If vaccine is God's gift, is Covid-19 divine punishment?

Title basically says it all. I again read interpretation that vaccine is God’s gift, one example of such thinking is Jim Stump’s article Is the COVID-19 Vaccine a Miracle?, which end with lines

This extraordinary vaccine is a sign and wonder that shows something important about God and God’s plans for the world. That means in the biblical way of thinking, it is a miracle.

Thanks be to God!

It is very natural to ask connected question: is Covid-19 divine punishment? Holding both of this view at the same time is not contradictory to words of Bible, since in Books of Judges God both bring enslavement to Israel and raise deliverers from it.

11 And the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and served the Baalim; 12 and they forsook Jehovah, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the peoples that were round about them, and bowed themselves down unto them: and they provoked Jehovah to anger. 13 And they forsook Jehovah, and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. 14 And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that despoiled them; and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.

I understand that viewing Covid-19 with its over 4 millions deaths (probably much more, since there are solid evidence that official numbers from countries like India are not very accurate) as divine punishment, draw somewhat less pleasant (?) view of God than we want want, so even accepting it as possibility can be quite hard, but this is still very important questions.

Personally I believe that among other things a punishment from God. Such view have support both in Bible and in writings such a book one of City of God by Saint Augustine. At the same time and wonder what you think about views on Covid-19 as God’s punishment and Covid-19 vaccines as God’s gift or miracle.

I don’t think it follows that to see one as a gift requires the other to be seen as judgment. For example, just because a loving parent may buy their child something to help make the child’s life easier or help them better be able to cope with some adversity - doesn’t mean that the parent must also have created the adversity as some form of punishment in the first place.

Note - this isn’t to make commentary (either way) on whether COVID is a judgment or not. It is only me insisting that the acceptance of a good thing as a gift does not logically require one to think that any associated adversity must be ascribed to the same source.

6 Likes

It is difficult to say one way or another. If someone makes the claim that something is a punishment from God, usually it is followed by some kind of speculation about why that punishment came and whose fault it is, which gets ugly. Unless we have some kind of statement from God, I would hesitate to just assume that every disaster is divinely ordained as a punishment. Personally I see it more as the opposite of “common grace”… just as God makes the rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous, so difficulties come to us all because we are human. We can experience natural consequences for bad behavior, but beyond that I think claims of “punishment” are beyond our pay grade.

3 Likes

There may often be judgment involved from other people. For example, if an unvaccinated-by-choice person suffers from COVID, it is difficult for vaccinated people not to feel a bit judgmental about it (maybe appropriately so?). And that often goes under the only slightly less judgy moniker “natural consquences”. But that’s more us judging I suppose than God.

2 Likes

Right… I think we all get judgey at times. Claiming God-like perspective on those judgments is another matter. I think it’s easier to attribute things to “God’s punishment” when they seem out of our control (unlike vaccine decisions).

I look at it as comparable to the plague of fiery serpents in the wilderness, an God providing the relief if the people would look on the serpent Moses raised. Of course nowadays, many would say the serpent he raised is the symbol of the devil and refuse to look as it shows lack of faith and was an affront to their personal liberty.

Re-reading that passage, it does imply the serpents were sent by God due to the people grumbling and such, so it is a little in limbo as to whether punishment and relief are related. With Covid, it is global rather than just God’s people being punished, so I don’t know if the analogy is valid to apply.

God allows bad things to happen, but he “recycles pain into gain” by various means, especially for his children.
 

Away, Despair! My gracious Lord doth hear:
Though winds and waves assault my keel,
He doth preserve it: he doth steer,
Ev’n when the boat seems most to reel:
Storms are the triumph of his art:
Well may he close his eyes, but not his heart.
 
George Herbert

3 Likes

It doesn’t follow like from being right triangle it follows that length of its side obeys Pythagoras’ relation. It is rather akin to that, since it ask about God actions in the world.

I agree. In the case of us humans, example with parents is good one. But we didn’t create world. One of constant themes of BioLogos that you can spot when reading it publications on the web, is God as creator and world as God’s good creation. Saint Augustine ponder in his “Confessions” why God makes scorpions, which is very good question. And we need to ask, why he created things viruses (biology says that viruses are not living thing, just a thing), which are part of creation and important part of biology (even if they not considered as part of life).

