The Pope is quoted by a British newspaper as saying the corona-virus pandemic is “certainly nature’s response” to our failures in regard to climate change. I am not Catholic and I am not too familiar with the person of the Pope and what he might mean by this comment but I do find it interesting and want to follow the idea he presented as I understand it. I see some issues here that many Christians might be grappling with and I hope to provide clarity about the times we find ourselves.
In this article the Pope personalizes nature and speaks of nature as if nature is sentient. Now he must be simply speaking in the same way one might personalize a boat or car and that is fine except as leader of Catholic Christians it is confusing especially when there are other religions that believe in “mother nature” contrary to the Christian Church. There is only one God and he created the physical world that makes up nature. Further down in the article the Pope is quoted “Fires, earthquakes … nature is throwing a tantrum so that we will take care of her.” Nature is not a personal being and we might casually give nature a personality when speaking about issues like hurricanes and pandemics however our leaders should be much more precise.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. Romans 8:20-22 ESV
Paul writes that all of creation, the earth, the universe, animals, and people are groaning under the weight of corruption. Nature is in the same boat as men. Nature is not apart from human kind. All of the creation is under a curse that came from Adam and Eve. The creation is subject to God and God should be the focus when we look at death and destruction. The Pope asks why a pandemic? And his answer is because we are bad stewards of the earth. This may well be true but it is only a small truth not the full truth. My frustrations with the Pope’s comments beyond personalizing Nature in the way he has done is that he limits our response to God.
God is in control of nature. God controls the wind, waves, and pandemic. They all move according to his will. Even if we were perfect stewards of this earth, and the Bible tells us we can’t be because we are sinners, the Earth would still be groaning and decaying because “the creation was subjected to futility” by God himself. This earth, this life, this world, and even this universe is no longer permanent. Just as my body is aging and will die not matter how much I take care of it so too the earth is aging and will one day be destroyed.
7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 2 Peter 2:7 ESV
Modern man is no less able to hold back God’s hand in wind, waves, and pandemics, than those that came before us. The Pope is not wrong that bad stewardship brings physical consequences. However, we must also know that God never promised a life free of hardship, a life free of death, or a life free of pain. What God promised is that if we trust him here and now and submit to Jesus Christ that he will give us peace in the storm. The storms will rage but my hope and my peace remain because of God
While we are in the midst of the COVID-19 storm where does your trust turn? In the Creator of nature and the person of Jesus or in the fallen dying creation be it science, government, or nature?