“It is difficult to tell sometimes in the wake of a great disaster, whether those who hasten to announce whatever greater significance they find in the event are moved more by an urgent moral need to sow light in the midst of darkness or by a kind of emotional and rhetorical opportunism, which takes the torment of others as an occasion for the reiteration of one or another set of personal convictions.”Bartley, Doors of the Sea, 2004. 27
Whether COVID-19 is a direct product of human malignity or error or an active move of the hand of God to reveal human limitation or to punish their rebellion (perhaps it is all of these things), one thing that is clear is the immense havoc it has wrought on many fronts, leaving behind a wave of disillusionment across the world.
There is no point debating whether or not there has been anything like this. Other illnesses or some other categories of human plight could compare or even surpass COVID 19 in the cumulative number of deaths, but no other human plight has touched every sphere of human existence on such global scale.
One may argue that not even the so-called world wars and their aftermath effects had such vivid global impact, especially when globalization is viewed as a more recent development associated with the emergence of the internet and social media.
A majority of people living outside of the global West were hardly aware of the existence of any wars or any real dangers associated with them. COVID-19, however, with its unprecedented communicability, has come in an age of “global community.”
Not only was its actual presence in a place terrifying, but the mere rumors of its devastation in other places caused such wonder and dread. For one thing, it has altered life as we knew it and brought world economies to their knees. We are yet to know the extent of the devastation this will cause before it is over.
John C. Lennox made the following observation some months back, and now with rising cases in Europe and around the world, his observation may turn out to be nothing short of prophetic:
It is hard to grasp that this pandemic has the potential to be the worst ever, and that our current estimates are likely to fall far short of the reality. Its scale and scope sound like something out of a dystopian movie. And yet it is really happening…Lennox 2020, 7.
As I see it, what is most unfortunate about this phenomenon is the fact that the world is caught up in a deadlock politicking such that the seriousness of the pandemic itself and the huge losses (and potential losses) to humanity is drowned in all the excitement. It is hard to bypass the politics to get to the real issue.
Miraculously, Africa has so far been spared the devastation healthwise, but the economic hardship has caught up fast. As a continent, we have preexisting conditions upon which, I fear, the pandemic could capitalize to destroy us.
Indeed, the pandemic, just like in humans, relies on preexisting conditions of nations to ruin them. It is a fact that those with good leadership (like New Zealand, for example) have managed it better than those without. Yet, sadly, the lack of a worldwide coordinated response can have an adverse effect on everyone.
the beginnings of darkness
When the news first broke out about this viral outbreak in Wuhan, some thought it was a punishment on unethical China. But it’s succeeding widespread and devastation in the global North, a part of the world with the most sophistication and facility, left us all stunned and agitated.
Politicians began weaving conspiracy theories that put them (as usual) at the center of the event. For them, the world exists only in relation to them. Health organizations and professionals (and in fact, countries) fought for a lead in tendering a solution to make a name for themselves.
Prophets and preachers took to virtual streets on television and social media, denouncing humanity for its rebellion and calling for repentance. Others seized the opportunity to propound or promote deadly conspiracies, escalating fear but offering no tenable solution.
It didn’t take long before the weight of the unfolding misfortune hit:
Never before have we experienced the lockdown of cities and even countries, the closing of borders, the banning of travels, the shutting of all but essential services, the banning of large sports gatherings, and the silent towns and cities that shout of fear and self-isolation.Lennox, 7.
A feverish excitement has dominated the scene such that the loss of human lives—directly or indirectly related to the pandemic—are overshadowed. Even among Christians, hope for a suffering humanity is not the focus. Those who advocate for the sanctity of human lives are now suddenly apathetic.
Certain groups of Christians, in particular, have found great excitement in denouncing the world and its scientists as though we ourselves deserve mercy and everyone else deserves damnation.
In Africa, COVID 19 has a rather comical twist. We all had such high hopes that our greedy officials would finally learn a lesson or two; that they would seize the opportunity it offers to become more imaginative and innovative to fix our dysfunctional systems for the benefit of all.
But as it turned out, we underestimated the depth of their greed and corruption. They are no more capable of disinterested reasoning than the leopard is capable of changing its skin. They have managed to convince themselves that their personal comfort is better than our collective existence.
The pandemic became (especially in Nigeria) a means for our officials to further enrich themselves from relief funds. It has given them more reasons to keep borrowing (from China, a horrible decision that will haunt us in years to come) yet conditions in the country are only getting worse.
To some (perhaps most), the initial reaction to the pandemic was denial, and then panic, then defiance—coming from suspicion and a sense of victimization created by conspiracy theories. It does not seem to occur to many that by trivializing the pandemic or its devastation, they are casting contempt at the (very real) sufferings of many.
Finger-pointing, blame-shifting, spiritualizing, and politicking have continued, making the situation worse than had humanity come together with the single-minded purpose of finding a solution (or perhaps I am giving too much credence to humanity’s ability to work together).
When there is suffering of this magnitude with no clear answers on origin and/or purpose, speculation becomes a normal human response.