I disagree. This is mainly because my understanding of faith is in big part by man like Saint Augustine, also because Gospels quite clearly talk about unpleasant things that will come. Also, people even Christians, seems have no problem with saying that pandemic is “revenge of nature” or “punishment for destroying environment”, so if we ok with that, my words are perfectly fine.

By this token, saying that good things are “grace from God” or “common grace” or “God’s gift” is empty speech, which should be abandoned. Saying that we know that good things are God’s gift but we know nothing about bad thing being punishment is not very intellectual honest to my.

Someone may want to abandoned of talking about God’s gift or God’s punishment altogether, I’m fine with that, this is just not the way that according to my knowledge we should choose. But, when someone accepts possibility of recolonization of God’s gift and deny analogues possibility of discovering God’s punishment, to me it is just a form of intellectual superstition.

Job wasn’t being punished.

1 Like

We can also Ten Egyptian Plagues, which were very, very cruel and whole Books of Judges, that say God’s sends people to enslave Israel. Not to mention all curses in the Deuteronomy.

I wasn’t necessarily disagreeing with you. I was just pointing out that declaring something a punishment from God can go down the wrong road pretty quickly when people claim to know things they can’t know. I also don’t disagree that unpleasant things will come, as they always have. Whether or not those unpleasant things are “revenge of nature” or “direct punishment from God” is not for me to discern.

I don’t think those things are equal. I often rely on James 1:17 which says

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or shifting shadow.

In light of that, we can choose to thank God for every good thing we receive, regardless of whether it was common grace that all receive or some kind of special gift only for us. I’m not aware of anything in the New Testament along the lines of “all bad things are punishments from God.”

2 Likes

He also send good things to prepare destruction of the wicked.

15 If I had said, “I will speak this way,”
Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.
16 When I thought of understanding this,
It was sanctuary of God;
Then I perceived their end.
18 You indeed put them on slippery ground;
You dropped them into ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment!
They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!
20 Like a dream when one awakes,
Lord, when stirred, You will despise their image.

Wealth, contentment and comfort are deceitful, anyway, no argument there.
 

He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
 
Matthew 5:45

1 Like

I’m concerned where we can go in this question (not that you mean that, at all), as those who suffer more from infectious disease (as in Africa and underdeveloped areas, where as many as 50% of children die of such problems before the age of 5) might be construed as deserving more punishment than others. In fact, there is no connection at all between righteous behavior and suffering, as people have found from Qohelet in Ecclesiastes to the Black Death victims in the Middle Ages.
Great question.
Medicine is God’s gift; it is our responsibility to share it with everyone. Thanks!

5 Likes

I guess for me neither is true. It’s the work of humans. I think often when people say something like “ it’s a blessing or it’s a gift” they don’t literally mean a supernatural event where God did something but rather contributing it hyperbolically or something.

But you could also believe that if God is active in our life through the Holy Spirit that it could guide people towards something like a vaccine without there being any way to detect where that particular thought came from and the inspiration is between god and man and the pathology could still simply be nothing but a natural event since I would be hard pressed to believe god inspired urbanization, bat eating and nudged the virus into what it became.

My church had a guest preacher today who suggested this (Covid is pestilence sent by God), by reference to 2 Chronicles 7.

It seemed to me there might be grounds to object in that most people affected by Covid are not Jews, nor are most Christians, nor are Gentile Christians party to the old covenant. He tried to address this but I didn’t quite understand the manoeuvre.

In the end I thought it easier to let it slide, since the call to action was uncontroversial - everything the New Testament calls us to do.

It’s kind of thorny either way. If someone is claiming that COVID is a punishment specifically on “God’s people,” then for one it kind of makes it look like we think that major world events must revolve around us somehow, and it’s also, as you imply, pretty easy to debunk when you see that the entire globe is affected regardless of geography or religion. But a lot of evangelicals don’t seem to like the idea that maybe COVID was just a really bad virus that crossed over to humans which, like everything else, gives us opportunities to reflect Christ and help others, or not. Maybe it isn’t a punishment for anyone.

6 Likes

Yeah, but which God? Ohhhhhh, THIS one: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” – Richard Dawkins

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.