accident that the universe is life-permitting, and we’re the lucky beneficiaries. The third alternative rejects both of these accounts in favor of an intelligent Mind behind the cosmos, who designed the universe to permit life.
Which of these alternatives is the most plausible?
The first alternative seems extraordinarily implausible. There is just no physical reason why these constants and quantities should have the values they do. As Paul Davies states,
“Even if the laws of physics were unique, it doesn’t follow that the physical universe itself is unique. . . . the laws of physics must be augmented by cosmic initial conditions. . . . There is nothing in present ideas about ‘laws of initial conditions’ remotely to suggest that their consistency with the laws of physics would imply uniqueness. Far from it. . . . . . . it seems, then, that the physical universe does not have to be the way it is: it could have been otherwise” (Paul Davies, The Mind of God [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992], p. 169).
For example, the most promising candidate for a T.O.E. to date, super-string theory or M-Theory, fails to predict uniquely our universe.
In fact, string theory allows a “cosmic landscape” of around 10500 different universes governed by the present laws of nature, so that it does nothing to render the observed values of the constants and quantities physically necessary.
So what about the second alternative, that the fine-tuning of the universe is due to chance?
The problem with this alternative is that the odds against the universe’s being life-permitting are so incomprehensibly great that they cannot be reasonably faced. Even though there will be a huge number of life-permitting universes lying within the cosmic landscape, nevertheless the number of life-permitting worlds will be unfathomably tiny compared to the entire landscape, so that the existence of a life-permitting universe is fantastically improbable.
Students or laymen who blithely assert, “It could have happened by chance!” simply have no conception of the fantastic precision of the fine-tuning requisite for life. They would never embrace such a hypothesis in any other area of their lives—for example, in order to explain how there came to be overnight a car in one’s driveway.
Some people have tried to escape this problem by claiming that we really shouldn’t be surprised at the finely-tuned conditions of the universe, for if the universe were not fine-tuned, then we wouldn’t be here to be surprised about it!
Given that we are here, we should expect the universe to be fine-tuned. But such reasoning is logically fallacious. We can show this by means of a parallel illustration. Imagine you’re traveling abroad and are arrested on trumped-up drug charges and dragged in front of a firing squad of 100 trained marksmen, all with rifles aimed at your heart, to be executed. You hear the command given: “Ready! Aim! Fire!” and you hear the deafening roar of the guns. And then you observe that you are still alive, that all of the 100 trained marksmen missed!
Now what would you conclude?
“Well, I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised that they all missed. After all, if they hadn’t all missed, then I wouldn’t be here to be surprised about it! Given that I am here, I should expect them all to miss.” Of course not!
You would immediately suspect that they all missed on purpose, that the whole thing was a set-up, engineered for some reason by someone. While you wouldn’t be surprised that you don’t observe that you are dead, you’d be very surprised, indeed, that you do observe that you are alive. In the same way, given the incredible improbability of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life, it is reasonable to conclude that this is not due to chance, but to design.
In order to rescue the alternative of chance, its proponents have therefore been forced to adopt the hypothesis that there exists an infinite number of randomly ordered universes composing a sort of World Ensemble or multiverse of which our universe is but a part. Somewhere in this infinite World Ensemble finely-tuned universes will appear by chance alone, and we happen to be one such world.
There are, however, at least two major failings of the World Ensemble hypothesis:
First, there’s no evidence that such a World Ensemble exists. No one knows if there are other worlds. Moreover, recall that Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin proved that any universe in a state of continuous cosmic expansion cannot be infinite in the past. Their theorem applies to the multiverse, too. Therefore, since the past is finite, only a finite number of other worlds can have been generated by now, so that there’s no guarantee that a finely-tuned world will have appeared in the ensemble.
Second, if our universe is just a random member of an infinite World Ensemble, then it is overwhelmingly more probable that we should be observing a much different universe than what we in fact observe.
Roger Penrose has calculated that it is inconceivably more probable that our solar system should suddenly form by the random collision of particles than that a finely-tuned universe should exist. (Penrose calls it “utter chicken feed” by comparison in The Road to Reality [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005], pp. 762-5.) So if our universe were just a random member of a World Ensemble, it is inconceivably more probable that we should be observing a universe no larger than our solar system.
Or again, if our universe were just a random member of a World Ensemble, then we ought to be observing highly extraordinary events, like horses’ popping into and out of existence by random collisions, or perpetual motion machines, since such things are vastly more probable than all of nature’s constants and quantities’ falling by chance into the virtually infinitesimal life-permitting range.
Observable universes like those are much more plenteous in the World Ensemble than worlds like ours and, therefore, ought to be observed by us. Since we do not have such observations, that fact strongly disconfirms the multiverse hypothesis. On atheism, at least, it is therefore highly probable that there is no World Ensemble.
So once again, the view that Christian theists have always held, that there is an intelligent designer of the universe, seems to make much more sense than the atheistic view that the universe just happens to be by chance fine-tuned to an incomprehensible precision for the existence of intelligent life.
We can summarize this second argument as follows:
The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
Therefore, it is due to design.
*You can subscribe to Valley Baptist Church San Rafael on YouTube to hear the Apologetics lectures from the series: Knowing What and Why You Believe, as well as Pastor David Craig’s sermons on the book of Daniel in the Series: Going Against the Flow of Culture.
Resources On Apologetics From Dr. William Lane Craig
*#4 in the Series: Knowing What & Why You Believe – October 12, 2020 – Pastor David Craig
Those of us who are parents have had a conversation with our young children that goes something like this: “Dad, who made me?” “God made you.” “Who made the sun and the moon?” God made the sun and the moon.” “Who made the animals?” “God made everything.” “Dad, who made God?”
To ask the question, “Who made God?” commits a category fallacy. It assumes that God is a contingent (dependent), caused entity. However, Philosophy and the Bible assert that by definition God is uncaused and eternally existent.
Asking the question, “Who made God?” is like asking, “How did Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata taste?” Or “Did you hear the color of that rose?” It just doesn’t fit. God wants made just like a song doesn’t taste, and you can’t hear the color of a rose.
This category fallacy was made by the famed atheist, Bertrand Russell, when he made the statement, “If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause.” But its not true that everything has a cause. Only that which begins to exist must have a cause.
“The Second Law of Thermodynamics reveals that the universe must have a beginning since it is running out of useable energy. Therefore, the God who made the universe must be without a beginning. Why? Because the Law of Causality says that everything that has a beginning had a beginner. It is ridiculous to assert that nothing can make something but is entirely reasonable to assert that something (i.e., God) can make something out of nothing. Therefore, God is the uncaused (eternal), first (originator) cause (Creator) who created everything that exists.” ~ Norman L. Geisler, The Bible’s Answers To 100 Of Life’s Biggest Questions, p. 27).
