By Ralph D. Winter, compiled and edited by Beth Snodderly
The principal concern in all of this is the distortion we can see in many people’s ideas of God. In coping with this, they may frequently attribute to God what is actually the work of an evil intelligence, and thus fatalistically give not the slightest thought to fighting back.
In scripture we see the prominence of the emphasis on the coming of God’s Kingdom, and note that “the Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the Devil” (1 John 3:8). What if all disease pathogens as well as all violent forms of life are the work of Satan? How would that amplify and refocus our global mission?
When Satan Turned against God
When Satan turned against God precisely what kind of destruction and perversion did he set out to achieve? Where would we see evidence of his works? Would he set out to pervert the DNA of originally tame animals and micro-organisms? Would he employ powers of deception so that we would get accustomed to pervasive violence in nature and no longer connect an intelligent evil power with evil and suffering? Is this what Satan set out to do from the time he fell out with the Creator—that is, did he set about to pervert and distort all forms of life so as to transform all nature into an arena “red in tooth and claw” that reigns today?
Distorted Ideas of God
There are very many people who are profoundly puzzled, perplexed, and certainly confused by the extensive presence of outrageous evil in the created world of an all-powerful, benevolent God. The principal concern in all of this is the distortion we can see in many people’s ideas of God. In coping with this, they may frequently attribute to God what is actually the work of an evil intelligence, and thus fatalistically give not the slightest thought to fighting back.
Fighting Back against Disease
We need to recognize the very radical and significant decision of God to create beings, angelic and human, with true free will and to work through those intermediaries. God, we know, invites us to bind up the wounds we can see with our eyes and to ward off evil which is large enough to see without a microscope. But He also has seemed to await human collaboration in fighting the microbiological roots of evil.
Theology of Disease
Our theologies, that is, our formalized ways of attempting to think biblically, were hammered out during centuries that were totally blind to the microscopic world. Our current theological literature, to my knowledge, does not seriously consider disease pathogens from a theological point of view—that is, are they the work of God or Satan? Much less does this literature ask the question, “Does God mandate us to eliminate pathogens?” We have an un-updated theology, thinking that we aren’t responsible to do something about something we can’t see (microbes). But now that we CAN see these microbes and now that we have new knowledge about the outside sources of several massive diseases, we cannot in good conscience fail to do what we can to mount new offensive warfare with those attacking sources.
Discovering Origins Rather than Treatment and Prevention
Surprising recent insights show that many diseases are basically caused by outside invaders which we need to fight in the same sense as we fight the crime of visible terrorists. Does nutrition, exercise, banishing anxiety, etc. protect you or cure you of malaria? Are our immune systems normally capable of defeating malaria, tuberculosis, smallpox, anthrax, etc.? No, not normally. And, if the latest thinking is correct, slow-acting microbes underlie heart disease as well as cancer, multiple sclerosis, alzheimer’s, and schizophrenia. So, do we just go on praying in addition to doing what we can to prevent diseases (good nutrition, exercise, etc.)? It is understandable, of course, that we would not automatically think about going beyond prayer and taking concrete measures to quell the source of these destructive diseases if we did not know that they are caused by attacking pathogens which our immune systems, no matter how healthy, cannot always overcome.
Bringing Glory to God
To destroy the works of the devil in the realm of disease is one major way in which our testimony of word and deed can glorify the true nature of our living God, our heavenly father. It is to rectify our God’s damaged reputation. It is to avoid extending the implicit and embarrassing policy of almost constantly misrepresenting Him around the world.
In regard to horrifying disease and violence in nature, people have become so used to it, so accustomed to it, so hardened to it, that they have drifted into suppositions that this must be the way God created things. And then people get to thinking that a God who does not mind violence, cruelty, and suffering is not the most appealing kind of a God to serve. Attacking the roots of disease is part and parcel of our basic mandate to glorify God in all the earth.
Both believers and non-believers are stumbling about wondering over the amount, the harshness, and the unpredictability of evil in our world. Indeed, the credibility of an all-powerful and loving God is constantly being called into question by people who are no longer content to suppose “that God has His reasons.” We may indeed not know all His reasons. But do we have reasons for our inaction?