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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Testing God

Last week I wrote about deniers—and I wanted to take up that theme again focusing on those who invoke God or Jesus as their ‘vaccine’ against Covid or illness in general. I find this a particularly fascinating perversion of faith but not one that is new to the human race. I want to revisit this issue from a biblical perspective, rather than a scientific one because some clergy are preaching a misleading faithlessness in the name of Jesus, a teaching that flies in the face of the very scripture they claim as their authority. Attempting to counter scripture with logic or science is a feckless exercise among the so-called faithful, so I want to arm those who find themselves confronted by this argument with an apologetic for the case against invoking God as the true believers' vaccine.

There are numerous examples in almost all religious texts, including the Bible, cautioning believers about testing or tempting God. For Christians, both the Old and New Testaments in Deuteronomy and Matthew respectively speak to the testing of God’s will. Among the many tests Satan puts to Jesus, according to Matthew is a leap from the temple. Stan assures Jesus he will come to no harm as God will surely rescue him from death. Jesus refuses and rebukes the devil quoting Moses’ words from Deuteronomy, “Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test.” In refusing the temptation, Jesus makes clear that a test of God’s love for him is false. God did not ask Jesus to throw himself from the parapet. Asking God show his love when he has already conferred it is an act of faithlessness.

The scripture also conveys a more subtle message about the past, present and future. God’s promises concern humanity’s future. Scripture provides a record of God’s blessings and the triumph over adversity for those with faith from a historic perspective, but repeatedly instructs that the present will hold its own trials, that life may contain disappointment or even suffering. God’s blessings are assured only in the future. The temptation that Satan places before Jesus ultimately asks him to prove whether God is trustworthy, whether he will keep his promises. It is the central question of faith that all believers must answer, but to put God to a test when he has not promised to shield mankind from disease is the perversion.

Jesus rejects this temptation, but some modern day Christians do not heed this lesson. They refuse vaccination invoking Jesus as their protection. Rather than displaying their faith they are demonstrating their faithlessness by putting him to the test. They are in effect saying a loving God would not allow me to suffer this disease. One might well ask, what is the difference between Satan's temptation and those of born again Christians'?

There is also a counter argument circulating that suggests God has indeed abandoned the unfaithful and brought on this Covid scourge as a form of divine punishment. There are some who believe it is we who are being tested, and only true believers will be spared. Of course, those Christians --indeed all faithful who do understand science recognize that human intelligence is a God given gift, arguably one of the greatest of all. Disease is not a divine instrument but a function of life. Human kind has been blessed with the ability to invent mechanisms that harness the body’s defenses to fight disease. Among these mechanisms are vaccines, which identify and provoke our native immune systems to combat viruses. In other words, we have been given the ability to find in the natural world the tools to overcome disease. If that isn’t the very definition of a miracle, than I am not sure what is.

Rejecting this amazing product of human intelligence is in effect rejecting God’s gift to human kind. Human intelligence, our ability to investigate, invent, and advance has endowed humanity not only with the ability to contend with diseases but more fundamentally to survive in a natural world that poses all manner of threats. It is unquestionably a two-edged sword, however, that when wielded perversely in the interests of selfish gain has led us numerous times to the brink of destruction. Even now we are reaping the effects of our wastrel husbandry of the Earth, our home. Wars, modern day famine, and catastrophic changes in our climate are all human made. God endowed us with intelligence but how we use it is what matters.

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