By Bob Acebedo I Published: July 18, 2020
Amid the evil devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, is God yet all-good and all-powerful?
No denying, the current global pandemic has invariably brought about multifarious reverberations, not to exclude questioning the omnipotence and omnibenevolence of God.
Evil is a term used to describe something that brings about harmful, painful, destructive, unpleasant or malignant results like suffering, pain or death to a single person or on a collective scale.
From the philosophic-theological perspective, evil can either be moral (committed by humans out of their own volition – e.g. murder, rape, physical or psychological harm, theft, lying, etc.) or natural (occurs independently of human volition – e.g. natural calamities, plagues or pandemics, terminal diseases, etc.).
If COVID-19 were human-made or contrived as advanced by conspiracy theories, it can be classified as moral evil. If it came independent of human intention, then it is but a natural evil.
Framing the Problem of COVID-19 Evil
In the philosophy of religion, the “problem of evil” is a puzzling question of how to reconcile the existence of evil with that of a deity who is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good. To some, the co-existence of evil and an all-good, all-powerful God is most unlikely, if not impossible.
The problem can be logically framed thus: “If an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good God exists, then COVID-19 pandemic does not have to exist. But COVID-19 exists. Therefore, an all-powerful and all-good God does not exist; or perhaps, God is neither all-powerful nor all-good to prevent COVID-19; or, perhaps, God is all-good and all-powerful, but he is not willing to prevent COVID-19, or simply permits it to happen.”
How Do We Solve This Conundrum?
For one, I do not accept the “heaven swamps everything” argument (that the joys of heaven will compensate for the sufferings on earth) as logically plausible, for the reason that it conflates or likewise “swamps” compensation with justification.
Are the spiralling deaths caused by COVID-19 justified? Do all those who succumbed to COVID-19 deserve to die in order to be compensated with heaven?
Neither am I about to embrace the “process theodicy’s” response which argues that “while God feels the pain of the world, he can neither prevent evil nor force beings to be good because he does not have a coercive role.”
This renders God less omnipotent, and definitely not all-powerful.
Nor would I buy St. Augustine’s idea that “evil is simply the absence of good.”
In this case, pushed to the extreme, it can be said that “evil or COVID-19 is the absence of God.”
Who Corrupted the Perfect World?
Now, I’d like to put forward some points to explain the problem of natural evil like COVID-19.
First, natural evils occur not because God wills them, or because he is not all-powerful or not all-good. A perfect God (there cannot be an “imperfect God”) cannot create an imperfect world.
In God’s original justice (as shown in the story of creation in the “Garden of Eden”), the world was free from imperfection and suffering. But God’s act of creation is the same as God’s act of judgment.
When God created the world, he likewise executed his condemnation of evil.
In other words, the evils (imperfections and suffering) in this created world are simultaneously with his expressed judgment – “a judgment that is unstoppable due to God’s all-powerful will and his constant and eternal judgment that becomes announced and revealed on Judgment Day.”
Hence, it is not God, but man (with the evil or wrongful intent) who corrupted the perfect world created by God – and this continues even unto our time.
Reason to Believe
Second, natural evils resonate with Charles Darwin’s “law of natural selection.”
As a result of “man’s fall” (derived from Theology), man was alienated from God, from the original perfect world order, and from his fellow humans – and thus, Darwin’s so-called “survival of the fittest” ensued.
Natural selection, operating blindly on a pool of biological diversity – according to Darwin – could produce nature’s carnages and waste. Natural evils, therefore, are but part of the natural process of evolution which continues to this day.
And so, in soulful pondering, despite the natural evil of COVID-19, there is yet reason to believe in the omnipotence and omnibenevolence of God who certainly is bigger than COVID-19.