Is corona virus a divine judgement?

It’s a question I’ve seen doing the rounds. Has the Lord sent corona virus as a judgement on us? The short answer is, I have no idea.

I’m not entirely sure how we would even judge whether such is the Lord’s judgement on us. In the Old Testament, it was typical for God to send prophets to warn of his impending judgement before he enacted justice. To my knowledge, nobody has been claiming prophetic status and insisting that unless there is repentance for X the Lord would send us a plague.

More to the point, there were Biblical and theological reasons for the particular judgements we read of in the Old Testament. Those same reasons don’t seem pertinent now. Given how widespread the corona virus now is, it is hard to maintain that this is a judgement against a specific nation. And we would want to ask why the Lord would be judging a particular nation as opposed to any other. It also can’t escape notice that the virus is now so widespread, arguing it is a judging on a given nation seems both theologically questionable and to speak against the fact that it has hit so many nations at once.

Of course, we might then suggest that this is a judgement on a wider part of the church. But, again, it is difficult to argue that it is directed toward ‘the Western Church’ or some other artificially regional target. First because ‘the Western Church’, ‘the African Church’ or ‘the Asian Church’ are not exactly homogeneous things. But second because, again, the virus is now everywhere. If this is targeted at one subsection of the church, we have to ask why it has affected everywhere from America to China and everywhere in between.

One might argue that the people of God are no longer a physical people in a particular place – which was ultimately typological – but are now a spiritual non-people from all over the place. So, it follows, the virus would be everywhere if the entire universal church is under some sort of discipline. Well, I suppose that is a possibility. But then, given the universal nature of events unfolding, we are essentially forced into saying the entire world – the regenerate and the unregenerate – are under discipline/judgement alike. Which comes close (but appreciate maybe not close enough) to undercutting the Noahic Covenant.

I suppose the problem becomes trickier still when we start asking the question, what exactly are we being judged for? This side of Christ and his cross, most of us would be surprised if he sent a prophet! But even with the insight of the complete canon, what universal sin is the entire world being judged for? It is an odd judgement that serves to bring us to repentance but does nothing to make clear of what, specifically, we are meant to repent.

Then there are the questions of why the Lord is pronouncing judgement now, at this particular time, having overlooked other serious sins, at other times and places. It’s not to say he can’t possibly have done (or be doing) that. It is just to ask, why assume it is the case now but not at other such times?

Now, all of that is to say I’m not convinced pronouncing judgement is all that straightforward. I’m not suggesting it is impossible that we are, indeed, being judged. Maybe we are. It may be the case that the worldwide church is being disciplined. I am just not sure how we would judge that to be the case any more than any other major issue we might face. Why is corona virus a judgement but the economic crash of a few years ago not (for example)? Maybe they both are. Or neither. But how do we determine it?

Of course, the Lord is sovereign in these things and has brought all this to pass, no doubt for a myriad of reasons beyond our comprehension, but all because they will somehow come to serve his glory more fully than had they not been. I firmly believe the Lord has set up the world to bring him maximal glory, all things working to that end. What I don’t know is how all these things work to that end. Nor do I think we can necessarily discern all that the Lord may be doing and achieving in any given set of circumstances, whether in the major ones like this lock down or the seemingly innocuous ones that pass us by entirely unnoticed. History has turned on far less than this in the past.

Given all that, I am very wary of pronouncing the Lord’s judgement upon us. The Lord may be doing any number of things, potentially (but not necessarily) including disciplining his people or bringing some sort of judgement. But just how we are supposed to discern that purpose under the circumstances is fraught with difficulties and cannot reasonably be pronounced with any great certainty (at least, not from where I’m sitting).

What I do know is that all things work together for the good of those that love him. That is because our greatest good is to glorify God and become like Christ; our good is inextricably linked to his glory. Whether we are being disciplined or not, what I do know is that the Lord will glorify himself in this, he will cause his people to glorify him in this and we will be more like Christ after it than we were going in.

And that feels like a funny sort of judgement to me.