In order to cope with anything, the human mind must make meaning either by reasonable explanations (philosophical, scientific, theological, historical) or plain superstition.
Many of us have prayed, we have hoped, we have waited for the time a miracle will appear, whether by a scientific discovery or some form of supernatural intervention. Yet we are still here, unable to find certainty for any kind of future.
The main question, however, is: will Christians submit to any scientific solution (like vaccines) when it becomes available?
My aim here is to raise observations and counter some popular Christian thoughts that have come to my knowledge on the subject, especially on the ongoing human efforts to find a solution.
Believe it or not, these thoughts are an extension of popular conspiracies from some forms of European nativism or “cultural Christianity,” which is not the same as the religion of Christ. This is why I believe it demands a response from those of us with a contrary view.
Some Noteworthy Revelations
On a positive light, COVID 19 has revealed a lot that can prove helpful if we care to listen. For example, it has revealed the devastating effects of human activity on our planet.
Whether or not we believe in climate change, it’s been recorded that air (atmospheric) and water pollution have decreased and wildlife has been rejuvenated because humans were forced to stay indoors.
personally, it makes more sense to think that human activity affects the earth one way or another. If the earth could care for itself without human intervention, which means human activity cannot interfere with its natural course, there would have been no need for the explicit command in Genesis 2:15 for Adam to take care of the garden or the stipulations in the Torah about how Israel was to live in the land that God was giving them.
But there are more serious revelations. Beyond the fragility of world economic systems (including the almighty capitalism), healthcare systems, educational systems, organizational cultures generally—all of our social structures over which we had such confidence—COVID-19 has revealed the limitation of the seemingly human invisibility through the instrument of science.
In spite of our milestone achievements, human knowledge is limited and extremely slow in its power to invent or reinvent itself to meet new and urgent challenges.
However, when we speak of the limitation of human knowledge, we do not speak in contempt or disdain of any kind. Human knowledge is indeed vast and almost immeasurable. Humans have created the world that we live in with all its glamor, comfort, and convenience.
Human knowledge thus is beyond what we may easily dismiss in contempt. Christians can choose to embrace this while ascribing all glory and dominion to God who has given humanity (created in His image) such wisdom.
But it is in the fact that such vast knowledge is still quite limited in so many ways that should make us acknowledge and revere divine omniscience.
Coronavirus has revealed also that wealth and power are not so invincible after all, even if the wealthy fare better under the infection. We need more than economic success to secure our collective existence.
Individual freedom has been revealed to be limited. There is a meeting point between personal freedom and communal responsibility. Absolute freedom is not attainable for anyone.
Another disturbing revelation, at least as I see it, is the vacant position of world leadership which rendered the ability for global cooperation against the pandemic impossible.
Admittedly, I was among those who criticized the United States for being a meddler (or a bully if you like). But even I miss the United States that used to be.
The America we once knew would have followed this virus to China (just like it followed many potential pandemics to their origins) and quelch it before it became the menace that it now is to the entire world.
Obviously, it would’ve been of immense benefit to America itself had this virus been stopped sooner. However, many who saw America’s recession from global leadership and scrambled to fill the gap (for no less selfish reasons) had little time to do so.
They were suddenly swamped by the pandemic and the need to secure their own homes. It is indeed tragic to watch countries scrambling to curb the plague in isolation from others.
If hope no longer comes from America or from any “world-leading” country in the global North or East, where can it be found? Can it be found independently in science or in some miracle beyond science? What would that miracle look like? What should we expect?
prophesies or Propaganda?
There is no doubt that hardships force us to ask fundamental questions about the overall meaning of human existence. We cope with pain or distress, in particular, when we are able to establish any purpose at all to them, or when we can establish a timeline within which we must endure. Some form of certainty becomes the light we seek.
But while inspirational thinkers and speakers are rethinking their ideas about the true meaning of life and how to cope with this present darkness, with many turning to mindfulness, meditation practices, and other forms of mental health solutions, there seem to have occurred an unnatural wedlock between Christianity and some form of European nativism.
For Christians, religion is the main source of consolation and hope, stemming from the belief in God’s sovereign purpose in all things that he allows. Christian prophecy therefore must speak about purpose and endurance for the people of God.
It should answer the questions: What is God doing, to what end, and how must we respond? This is usually to be deciphered from God’s holy word such that conclusions must have solid grounding therein.
The prophesies we hear these days seem to emanate from QAnon (a far-right conspiracy group). They tell us who is responsible for our woes to heightened our suspicion and turn us against those who have dedicated their lives to help us in times of crisis such as this.
It is from this suspicion that we begin to receive our revelations and prophesies. We align our Bible studies along this way of thinking, confusing ourselves and those who listen to us. We steer up dicension and make coordinated response impossible.
Does faith and hope in God mean a reliance on some esoteric revelation and the rejection of human solutions? This lack of clarity about purpose and what hope in God may entail is where the confusion lies.
