Is the Coronavirus Evil?

Or is this part of life in the world God made?

The [corona] of the wise is their wisdom, but folly is the garland of fools (Prov. 14:24).

As the coronavirus convulses a planet without immunity, self-quarantine has become a Lenten imposition even upon the faithless. Churches bar human touch and Communion reverts to self-serve, all in an effort to somehow contain a pandemic, a viral villain we cannot see.

Reportedly, Karl Barth wrote at the end of his life of a certain bacillus besieging his kidneys,

… this monstrosity does not belong to God’s good creation, but rather has come in as a result of the Fall. It has in common with sin and with the demons also that it cannot simply be done away with but can be only just despised, combated, and suppressed. … the main thing is the knowledge that God makes no mistakes and that proteus mirabilis has no chance against him.

The theological tendency is to view God’s creation as a good thing gone bad—all due to our avaricious overreach as humans. Any cursory survey of human history confirms this. “Wars and rumors of wars” (Matt. 24:6), along with every imaginable and unimaginable wickedness, ravage human life as God made it and causes love to “grow cold” (v. 12).

With Barth, the inclination is to ascribe bacteria and viruses and the diseases they cause to Adam’s folly. But unless God’s creation defies every characteristic of biological reality, bacteria and viruses are not bitter fruits of the fall, but among the first fruits of good creation itself. If the science is right, there would be no life as we know it without them. God makes no mistakes, and bacteria and viruses indeed are mirabilis (from the Latin meaning remarkable, or even amazing or wondrous, adjectives frequently …

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