The Aseity of God (God’s Independence and Self-Existence)
“With respect to the doctrine of God, his attribute of self-existence. God’s very nature is to exist; he is not and cannot be dependent on anything or anyone. This attribute underscores the Creator-creature distinction: whereas the Creator is completely independent, creatures are completely dependent, contingent on his will for their existence. Proof that God is self-sufficient is that he “made the world and everything in it” (Acts 17:24). Because he has life in himself (John 5:26), he is able to give ‘life and breath and everything’ to his creatures (Acts 17:25). Though independent, God has designed his people to glorify him.” ~TBCDOT, Gregg Allison
“A reference to the fact the basis of God’s life is within himself and is not caused by anything external.” ~ TCDOCT, Millard Erickson
“The view that God is entirely self-sufficient and not dependent on anything else (Lat. aseitas, “self-existence,” from a se “of itself” or “from himself”) ~ TWDOTT, Donald K. McKim
“The doctrine that God has life within himself and depends on nothing else for his existence. He is the living God, he gives to all and needs nothing (Jer. 2:13; John 5:26; Acts 17:24-25).” ACDOTT, Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson
“God exists by his own power. He alone is self-existent. Aseity, meaning “self-existence,” is the characteristic that separates him from all other things. God is the only one who can say, ‘I am who I am’…The grand difference between a human being and a Supreme Being is precisely this: Apart from God I cannot exist; apart from me God does exist. God does not need me in order for him to be. I do need God in order for me to be. This is the difference between what we call a self-existent being and a dependent being…In him we have our being. It is because of his self-existence that we can exist at all. You and I exist in his power and by his power. We are because he is.~ R.C. Sproul, Enjoying God, pp. 29, 32, 39.
“God has of himself all that he has, while other things have nothing of themselves. And other things, having nothing of themselves. And other things, having nothing of themselves, have their only reality from him.” On the Fall of the Devil 1 (Anselm [1033-1109 A.D.] Major Works. 194).
“God is exclusively from Himself, not in the sense of being self-caused but being from eternity to eternity who He is, being not becoming. God is absolute being, the fullness of being, and therefore also eternally and absolutely independent in His existence, in His perfections, in all His works, the first and the last, the sole cause and final goal of all things. In this aseity of God, conceived not only as having being from Himself but also as the fullness of being, all other perfections are included.” ~ Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, p. 152
Some Ramifications of God’s Aseity
(1) God is not needy. He doesn’t need you and He doesn’t need me. In fact, He doesn’t need the world at all. It’s not as if He was bored, twiddling His thumbs, desperately lonely prior to creating the world. God is not dependent on the world for His happiness and self-fulfillment. Instead, He possess life in and of Himself. More precisely, He is the fullness of life in and of Himself.
In view of God’s independence and self-sufficiency, perhaps we wonder, why He would care about us if He remains entirely without need? God created us not because He needed us but because He loved us. He loved simply because He chose to do so. We bank on Him, not Him on us!
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love he predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.” ~ Ephesians 1:3-10
(2) God doesn’t need to be defended. He can defend Himself. He can move people and nations. He can shut down and raise up things and people. That’s why the Scriptures says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, ‘says the Lord’ (Romans 12:19). God will one day execute complete justice on those who have rebelled against Him and not repented of their sin and put their trust in Christ.
(3) As the Creator of all things, God owns all things. “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).
(4) When we give something back to God, we give Him only what He has first given us. We are stewards of God’s land (Luke 12:42; 16:1-8; Titus 1:7)., accountable to use these blessings for His glory. Everything in creation remains his, even after He has given it to us, so even our own possessions are His.
(5) God owes us nothing. “Who has given to me, that I should repay Him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” ~Job 41:11
(6) We are totally dependent upon God for existence, sustenance, and where we will spend eternity.
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” ~ Romans 11:36
So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “ ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “ ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.” Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. ~ Acts 17:22-34
Jesus, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” ~ Matthew 25:46
Jesus, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him…Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” ~ John 3:17, 36
Food For Thought:It’s a whole lot easier to believe that Something took nothing and made something than it is to believe that nothing took nothing and made something.
*You can subscribe to Valley Baptist Church San Rafael on YouTube to hear the Apologetics lectures from the series: Knowing What and Why You Believe, as well as Pastor David Craig’s sermons on the book of Daniel in the Series: Going Against the Flow of Culture.
Resources on God’s Aseity
Barrett, Matthew. None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God. (Chapter 4, “Does God Depend On You?”). Grand Rapids: MI: Baker, 2019.
Conway, Bobby. Does God Exist? (Chapter 2, “Who Made God?”). Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2016
Copan, Paul. If God Made The Universe Who Made God? 180 Arguments For The Christian Faith. (Chapter 23, “If God Made the Universe, Who Made God?”). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2012.
Feinberg, John. No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. (Chapter 6, “The Attributes of God”). Wheaton: IL: Crossway, 2001.
*#2 In the Series: Knowing What & Why You Believe – Pastor David Craig
The Three Most Common Methods (Means or Ways) of Doing Apologetics
CLASSICAL – Operates in a two or three-step process (philosophical, theistic, and evidential). Working from the vantage point of certain undeniable foundational principles, such as the laws of logic and self-existence, certain philosophical questions are addressed, such as truth, reality, meaning, and morality. Since belief in God as creator is essential for an individual to become a Christian (Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”), the primary goal is to help the unbeliever understand reality untainted by any false assumptions. The second step offers evidence for the existence of God, usually in the form of traditional theistic arguments and empirical data such as manuscript and archaeological evidence.
(Notes adapted from House and Holden, Charts of Apologetics And Christian Evidences, Chart 8)
EVIDENTIAL-Defends and supports Christianity as factual by applying historical evidence, including archaeological, bibliographical, and experiential evidence as well as rational evidence (philosophical reasoning with no need for empirical support, as when showing logical contradictions in statements). Truth claims of Christianity are believed to be reasonable and highly probable, though most evidentipalists believe there are no indisputable historical facts. Evidentialists use a one-step approach that demonstrates both God’s existence and which variety of theism is true.
PRESUPPOSITIONAL– The presuppositional approach starts by assuming Christian truth about God and Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture and reasons from Christianity. The presuppositionalist apologetic to the unbeliever begins by reasoning “from” Christianity through special revelation (Bible). The presuppositionalist assumes the content revealed in Scripture to be true and encourages the unbeliever to do the same since these assumed biblical truths offer the only possible foundation and explanation for life and godliness—a framework on which to make sense of the world and God the way they actually exist. Due to the effects of sin, the unbeliever’s presuppositions are deemed irrational and inadequate to understand or explain the basis for religion, morals, communication, even beauty. In some instances presuppositionalists provide the tools for one to make sense of reality and show that Christianity offers the only foundation and framework on which to make sense of the world and God.
Criticisms of The Three Views:
(1) CLASSICAL – Overemphasis on reason appears to make an infinite God subject to logic and finite human reason, thus devaluing Christianity. God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts therefore man should not try to intellectual comprehend Him (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The Classical Response to This Criticism: God is not subject to our logic or finite human reason; only man’s theories and propositions about Him need to be tested by the rules of thought. Though God’s ways and thoughts are beyond our finite reason, they are not contrary to reason (Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” ; 1 Timothy 6:20, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge.”
Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. Major writings: On Being and Essence; The Principles of Nature; Summa contra gentiles; Summa theologiae.
R.C. Sproul (February 13, 1939 – December 14, 2017) was an American Reformedtheologian and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. He was the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries (named for the Ligonier Valley just outside Pittsburgh, where the ministry started as a study center for college and seminary students) and could be heard daily on the Renewing Your Mind radio broadcast in the United States and internationally. Under Sproul’s direction, Ligonier Ministries produced the Ligonier Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which would eventually grow into the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, of which Sproul, alongside Norman Geisler, was one of the chief architects.Sproul has been described as “the greatest and most influential proponent of the recovery of Reformed theology in the last century.” Some of His Most Important writings are: *The Holiness of God; Chosen by God; Classical Apologetics; *Reason To Believe; *Defending Your Faith; Knowing Scripture; Essential Truths of the Christian Faith; Pleasing God; Enjoying God; Willing to Believe; The Work of Christ; Now, That’s A Good Question!; Faith Alone; Getting the Gospel Right; If There’s A God Why Are There Atheists?; The Glory of Christ; Not A Chance; God’s Love; The Consequences of Ideas; Does God Exist? ; What is Repentance?
