Does Christianity Have an Answer?

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
    heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
    But you, O Lord—how long?

— Psalm 6:2, 3

Anglican scholar N. T. Wright posted an article last week on the TIME magazine website, titled “Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus.” Wright makes the valid point that we should be hesitant to offer quick and easy explanations regarding God’s purpose in this pandemic. He comments that Christian rationalists want explanations, while Christian romantics “want to be given a sigh of relief.” Neither can be had from Christianity, Wright states, which leaves us only with the Christian tradition of lament in times of distress. He cites Psalm 6:2 as an example: “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.”

Wright is right to warn Christians against specific claims about the coronavirus that go beyond the clear teaching of Scripture. And he is certainly right to say we are lamenting. Yet is it really true that the Christian faith gives no answers about the coronavirus? The reality is that God’s Word does give a vital message, including answers to the most important questions.

Let me suggest two of them:

First, the coronavirus pandemic has delivered a message that this world is not and will never be the paradise that secular men and women have wanted it to be. For all our technological advance and economic development, the world remains cursed by a plague that originates in sin. When Adam committed the first sin, God declared: “cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen. 3:17).  Thus, one clear message of the coronavirus is that sin is a bigger problem than most people have thought. The pandemic calls for us to be delivered from sin’s ultimate plague—death and judgment—by appealing to the forgiveness offered by Jesus through the blood of His cross. The answer to the clear message of the coronavirus is Jesus Christ, the only Savior from all the curse of sin.

Second, the coronavirus pandemic issues a call for all people to turn to God in prayer and faith. Christians join our neighbors in hoping that our social distancing measures will greatly minimize the pandemic, and we are grateful for those people who are heroically seeking remedies. And yet the coronavirus has delivered the message that our own efforts are not enough to save us from dreadful woe. This being the case, the Bible’s psalms of lament go on to prayers of faith. Taking Psalm 6; Wright cites this in denying a Christian answer to the pandemic, but the verse immediately following the lament looks in faith to a God who answers prayer: “Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Ps. 6:4).

Has the coronavirus delivered a message? Yes; it has reminded us that we need to pray to God in faith. And prayer gives an answer to the needs of those with shaking hands and tearful cheeks, when it is offered in the name of Jesus our Savior: “The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer” (Ps. 6:9).

Richard D. Phillips is the senior minister of Second Presbyterian Church of Greenville, South Carolina. He is a council member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, chairman of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, and coeditor of the Reformed Expository Commentary series.

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