With this title Darell Ray makes fun of religion, but I will use his title to ask the questions; Are pandemics not better understood with the knowledge of God?. Why are we not taking command?
One of my most admired teachers whom I have been following since 1985 is Prof. Gerald Schroeder who unveils the mysteries of creation from a scientific and Jewish orthodox perspective. I highly recommend his books and lectures:
I quote from his recent book ”God according to God” to make us understand and maybe answer why viruses and flu pandemics.
“Albert Einstein discovered that matter is actually pure congealed or condensed energy, energy in the form of solid matter. Everything from our bodies to boulders on a mountain is made of the energy of the big-bang creation. The scientific discoveries of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have gone a step farther in closing ranks with the creation, finding that matter and the energy from which matter formed are made of something totally ethereal. In physics we call it information or, more extreme, mind. In the words of the knighted mathematician James Jeans, the world looks more like a great thought than a great machine. Biblical theology agrees totally, telling us, as we will learn, that God used a substrate of wisdom with which to build the world. This Divine wisdom or mind is present in every iota of the world’s being. It explains how the energy of the creation, essentially superpowerful light beams, could become alive and sentient, able to feel love and joy and wonder. Divine wisdom was and is present, guiding and forming the way.
The secular world of course takes a different stance. If we can get past the question of what created the universe from nothing (was it God?), we then let the laws of nature take the credit for producing, in some as yet unknown way, the magnificence of life from the big-bang burst of pure, exquisitely hot energy. All this by random chance. It takes a stretch of the imagination, but that is all that is available to a secular explanation of our cosmic genesis. Though in my books and with my students I present our genesis from a very different view, that of a creating God that is present and active, I too face a dilemma, and my questioning students do not let me ignore the problem. There is something very basic missing in the simplistic view of the God of the Bible operating and controlling the workings of the world. Most obviously, if God is in control, why isn’t the world perfect? Not just from our humanly limited view of perfection, but even in a biblical accounting there are multiple examples by which we learn that the world has its faults. Most blatantly, God brought the biblical Flood at the time of Noah to revamp a misdirected world. Couldn’t God have foreseen this potential for disaster and nipped it in the bud before it blossomed into a worldwide debacle?
Are we dealing with an absentee God, a God that only once in a while pays attention to the world It created to see if things are going according to some Divine schedule? A superficial reading of the Bible might give that impression. A detailed study of God as described in the Bible, however, presents a very different picture. For example, as the Israelites are about to enter Canaan, God promises to fight for their victory, but then tells any individuals who have a new home or are recently engaged to marry to return home, lest they die in battle. God promises to fight alongside the Israelites to help gain victory for the army, but there is no guarantee of survival given to any particular individual. In another incident, God promises to send hornets ahead of the Israelite army to drive out the enemy snipers, but not to drive the enemy out too quickly lest the beasts of the field multiply. God could also have controlled the beasts just as God controlled the hornets, but refused to do so. The biblical message is that God is there to help, but steps back, in biblical language hides His face, and insists that we too do our part in the job. God has chosen us to be partners.
With the Divine hiding of face, God’s presence becomes masked, at times even unpredictable and certainly not always controlling events. This is a dynamic Force, not some static entity able to be pigeonholed into how we think a God should act within Its creation. The overwhelming goodness of the world is so extreme that every sorrow stands out as an unnecessary tragedy. In simplistic terms, God could and should stop every form of undeserved trouble. But that is not the God of the Bible, as the book of Job so blatantly reveals.
The God of the Bible, by the very act of creating the universe, has relinquished a portion of control. With this act, God imbued and empowered humankind with the task of getting a partly perfect world to become fully perfect. This is a tremendous vote of confidence by God in our ability, notwithstanding the fact that God has let us know that we are a stiff-necked and rebellious people. It is as if God has said, “This is what I have to work with, so let’s make do with what we’ve got.”
The problem so many people, believers as well as skeptics, have with God really isn’t with God. It’s with the stunted perception of the biblical Creator of our magnificent universe that we imbibe in our youthful years. As children we yearn for a larger-than-life figure who can guide and protect us. Our parents fulfill part of that mission. But the parent-like image of an infinite, error-free God is even more assuring to our young minds. So we grow up retaining this childhood notion of an all-powerful, ever present, ever involved, never erring Creator. Unfortunately, that image fails utterly when as adults we discover that the facts of life are often brutally at odds with this popular, though misguided, piece of wisdom. It’s no wonder that atheists chortle at the idea of such a God. We are about to correct that misperception, and in doing so we’ll develop an understanding of the Divine as made manifest in our world.
What is the God of the Bible? What can I expect from Him-or Her-or It? What can I demand? Does God want me to make demands? Why did the God of the Bible tell Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his and Sarah’s only child? Does God want us to argue when we confront what appears to be Divine injustice, or are we merely to accept the slap and turn the other cheek? When I feel the surge of emotion at the beauty of star-studded sky or the joy of a baby’s smile, is that a part of the same transcendent God that created a less than perfect world? And if there really is a God, why so often is God’s presence so fully hidden that even in the Bible people wonder, “Is there a God among us?” An obvious and predictable God would be so much easier to understand.
I’m a scientist, and also a student of the Hebrew Bible. The scientific method looks for relationships among seemingly diverse pieces of information, be they held in nature or written in a book. Finding the common ground that binds these sources of knowledge often reveals facts not immediately obvious when considered separately. By combining the information the Bible brings about the nature of God with the discoveries of modern science, I am determined to make sense of why the world runs the way it does, spiritually as well as physically. In this sense I move beyond the scientific interplay between the Torah (the Hebrew term for the Five Books of Moses) and teva (the Hebrew word for nature) described in my first three books. This is a search that became for me both academically rational as a scientist, and emotionally spiritual, also as a scientist . The claim in Psalms that “the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament proclaims His works” (Psalms 19:2), is not a mere metaphor. The study of nature even with all its intellectual rigor, is filled with spiritual wonder.
By abandoning preconceived notions of the Author of creation and replacing them with the Bible’s description and nature’s display of God, we will learn about God according to God. The surprise is that many of the episodes in the Bible mirror with alarming fidelity life as we experience it.