Norman L. Geisler (1932 – 2019) was an American Christiansystematic theologian and philosopher. He was the co-founder of two non-denominational evangelical seminaries (Veritas International University and Southern Evangelical Seminary). He held a Ph.D. in philosophy from Loyola University and made scholarly contributions to the subjects of classical Christian apologetics, systematic theology, the history of philosophy, philosophy of religion, Calvinism, Roman Catholicism, Biblical inerrancy, Bible difficulties, ethics, and more. He was the author, coauthor, or editor of over 90 booksand hundreds of articles. His most notable writings: *I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist; *Christian Apologetics; Christian Ethics; Apologetics in the New Age; The Big Book of Bible Difficulties; Introduction to Philosophy; Come Let Us Reason; Twelve Points That Show Christianity is True; Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics.
William Lane Craig(born August 23, 1949) is an American analytic philosopher and Christian theologian, apologist, and author.He is Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University and Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology (Biola University). His Notable Writings include: *Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics; The Kalām Cosmological Argument; *On Guard:Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision; Hard Questions, Real Answers; The Son Rises: Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus; Time and Eternity:Exploring God’s Relationship to Time; Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview; Learning Logic.
J.P. Moreland (born March 9, 1948), is an American philosopher, theologian, and Christian apologist. He currently serves as a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in La Mirada, California. His Major Writings consist of: *Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity; Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview; The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters; Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology; Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality; Body & Soul: Human Nature the Crisis in Ethics; The God Conversation: Using Stories and Illustrations to Explain Your Faith; Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique; Christianity and the Nature of Science; Consciousness and the Existence of God: A Theistic Argument; *Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul; The God Question; Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult: A Beginner’s Guide to Life’s Big Questions; The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism; The Lost Virtue of Happiness: Discovering The Disciplines of The Good Life; In Search of a Confident Faith: Overcoming Barriers to Trusting in God; Kingdom Triangle: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit’s Power; Does God Exist? A Debate with Kai Nielsen.
(2) EVIDENTIAL– Empirical evidences are interpreted through presuppositions and the framework of one’s worldview and therefore should be offered after the philosophical considerations have been addressed.
The Evidential Response to This Criticism: Evidence is not necessarily presented as self-evident conclusive verification; rather it gives good reason and high probability for one to conclude that the truths of Christianity are consistent with the facts. Many philosophical arguments, such as those offered to demonstrate God’s existence (e.g., cosmological and theological arguments) present premises which must be supported by empirical evidence.
Primary Exponents of Evidential Apologetics:
William Paley (1743 – 1805) was an English clergyman, Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian. Major writings: Natural Theology; and *Evidences of Christianity.
Edward John Carnell (1919 – 1967) was a prominent Christian theologian and apologist, was an ordained Baptist pastor, and served as President of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Major Writings: *An Introduction to Christian Apologetics; The Case For Biblical Christianity; The Case for Orthodox Theology; Christian Commitment: An Apologetic; A Philosophy of the Christian Religion.
John Warwick Montgomery (born October 18, 1931) is a lawyer, professor, Lutheran theologian, and author living in France. He was born in Warsaw, New York, United States. Since 2014, he has been Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy at Concordia University, Wisconsin,and continues to work as a barrister specializing in religious freedom cases in international Human Rights law.Major Writings: Defending the Faith in a Messy World: A Christian Apologetics Primer; *Always Be Ready: A Primer on Defending the Christian Faith; *Faith Founded on Fact: Essays in Evidential Apologetics; History and Christianity; Evidence for Faith; How Do We Know There Is a God?; Christianity for the Tough Minded; Where Is History Going?
Josh McDowell (born August 17, 1939) is an evangelicalapologist and evangelist.He is the author or co-author of over 150 books. His book Evidence That Demands a Verdict was ranked 13th in Christianity Today‘s list of most influential evangelical books published after World War II. Major Writings: *More Than a Carpenter; *Evidence That Demands a Verdict; God-Breathed: The Undeniable Power and Reliability of Scripture; The Unshakable Truth; Evidence for The Resurrection.
Lee Strobel (born January 25, 1952) is an American Christian author and a former investigative journalist (Legal Editor of the Chicago Tribune). He has written several books, including four which received ECPA Christian Book Awards (1994, 1999, 2001, 2005)and a series which addresses challenges to the veracity of Christianity.He also hosted a television program called Faith Under Fire on PAX TVand runs a video apologetics web site. Strobel has been interviewed on numerous national television programs, including ABC’s 20/20, Fox News, and CNN. Notable Writings: *The Case for Christ; *The Case for a Creator; The Case for Faith; The Case for Miracles; The Case for Grace; The Case for Hope; God’s Outrageous Claims; In Defense of Jesus.
(3) PRESUPPOSITIONAL– Presupposing the truth of Christian theism is arguing in a circle and lacks a basis to justify its assumptions as to why one should presuppose Christianity. The apostle Paul says that God’s existence and attributes can be “clearly seen” (Romans 1:18-20) since they have been “shown” to the unbelieving world through “the things that have been made” (nature). Therefore, the unbeliever’s problem is not one of not understanding the truth of God, but of suppression which leads to not receiving the truth.
The Presuppositional Response to This Criticism: The Presuppositional basis is not circular since its argument is transcendental, which demonstrates that proof is possible only because of God’s existence.
Primary Exponents of Presuppositional Apologetics:
Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) Abraham Kuijper, publicly known as Abraham Kuyper, was Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905, an influential neo-Calvinist theologian and also a journalist. His most influential writings: Lectures on Calvinism; *Common Grace; Pro Rege; The Work of The Holy Spirit.
Herman Bavinck (Born in1854, Hoogeveen, Drenthe – July 1921, Amsterdam) was a Dutch Reformed theologian and churchman. He was a significant scholar in the Calvinist tradition, alongside Abraham Kuyper and B. B. Warfield. His most influential writings: Reformed Dogmatics (4 Volumes); *Christian Worldview; Reformed Ethics;Our Reasonable Faith; Saved By Grace.
Cornelius Van Til (May 3, 1895 – April 17, 1987) was a Dutch-American Christian philosopher and Reformed theologian, who is credited as being the originator of modern presuppositional apologetics – a Professor for many years at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. His most influential writings: *Christian Apologetics; The Defense of the Faith; An Introduction to Systematic Theology; Christian Theistic Evidences; Common Grace And The Gospel; Why I Believe In God.
Gordon Clark (August 31, 1902 – April 9, 1985) was an American philosopher and Calvinist theologian. He was a leading figure associated with presuppositional apologetics and was chairman of the Philosophy Department at Butler University for 28 years. His most influential writings: Logic; Predestination; God and Evil; An Introduction to Christian Philosophy; Religion, Reason, and Revelation; *Christian View of Men and Things; The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God.
Greg Bahnsen (September 17, 1948 – December 11, 1995) was an American Calvinist philosopher, apologist, and debater. He was a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and a full-time Scholar in Residence for the Southern California Center for Christian Studies (SCCCS). His most influential writings: *Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith; Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended; Van Til’s Apologetic.