Should we wait for a miracle cure from heaven since science shouldn’t be trusted? On the contrary, can science be considered a form of a modern-day miracle without taking away from or doing any damage to the Christian faith? It was Justin Martyr who once said:
Whatever has been uttered aright by any man in any place belongs to us Christians…cited by Michael J. Anthony, 2001. 19
Mostly, where you find a semblance of faith, reason is dangerously absent, and vice versa. Where can we find faith and reason spoken together and consistently enough to spur faith and confidence in the God of all knowledge and wisdom, who has created men in his image to exercise dominion on earth?
We have indeed become a people itching to hear sensational revelations, prophecies, or some elevated knowledge that feed our suspicious minds. It is disheartening to see the world become sobered by the pandemic, reasoning and speaking more sensibly than some popular Christian voices.
God’s word in itself has become too plain for many. Sensational interpretations that depend on some esoteric knowledge (deeper truths) or revelation are more appealing. Christians treat prophetic knowledge that has only an interpretative connection to God’s word as though it is the word itself.
Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.2 Timothy 4:3-4
I intend to conclude by arguing that we can trust the authenticity of scientific knowledge and to show why the claim that any vaccine is the mark of the beast stated in the book of Revelation is unsustainable.
why we may trust science
Science, like every human endeavor when carried out without acknowledging God’s sovereign authority, has its extremes and Christians do well to watch out against any of its solutions that are clearly against stipulations of our faith.
For example, abortion is a scientific solution to unwanted pregnancy. While there are extreme cases where a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother with no chances her baby will survive (like in Ectopic pregnancy), an abortion that is carried out simply for the mother’s convenience cannot be an option for Christians.
But to claim that a scientific implant (microchipped vaccines) can turn out to be the number of the beast spoken of in Revelation, no matter the sophistication of the argument, is unfounded.
The number of the beast is a sign of willing allegiance, even if the wearer is coaxed or forced to receive it. The wearer receives it consciously; they will know what is going on.
I believe that what has led to the mistrust of science at the present moment is the belief that science can be used by satanic forces to do us spiritual harm. This assumption is based on a conspiracy, stemming from a misconception of some passages of the Bible.
This view accords science more power than it has over the believer by insists that science can take away your salvation without you even knowing it. But, as I shall discuss shortly, there is no ground for such a claim in the Bible.
Meanwhile, Gresham Machen, a staunch and dependable conservative apologist, argued decades ago that the modern age is irreversibly scientific, a reality conservatism cannot deny. He observes:
The past one hundred years have witnessed the beginning of a new era in human history. It may be regretted, but it certainly cannot be ignored, even by the most obstinate conservatism…
Modern inventions, and the industrialism built upon them, have givenMachen 1923, p.2
us a new world to live in. We can no more remove ourselves from that world than we can escape from the atmosphere that we breathe.
Voices of adversity among Christians against scientific solutions have dominated the discussions about coronavirus. What may not be obvious is that such opinions have existed among Christians of every generation.
There are groups of Christians, for example, who do not believe in medical science and do not go to the hospital. Some do not believe in family planning and some forms of scientific innovations. All these are doctrinal convictions that should remain as such.
Accordingly, every generation of Christians has produced voices of reason to balance the arguments. For example, John Calvin, in his day, reasoned thus about general human knowledge:
Shall we say that the philosophers were blind in their fine observations and artful description of nature?… Shall we say that they are insane who developed medicine, devoting their labor to our benefit? What shall we say of all the mathematical sciences? Shall we consider them the ravings of madmen? No, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without great admiration. We marvel at them because we are compelled to recognize how preeminent they are.Cited by Steve Wilkens, 2014. 25
The microchip technology has been with us for some time now and Christian skepticism about it over the years has proven unnecessary. I remember the outcry from Christians when the idea of a cashless economy and chip-imputed credit cards was introduced.
Yet we are still here and have no stories of any demonic operations specifically connected with the invention. Technology will continue to be with us and evolve. Perhaps it’s best to get used to the fact.
Why the mark of the beast is not likely to be a microchip vaccine
In Revelation, as far as I can see, the mark of the beast is not given to individuals without their knowledge. People will choose to take the Mark of the Beast and to worship its image because they have been deceived by the many signs and wonders performed by it (Rev. 13:11-14). It is a trap for those who choose comfort and ease over patient-endurance.
Second, those who want to save their lives and escape adversity from the beast (not being able to buy or sell: Rev. 13 vs 15-17) are in danger of worshipping the beast and its image. The mark of the beast will not be given to people unconsciously; it demands an active denial or denouncement of Christ.
According to John’s Revelation, one can keep from receiving the mark only by having their names written in the Lamb’s book of life. This implies that those who have already been sealed with the mark of the Lamb have been protected (Rev. 7 3).
“This,” according to John, “calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people,” (Rev. 13:8,10), not a careful avoidance of chip-infused vaccines.
The whole argument about chips in vaccines or on the forearm or forehead being the mark of the beast is coming from a certain interpretation of these passages to back some conspiracies rather than what the Bible says directly.
With the way we are going, political demagogy is more likely to trap many Christians into the worship of the beast and accepting of its number than chips in vaccines. It is a battle of allegiance rather than some secret initiation into satanism.
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.2 Corinthians 11:14-15