John M. Frame (born April 8, 1939 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) is an American Christian philosopher and Calvinist theologian especially noted for his work in epistemology and presuppositional apologetics, systematic theology, and ethics. His most influential writings: *Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief; Christianity Considered: A Guide For Skeptics and Seekers; Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought; Systematic Theology; The Doctrine of God; The Doctrine of the Christian Life; The Doctrine of the Word of God; The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God; A History of Western Philosophy and Theology; Theology in Three Dimensions; We Are All Philosophers; Nature’s Case for God; *No Other God; Salvation Belongs to the Lord.
RESOURCES COMPARING APOLOGETICS METHODOLOGY
Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman Jr. Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2005
Gordon R. Lewis. Testing Christianity’s Truth Claims: Approaches to Christian Apologetics. Chicago: Moody Press, 1977. (Unfortunately Out of Print)
Brian K. Morely. Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015
Contributors: William Lane Craig (Classical), Gary R. Habermas (Evidentialist), John M. Frame (Presuppositional), Kelly James Clark (Reformed Epistemolgy), Paul D, Feinberg (Cumulative Case). Five Views of Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
EVIDENTIAL VERSUS PRESUPPOSITIONAL APOLOGETICS
These two systems of apologetics are mutually exclusive approaches, whereas the other systems are complementary approaches, often borrowing from each other’s methodology. Evidentialism reasons for or to Christian truths; presuppositionalism reasons from Christian truths.
Nature of Man
Depravity is total, it is extensive (to every part), but not rendering mankind’s faculties unresponsive to God
Depravity is total, it is extensive (to every part), it is intensive (rendering every human faculty unresponsive to God
Image of God
Damaged in man
Damaged in man
Likened to “sickness,” “blindness,” and “impurity”
Likened to a corpse
Able to perceive spiritual truth
Unable to perceive spiritual truth
Able to receive salvation only through the Holy Spirit
Able to receive salvation only through the Holy Spirit
Nature of Logic
Applies to all reality, finite and infinite
Applies only to finite reality; infinite reality is beyond logic
Apologetics and Evnagelism
Sees a distinction
Sees no distinction
Purpose of Apologetics
To present evidence to the unbeliever and to persuade through logical evidence
To defend the Christian faith, while recognizing no common ground with the unbeliever
Value of Apologetics to the Unbeliever
To give evidence and reasons for faith
Value of Apologetics to the Believer
To confirm in the faith and render faith credible to the unbeliever
To confirm in the faith
*Another Great Apologist who is hard to categorize would be Ravi Zacharias:
Ravi Zacharias (March 26, 1946 – May 19, 2020) was an Indian-born Canadian-AmericanChristian apologist.Zacharias was the author of more than 30 books on Christianity,including *Can Man Live Without God?; Beyond Opinion; The End of Reason; The Real Face of Atheism; Deliver Us From Evil; Has Christianity Failed You?
*You can watch the Lecture by Pastor David Craig on YouTube and Subscribe to the Valley Baptist Baptist San Rafael Channel; there are also many sermons available as well. See you there!
The FAQs: Coronavirus Explained by an Infectious Disease Expert and Pastor
What is the coronavirus?
Since the beginning of this year, we’ve been reading and hearing about a family of viruses known as coronaviruses. There are 69 species of this virus, seven of which can affect humans. The rest of the virus species are contracted by animals—mostly pigs, bats, and other small mammals. Its name comes from the fact that on the surface of the virus there are protrusions that correspond to proteins that the virus uses to adhere to other cells it wants to infect.
What is the history of the coronavirus?
The medical community has known about these viruses since the 1960s. However, it wasn’t until 2002 to 2003 when the general population began to become familiar with them due to an outbreak of one of the viruses that occurred in China, eventually called SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). This epidemic was contained in China. According to the World Health Organization, only about 8,000 cases were reported with a mortality rate between 9.5 percent and 10 percent.
Ten years later, another strain of coronavirus emerged in Saudi Arabia, with an extremely high mortality rate of 35 percent. Fortunately, that epidemic was also contained. Unfortunately, 2,400 people were affected, of which about 800 died. This virus was called MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).
We wouldn’t hear about a similar virus until December 2019. The first reports of a respiratory syndrome emerged, once again in China, specifically in Wuhan province. The virus has been referred to as SARS Covid-2, and the disease as COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease, 2019).
There are rumors that this virus has mutated, though no mutation has been recognized by medical officials.
How far has this virus spread?
Since then, this virus has spread to more than 115 nations. As of March 11, there are more than 126,300 cases reported in the infected countries. Of these, some 68,285 patients have fully recovered, there are about 53,382 cases considered active, and more than 4,633 people have died. Of the active cases, 89 percent seem to have minor conditions, and the rest are in severe or critical conditions.
How deadly is the new coronavirus?
The average mortality rate is around 3.4 percent. The highest mortality rate was reported in Italy, estimated at a little less than 6 percent. The lowest mortality rate was reported in South Korea, calculated to be around 0.7 percent.
It’s important to note that the mortality rate of this species of coronavirus (COVID-19) is not comparable to the two coronaviruses mentioned above. In reality, the mortality of this new epidemic will probably end up being much lower than reported, since up to 20 percent of patients remain completely asymptomatic, which means they will remain undiagnosed. If the number of cases of coronavirus increases, this increases the denominator with the consequent reduction in the percentage of mortality.
The highest-risk patients are those older than 60 and those who suffer from a chronic disease, either respiratory or another type such as diabetes mellitus or renal failure.
The mortality rate may end up being 1 percent or less, according to a published article in the New England Journal of Medicine. By way of comparison, the common flu in the United States has a mortality rate of approximately 0.1 percent. However, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) in Atlanta estimates that in the current flu season, between 20,000 and 50,000 people will die in the United States.
How is coronavirus transmitted?
Transmission occurs through small droplets of liquid from coughs or sneezes. It can also be transmitted by touching objects these droplets touched. The virus enters through mucosa in the mouth, the nasal route, or the eyes. The incubation period is estimated to be between two and 14 days.
Many wonder how long the coronavirus can live outside the body—anywhere from several hours to several days. Viruses are microscopic organisms that live inside cells. Therefore, they’re alive as long as the cell they inhabit is alive. If the environment or surface on which the virus is located is wet, or has a high degree of humidity, they may be able to remain alive for several days. If the surface is dry, the virus may die within hours.
It’s estimated that each infected patient will transmit the virus to an average of 2.6 people. Most cases of COVID-19 have been reported in people who’ve been in contact with others who had been infected by the virus. However, in several communities there are cases where the disease appeared without any contact with someone infected.
The closer you are to the affected person, the greater your risk of being infected. It should be noted that the CDC considers “close contact” to be about six feet (1.8 meters) away from the person.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
As mentioned above, 20 percent of patients will never develop any symptoms. The observed symptoms are fever, cough, muscle aches, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms are similar to those of a flu, particularly similar to influenza.
Symptoms remain mild in 85 percent to 89 percent of cases, but 11 percent to 15 percent of cases progress to severe and critical symptoms. These patients will have respiratory distress, the development of pneumonia, and even the presentation of hypotension or septic shock.
Why is the situation alarming for many?
Globally, the alarm is due mostly to the number of infected patients, not so much by the mortality rate. The increased number of patients makes the number of deaths due to this virus potentially very high.
Potentially, millions of people would be affected by the virus by the time the epidemic ends. This could produce hundreds of thousands of deaths unless we develop a vaccine or some kind of treatment soon.
Most vaccine experts say we will not have a vaccine before the next 12 to 18 months. Multiple antivirals are being tested, but there is currently no official recommendation for any of them.
What prevention measures should we take?
We recommend frequent hand washing. For medical personnel who handle cases of coronavirus, the use of gloves, gowns, and even glasses may be necessary, depending on the procedure to be performed on the patient.
It’s also recommended that, until this epidemic is considered to be under control, we minimize physical contact with other people (examples: shaking hands, hugging, kissing, and so on).
As for travel safety, it depends on the destination. If you plan to travel to a country where the number of cases has increased, the recommendation is to not travel to that nation.
For example, this week Italy has declared a total quarantine. In fact, a few hours ago Italy closed most shops and restaurants, with the exception of pharmacies and supermarkets. The state of California suspended all meetings of more than a thousand people, and these measures are likely to be tightened in the immediate future. U.S. President Donald Trump decreed a few hours ago the suspension of all flights from Europe.
As believers, how do we need to think about it?
Without a doubt, we must be prudent and responsible, both in observing the recommended measures and also maintaining our health.
The world population seems to be in panic. But for Christians, it’s important to emphasize that there’s no reason to experience such anxiety. Especially when we consider that the God of the heavens and the earth is the same God who controls every microbe, atom, or molecule.
This is a good time for Christians to demonstrate sanity, peace, and hope, recognizing that our lives do not depend on the entry of a micro-organism into our bodies. Instead, it depends on the God who determines the beginning and the end of our history on earth.
The apostle Paul calls us not to be anxious for anything (Phil. 4:6). We can call Christians to peace in the worst circumstances because of God’s sovereign control over his creation.
*About Dr. Miguel Núñez (ThM, Southern Baptist School for Biblical Studies; DMin, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; MD, INTEC School of Medicine) ispastor for preaching and vision Iglesia Bautista Internacional and president of Ministerios Integridad & Sabiduría in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition and vice president of Coalición por el Evangelio. He has authored several books, including Enseñanzas que transformaron el mundo. This article is adapted from thegospelcoailition.org
Hello, everyone. This is Tony Reinke with Pastor John Piper in studio for a special episode of Ask Pastor John. As I’m sure you’re aware, the coronavirus continues to grab headlines as it spreads across the globe, now in 53 different countries. Infection numbers globally are over 83,000. Fatalities are nearing 3,000. It’s a multi-national epidemic moving toward a global pandemic.
Wednesday morning, the president tasked the vice president with stopping the virus here in the States. Some are hopeful this can be done. Others claim this is futile. It won’t be stopped, and will continue to spread for months. Some experts are going so far as to say a majority of Americans will be exposed to the virus before this is all said and done. There’s a lot of speculation afoot. Less theoretically, world markets are tumbling. The Dow Jones continues to nosedive this week as international work stoppages interrupt imports, exports, and global trade.
In situations like this, it’s very easy to lose faith and to live in fear of the headlines and the unknowns. And this global uncertainty has now reached into the States. But several days ago we began hearing from podcast listeners around Southeast Asia who offered updates on the situation there. That includes a man in Singapore who wrote us this.
“Dear Pastor John, hello! I’d like to ask you about the unfolding coronavirus outbreak that started in China and has gone on to infect many more around the world. When it reached Singapore, the government and citizens responded well, and our collective efforts won international praise. But church responses are mixed. Several continued with Sunday services, with added precautions. Some suspended church services altogether. Some pastors are promising: ‘If you are a believer, God will not allow the virus to touch you!’ Other pastors are saying: ‘This is God’s judgment on sinful cities and arrogant nations.’ Pastor John, how do Christians, with open Bibles, make sense of a viral epidemic like this one?”
Well, I’m going to try to answer the question that was asked — “How do you make sense of this? How do you get understanding?” — with an open Bible in front of me. But before I do, let me just say I have misgivings, because I make a distinction between helping people get ready to suffer by making sense of biblical teaching about suffering — that’s one thing. And then another thing is physically, emotionally embodying that theology in the moment when somebody is suffering. And we’ve got thousands of people now who are dying, which means hundreds of thousands of people who are grieving. And what I’m about to say might not be well-timed in some of their lives, because if I were on the ground, in a church, I would be discerning whether there’s a time to speak here or not.
None Stronger Than Jesus
With that preface, let me try to own what I’ve been asked to do: make sense of a deadly virus. Let’s start with an empirical, historical fact, and a clear Bible fact. The empirical fact is that on the Lord’s Day, Sunday, December 26, 2004, over 200,000 people were killed by a tsunami in the Indian Ocean, including whole churches gathered for worship on the Lord’s Day, swept away in death. That’s the historical fact. That sort of thing has happened to Christians, as long as there have been Christians. Now, the biblical fact is Mark 4:41: “Even the wind and the sea obey [Jesus].” That is as true today as it was then. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
So, put those two facts together — the historical fact and the biblical fact — and you get this truth: Jesus could have stopped the natural disaster, and he did not in 2004. Since he always does what is wise and right and just and good, therefore, he had wise and good purposes in that deadly disaster.
I would say the same thing, therefore, about the coronavirus. Jesus has all knowledge and all authority over the natural and supernatural forces of this world. He knows exactly where the virus started, and where it’s going next. He has complete power to restrain it or not. And that’s what’s happening. Neither sin, nor Satan, nor sickness, nor sabotage is stronger than Jesus. He’s never backed into a corner; he is never forced to tolerate what he does not will. “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:11).
“I know that you can do all things,” Job says in his own repentance, “and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). So the question is not whether Jesus is overseeing, limiting, guiding, governing all the disasters and all the diseases of the world, including all their sinful and satanic dimensions. He is. The question is, with our Bibles open, how are we to understand this? Can we make sense out of it?
Here are four biblical realities that we can use as building blocks in our effort to understand and make sense of it.
1. Subjected to Futility
When sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, God ordained that the created order, including our physical bodies, as persons created in his image, would experience corruption and futility, and that all living things would die.
Christians, by being saved through the gospel of God’s grace, do not escape this physical corruption, futility, and death. The basis of this point is Romans 8:20–23:
The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him [God] who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. [And here’s the key verse for Christians.] And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, grown inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
The day is coming when all creation will be set free from its bondage to disease and disaster and death, and inherit the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Until then, Christians — Paul says, “even we who have the Spirit” — groan with all creation, sharing in the corruption and futility and disease and disasters and death, as we wait with groaning for the redemption of our bodies (that happens at the resurrection).
The difference for Christians, who trust Christ, is that our experience of this corruption is not condemnation. Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation.” The pain for us is purifying, not punitive. “God has not destined us for wrath” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). We die of disease like all men, not necessarily because of any particular sin — that’s really important. We die of disease like all people because of the fall. But for those who are in Christ, the sting of death is removed (1 Corinthians 15:55). That’s building block number one for understanding what’s going on.
2. Sickness as Mercy
God sometimes inflicts sickness on his people as a purifying and rescuing judgment, which is not a condemnation, but an act of mercy for his saving purposes. And that point is based on 1 Corinthians 11:29–32. That text deals with misusing the Lord’s Supper, but the principle is broader. Here it is:
Anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself [this is referring to Christians at the Lord’s Table]. That is why many of you [you Christians] are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord [with this illness and weakness and death], we are disciplined [disciplined like a child] so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
Now, let that sink in. The Lord Jesus takes the life of his loved ones through weakness and illness — the very same words, by the way, used to describe the weaknesses and illnesses that Jesus heals in his earthly life (Matthew 4:23; 8:17; 14:14) — and brings them to heaven. He brings them to heaven because of the trajectory of their sin that he was cutting off and saving them from. Not to punish them, but to save them.
In other words, some of us die of illnesses “so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (verse 32). If he can do that in a few of his loved ones in Corinth, he can do it to many, including by the coronavirus. And not just because of abusing the Lord’s Supper, but also for other kinds of sinful trajectories — though not all death is for a particular sin. That’s building block number two.
3. Sickness as Judgment
God sometimes uses disease to bring particular judgments upon those who reject him and give themselves over to sin. I’ll give two examples. In Acts 12, Herod the king exalted himself in being called a god. “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last” (Acts 12:23). God can do that with all who exalt themselves. Which means we should be amazed that more of our rulers do not drop dead every day because of their arrogance before God and man. Sheer common grace and mercy.
Another example is the sin of homosexual intercourse. In Romans 1:27, it says, “The men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” Now, that’s an example of the wrath of God in Romans 1:18, where it says, “The wrath of God is [being now] revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” That’s building block number three, that God can and does use illnesses to bring judgment sometimes upon those who reject him and his way.
4. God’s Thunderclap
All natural disasters — whether floods, famines, locusts, tsunamis, or diseases — are a thunderclap of divine mercy in the midst of judgment, calling all people everywhere to repent and realign their lives, by grace, with the infinite worth of the glory of God. And the basis for that building block is Luke 13:1–5. Pilate had slaughtered worshipers in the temple. And the tower in Siloam had collapsed and killed eighteen bystanders. And the crowds want to know from Jesus, just like I’ve been asked, “Okay, make sense of this, Jesus. Tell us what you think about these natural disasters and this cruelty. These people were just standing there, and now they’re dead.”
Here’s Jesus’s answer in Luke 13:4–5: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent [he shifts from them to you], you will all likewise perish.”
Now, that’s the message of Jesus to the world at this moment in history, under the coronavirus — a message to every single human being. Me, and you, Tony, and everybody who’s listening, and every ruler on the planet, every person who hears about this, is receiving a thunderclap message of God, saying, “Repent.” (And I think the Chinese authorities should especially pay attention, who have recently — and I just read another article yesterday — become so increasingly harsh and repressive against the followers of Christ.) Repent and seek God’s mercy to bring your lives — our lives — into alignment with his infinite worth.
Moral relativism is a type of subjectivism which holds that moral truths are preferences much like our tastes in ice-cream. Moral relativism teaches that when it comes to morals, that which is ethically right or wrong, people can and should do what ever feels right for them. Ethical truths depend on the individuals, groups and cultures who hold them. Because they believe that ethical truth is subjective, the words ought and should are meaningless because everybody’s morality is equal; no one has a claim to an objective morality that is incumbent on others. Relativism does not require a particular standard of behavior for every person in similar moral situations. When faced with exactly the same ethical situation, one person may choose one response while another may choose the opposite. No universal rules of conduct apply to everyone.
Moral relativists can’t accuse others of wrongdoing. Relativism makes it impossible to criticize the behavior of others, because relativism ultimately denies such a thing a ‘wrongdoing’. If one believes that morality is a matter of personal definition, then you surrender the possibility of making objective moral judgments about the actions of others, no matter how offensive they are to your intuitive sense of right or wrong. This means that a relativist cannot rationally object to murder, rape, child abuse, racism, sexism or environmental destruction if those actions are consistent with the perpetrator’s personal moral understanding of what is right and good. When right and wrong are a matter of personal choice, we surrender the privilege of making moral judgments about the actions of others. However if we are certain that some things must be wrong and that some judgments against another’s conduct are justified – then relativism is false.
Relativists can’t complain about the problem of evil. The reality of evil in the world is one of the first objections raised against the existence of God. This entire objection hinges on the observation that true evil exists. Objective evil cannot exist if moral values are relative to the observer. Relativism is inconsistent with the concept that true moral evil exists because it denies that anything can be objectively wrong. If there is no moral standard, then there can be no departure from the standard. Thus relativists must surrender the concept of true evil and, ironically, must also surrender the problem of evil as an argument against the existence of God.
Relativists can’t place blame or accept praise. Relativism renders the concepts of praise and blame meaningless, because no external standard of measurement defines what should be applauded or condemned. Without absolutes, nothing is ultimately bad, deplorable, tragic or worthy of blame. Neither is anything ultimately good, honorable, noble or worthy of praise. Relativists are almost always inconsistent here, because they seek to avoid blame, but readily accept praise. Since morality is a fiction, so too relativists must remove the words praise and blame from their vocabularies. If the notions of praise and blame are valid, then relativism is false.
Relativists can’t make charges of unfairness or injustice. Under relativism, the notions of fairness and justice are incoherent as both concepts dictate that people should receive equal treatment based on some agreed external standard. However relativism does away with any notion of external binding standards. Justice entails punishing those who are guilty of a misdemeanor. But under relativism, guilt and blame do not exist – if nothing is ultimately immoral, there is no blame and therefore no guilt worthy of punishment. If relativism is true, then there is no such thing as justice or fairness because both concepts depend on an objective standard of what is right. If the notions of justice and fairness make sense, then relativism is defeated.
Relativists can’t improve their morality. Relativists can change their personal ethics, but they can never become better people. Under relativism, one’s ethics can never become more ‘moral’. Ethics and morals can change, but they can never improve, as there is no objective standard to improve against. If, however, moral improvement seems to be a concept that makes sense, then relativism is false.
Relativists can’t hold meaningful moral discussions. What’s there to talk about? If morals are entirely relative and all views are equal, then no way of thinking is better than another. No moral position can be judged as adequate or deficient, unreasonable, acceptable, or even barbaric. If ethical disputes make sense only when morals are objective, then relativism can only be consistently lived out in silence. For this reason, it is rare to meet a rational and consistent relativist, as most are quick to impose their own moral rules like “It’s wrong to push your own morality on others”. This puts relativists in an untenable position – if they speak up about moral issues, they surrender their relativism; if they do not speak up, they surrender their humanity. If the notion of moral discourse makes sense intuitively, then moral relativism is false.
Relativists can’t promote the obligation of tolerance. The relativist’s moral obligation to be tolerant is self-refuting. Ironically the principle of tolerance is considered one of the key virtues of relativism. Morals are individual, so they say, and therefore we ought to tolerate the viewpoints of others and not pass judgment on their behavior and attitudes. However, if there are no objective moral rules, there can be no rule that requires tolerance as a moral principle that applies equally to all. In fact, if there are no moral absolutes, why be tolerant at all? Relativists violate their own principle of tolerance when they fail to tolerate the views of those who believe in moral objective standards. They are, therefore, just as intolerant as they frequently charge the moral objectivist of being. The principle of tolerance is foreign to relativism. If, however, tolerance seems to be a virtue, then relativism is false.
The Bankruptcy of Relativism
Moral relativism is bankrupt. It is not a true moral system. It is self-refuting. It is hypocritical. It is logically inconsistent and irrational. It is seriously undermined by simple practical examples. It makes morality unintelligible. It is not even tolerant! The principle of tolerance makes sense only in a world in which moral absolutes exist, and only if one of those absolute standards for conduct is “All people should respect the rights of others to differ in conduct or opinion”. The ethic of tolerance can be rational only if moral truth is objective and absolute, not subjective and relative. Tolerance is a principle at home in moral absolutism and is irrational from any perspective of ethical relativism.
People are drowning in a sea of moral relativism. Relativism destroys the conscience. It produces people without scruples, because it provides no moral impulse to improve. This is why we don’t teach relativism to our children – in fact, we labour to teach them just the opposite. Ultimately, relativism is self-centered, egoistic and hypocritical. “Doing our own thing” is fine for us, but we don’t want others to be relativists. We expect them to treat us according to an accepted moral standard.
“I have freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality… We will train young people before whom the world will tremble.” Adolf Hitler
Moral relativism, in a practical sense, is completely unliveable. What kind of world would it be if relativism was true? It would be a world in which nothing was wrong – nothing is considered evil or good, nothing worthy or praise or blame. It would be a world in which justice and fairness are meaningless concepts, in which there would be no accountability, no possibility of moral improvement, no moral discourse. And it would be a world in which there is no tolerance. Moral relativism produces this kind of world.
The late Dr Francis Schaeffer’s remark could well apply to moral relativists, who “…have both feet firmly planted in mid-air.”
Since R.C. Sproul’s promotion into the presence of Christ’s glory on December 14, 2017 I have had mixed emotions. No single person has had a greater influence on my understanding of the Triune Nature of God, the Gospel, the Bible, Reformed Theology, Philosophy, Apologetics, teaching, and preaching than R.C. Sproul. There have been a lot of great tributes to R.C. in recent days, but I have been out of sorts since his passing. I have sorrowed as if I lost a blood brother and comrade in the ministry. He was the mentor who has most influenced me by far – especially intellectually – helping me to love the Lord my God with all my mind, heart, soul and strength. The way I am going to pay tribute to R.C. is by writing about the books he wrote that influenced me the most. I have read over 60 of his books.
At one time I could keep up with his writing and let him know at a book signing table at a Ligonier Conference (early 90’s) that I had read all his books and he said to me, “I bet you haven’t read Soli Deo Gloria: Essays in Reformed Theology: Fetschrift for John Gerstner; a book I edited for my Mentor in 1976.” He was right, I hadn’t read this book. I’ve since read his chapter in that book entitled “Double-Predestination.” But I was never able to keep up with his writing while he was alive. Since his death I have been re-reading some of his books, articles, watching videos, and listening to his audio recordings. I am so grateful that Ligonier Ministries has such a plethora of his resources available so that maybe before I die I can catch up on all the great writing, teaching, and preaching of this amazing Theologian and friend in Christ.
I never thought I would be so sad at someone’s death that I only met a few times “live”. I attended four Ligonier Conferences and was able to say hello to him each time and thank him for his ministry in Fullerton, and Pasadena in CA; and Orlando twice. I also got to spend some time in a smaller group setting with him at WTS in Escondido while working on my D.Min. there. Dr. Sproul was always humble, gracious, and kind. He treated me with dignity and respect and modeled what he taught. As others have made great tributes to him, I’d like to give my “two-cents” with the hope that maybe I can influence others to read, or listen to him. I can honestly say that I love R.C. and can’t wait to see him on the other side. I am grateful beyond words for what he has meant and will continue to mean to me and has tremendously deepened my relationship with Jesus.
I will write a little blurb on each of the 10 books he wrote that have impacted me the most:
(1) Apart from the Bible itself – no other book has made a greater impact on me than The Holiness of God. At the time (summer of 1986) I had never heard of R.C. Sproul. I was a second year student my sophomore year at Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon. I was working at a church near my home as an intern that summer working with college students. On my day off I went first thing in the morning to read a book at my favorite spot in a cove in Corona Del Mar near my home in Huntington Beach. On the way to the beach I stopped by the bookstore (Pilgrim’s Progress Bookstore – long since out of business, unfortunately) and R.C.”s book caught my eye. I was fascinated by the topic and decided that I would read it at the beach.
I don’t know how long it took me to read the book, but by sunset I was reading the last words at the beach and found myself literally on my knees weeping over my sin in repentance before this Holy God of which Sproul knew so well. I realized that though I had been a follower of Christ from the age of six; I was in practice full of unconfessed sin; a great idolater; and desperately needed to elevate my view of God and His character and attributes.
Since 1986 I’ve probably read this book a dozen times. It’s my go to book when I need to re-charge my spiritual batteries. It’s also set the tone for my personal life; relational life, ministry, teaching, and preaching. Reading this book helped me strive to place God at the center of all of life and seek to live “Coram Deo” – before the face of God and for His glory.
(2) A close second to R.C. Sproul’s Holiness of God in impact is his classic Chosen By God. Like many young college or seminary students I wrestled with the concepts of predestination, foreknowledge, free will, faith, election, and how all these work together. I was definitely (though I’d never heard the term before) a Semi-Pelagian or Arminian before reading this book. R.C. brilliantly and cogently helped me see that I was dead in my sin and that I needed nothing short of the miracle of God’s electing grace to save me from a destiny banished from Him – had He not sovereignly graciously and mercifully intervened. I’ve given at least 100 copies of this book away over the years and it’s my go to book to recommend to anyone who wrestles with how God saves His chosen ones. If anyone wants to understand the biblical doctrine of predestination – this book is an outstanding introduction.
(3) Shortly after reading Chosen by God while in Bible college I read a book called the Psychology of Atheism by R.C. Sproul which I found in the school library. The book has been re-published under the title: If There’s A God, Why Are There Atheists? This book peaked my curiosity because at the time I had an ongoing ministry with philosophy students at a college department across town called Reed College. There was a period of time where I would drive over to Reed College once a week and wait outside the Philosophy Department to talk with Philosophy students (most of whom adhered to Atheism or Agnosticism). R.C. Sproul’s book is essentially a practical exposition of Romans 1. It makes a great case for the fact that people are atheists not because of the evidence of atheism, but because they want to live in sin. I found this to be the case then; and I still find this to be the case. In our secular culture I consider this book “must” reading for believers who take evangelism and apologetics seriously. It gives one a deep understanding of the psychological makeup of those who are in rebellion against God.
(4) Another book that has helped me tremendously in the area of apologetics and evangelism is Reason to Believe. I read this book when it was titled Objections Answered when I was doing a lot of evangelism with professing Agnostics and Atheists in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. I still think this is the best book available to give to lay-people to help them answer the 10 biggest objections to the Christian faith. R.C. is famous for making the complex simple via his use of language, illustrations, and biblical theology and exegesis. I have used his arguments in this book hundreds of times over the years in evangelism, teaching, and apologetics.
(5) Pleasing God. I can’t remember the first time I read Pleasing God, but it’s a book I’ve read and used in counseling, teaching, and preaching many times over the years as a great introduction to the biblical doctrine of sanctification. In this book Sproul tackles the greatest enemies in the battle of our seeking to please Christ: the battle with the flesh; the world; and Satan. Laced throughout this book is the reality of God’s grace and practical ways to please God. I still think this is the best introduction available on the biblical doctrine of sanctification.
(6) I have read this book on the Attributes of God as it has transformed into three different titles over the years: One Holy Passion; Discovering the God Who Is; and most recently Enjoying God. There simply is no better introduction on the character, nature, and attributes of God than this book. R.C. does a wonderful job of explaining the major concepts of how God is different than us and worthy of our worship and passion.
(7) The best introduction to how to read and study the Bible is still Knowing Scripture. In this short book R.C. gives a plethora of helpful information for anyone who wants to know how to read, interpret, and apply the Scriptures.
(8) One of the most comforting and practical doctrines for Christians to understand is the providence of God. R.C. has helped thousands of believers around the world be comforted through his teaching on the biblical doctrine of God’s sovereign working to bring about His ends for our good and God’s glory in all things in his classic The Invisible Hand of God.
(9) The least understood Person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. In The Mystery of the Holy Spirit R.C. handles the biblical portrayal of the Holy Spirit with great clarity and makes the complex and controversial issues related to the Spirit understandable and practical. I know of no other better introduction to the Holy Spirit than this great work by Dr. Sproul.
(10) In 2012 I had a brutal bout with cancer. I read several books while undergoing treatment and wrestling with pain, unemployment, and even death. I have read a lot of books on suffering over the years, but this is still my first choice to give caregivers, people in pain, and those helping people understand the biblical purposes and practical ramifications of suffering.
I feel sort of bad because I’ve left out a lot of great books by Dr. Sproul. Even though many books of R.C. are introductory in nature. They are all deep, profound, cogent, and full of helpful theological truth that are practical, weighty, and lead one to becoming more and more like Jesus each day. It seems that almost every book R.C. Sproul wrote was well written, thorough, and yet he never said too much. I have given away more of his books as gifts than any other author by far. I’ve also recommend his books more than any other author. He was so omnicompetent it’s just hard for any modern writer or theologian to match him on just about any subject. I will continue to read Sproul’s books, listen to his teaching, and watch his videos. He had a unique style, was always interesting, and always taught me something new about the glory and grandeur of God. I can’t wait to see him in heaven and listen to him chatting it up with Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and the many he influenced along the way – like me.
*SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE ANXIOUS ABOUT THE CORONOVIRUS?
By Todd Wagner
With the increasing coronavirus cases outside of China, many believers across the United States wonder how to respond to the increasing alarm. What would God have us do in the face of a growing international health crisis? Should our churches close their doors for fear of spreading illness? Should I take my kids out of school? Cancel travel plans?
How should we help a panicked world?
Remember What We Know
First, it’s important to be reminded about what we already know.Worry is not our friend, and panic is not our way. Solomon reminds us, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (Prov. 24:10). May it never be said that God’s people are governed more by fear than faith.
Corrie ten Boom, along with other faithful from among the nations, led courageously in the face of the Nazi fascism—a different form of deadly virus. And she reminds us, “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strength.”
In times of crisis, the world needs steady people who are strengthened by God’s grace and selfless by God’s power. Worry accomplishes nothing except weakness of heart and head. It’s been said that 90 percent of the things we worry or become panicked about never happen, and the other 10 percent are outside our control.
While we remain on alert against viruses of doctrine or disease, worrying won’t change our circumstances or lower our chance of infection. It won’t help us fight off illness or move us to action. Worrying about COVID-19 (or anything else) will only increase trouble. Rather than worrying and being anxious, Jesus calls us to respond with prayer and faith in him (Matt. 6:33–34; Phil. 4:6). We need not worry ultimately because we know the One who has defeated sin and death (1 Cor. 15:55–57).
Remind yourself continually: it takes the same amount of energy to worry as to pray. One leads to peace, the other to panic. Choose wisely.
Love Well and Trust Him
If God calls us to worry about anything, it’s how to love people well. The psalmist encourages us, “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness” (Ps. 37:3). Peter reminds us to press on in the midst of every evil. Whether persecutions or pandemics, we can trust in the Lord, knowing, “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Pet. 3:17).
Worry is common to man. But God has called us to face troubles and threats with courage, leaning our weight on him.
Throughout history, Christians have often stood out because they were willing to help the sick even during plagues, pandemics, and persecutions. They loved people and weren’t afraid of death because they understood that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). By stepping into the mess of sickness and disease, they were able to demonstrate their faith to a watching world. So, rather than just asking “How do I stay healthy?” perhaps we should be also ask “How can I help the sick?” Let’s be quick to help and slow to hide in basements.
Prayer-infused confidence, compassion, and selflessness should mark how we talk about the coronavirus. Why? Because our Savior put on flesh (John 1:14) and stepped into our sickness, sin, and death. He healed the sick and cared for the hurting. We must do likewise.
We Can Be Careful, Too
None of this means we should be reckless. Neither Christ’s love nor God’s Word encourages careless risks, but both promote obedience. Loving the sick doesn’t mean we intentionally infect ourselves (Prov. 22:3). If infection becomes a legitimate risk (at the moment, the Center for Disease Control says the virus isn’t communally spreading in the United States, and the health risk is low), responding to the coronavirus likely means taking small practical steps like washing our hands and staying home if we’re sick.
Before you think of canceling church services, ask, “How can we care for those at risk?” As others get sick, care for them. Are most of you still healthy? That’s a great reason to gather for thanksgiving and prayer. Seek appropriate medical care as symptoms arise and don’t forsake caring for one another.
Follow the example of those who’ve acted faithfully in the past. In 19th-century England, when thousands were dying of cholera, Charles Spurgeon visited homes to care for people. The church of Jesus in Wuhan China, the virus’s epicenter, is faithfully leading even today.
Finally, as you watch the world react to this crisis—itself a stark reminder of our mortality—don’t neglect to share the hope you have in Jesus (1 Pet. 3:15). Share how he rescued you from the universal epidemic of sin and the penalty of death. Share that your hope is not found in remaining healthy this side of heaven.
We’ll all face death eventually. Thanks to Jesus, we can come to that day with confidence. Like Paul, we can remember that to live is Christ, but to die is gain (Phil. 1:21). We truly have nothing ultimate to fear—not from the coronavirus, the Ebola virus, natural disasters, or anything else.
Press on, friends. Pray for the sick. Walk in God’s strength. Love the brotherhood. Do good to all men. Use your health to serve, not to hide. Jesus is sovereign over it all. And we are immortal until God’s work for us to do is finished.
Rarely does a work of fiction delve into the philosophical, existential, and theological realm with such insight and wisdom. Grisham, a great story teller, also weaves in this hard to put down novel, a contrast of two world-views: Materialistic Naturalism vs. Judeo-Christian. Jesus in Matthew 16:25-26 put it this way, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
This book brilliantly contrasts the wasted life characterized by the bulk of characters in the book: a multi-billionaire who leaves behind eleven billion dollars, all of his ex-wives, adult children, and a lawyer who has been in and out of rehabilitation for drugs and alcohol – who also has left behind a wake of disastrous and broken relationships. In the midst of this a lone figure stands as the hero of the story – an unselfish missionary doctor in an obscure area of Brazil who has spent the last eleven years of her life ministering to a primitive group of Indians.
Grisham paints a vivid picture of how greed, envy, addictions, lust, and selfishness destroy. He contrasts this with how someone at peace with God, and who loves unselfishly is fulfilled, satisfied, and full of joy. Those who gain the whole world in the end lose everything, and the one who lives for Jesus gains everything. Without being preachy, overtly theological, or even quoting a single Scripture – Grisham tells the biblical story without using a single biblical character or reference. It’s a story of redemption, hope, and purpose. I highly recommend The Testament as a testament that reveals two contrasting viewpoints of reality in a powerful and compelling way.