COVID-19, the Phantom Scepter




There are at least a few stories in the Bible that provide insight into the discord and disinformation surrounding COVID-19. Respected doctors, politicians, and media tycoons have become the presumed arbiters of truth regarding the virus, but the missing person in all of these arbitrations is Truth himself. Scripture shows us how God eventually steps in when we try to replace him.


In the book of Exodus, the magicians of Pharaoh replicated the first few plagues of Egypt, further hardening Pharaoh’s heart and giving him reason to refuse to comply with the commands of God. Even when the ensuing plagues could not be replicated by the Egyptian magicians, the original illusions they conjured up were enough to entrench Pharaoh in his stubbornness.


Then, about 400 years later, in the first book of Kings, Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Ba’al to call upon their god to set their altar ablaze with their sacrifice of a bull. Despite all their efforts, no one answered their prayers and the altar with its sacrifice remained. When Elijah prepared his sacrifice to the God of Abraham, he drenched the altar he made with water and prayed, “let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word” (1 Kings 18:36). Then the fire of the Lord consumed the sacrifice, the altar and everything around it. Elijah's actions, in contrast to Pharaoh’s and the prophets’, demonstrate his faith in the one true God.


The parallel between these two stories is man’s dependence on man-made imitations of the divine rather than God himself. It makes little difference who or what is imitating God, whether it’s an Egyptian magician, a prophet of Ba’al, a media outlet, or a hospital. Nor does it matter what they use to try and assume divine qualities, whether it’s a false god or a virus. The common end in all these cases is to supplant God with the authority and leadership of men, so that the final arbiter of truth appears to be some man-made thing rather than Truth himself.


COVID-19 has become a phantom scepter; it's the new god of science that can transcend science whenever its wielders deem it is necessary. The truth regarding the virus matters very little to the wielders because the very purpose of this phantom scepter is to supplant the truth with a counterfeit version of truth determined by human beings who lie rather than the God Who Is.


Light and Truth


When we leave God out of human affairs, we are not only leaving out religion. We cut ourselves off from our source of light and Truth. When we cut ourselves off from Truth, the person, we end up creating our own truth based on impersonal, darkened human presumptions. When Egypt refused to listen to God, he cut the Egyptians off from light and left them in darkness for three days (Exodus 10:21–23).


This is consistent with what Jesus said to Nicodemus, that “the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil…. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”

Similarly, since they have taken God out of public affairs, the leaders and influencers of our society have a dark cloud hanging over them that has hindered them from seeing the truth. They’ve replaced fear of God with fear of death, and faith in God with faith in humanity. The only way we can get out of this illusion is by turning back to God, having faith in him and asking him to show us reason again, his Logos, his son: the Truth.


We have a proven process for finding the Truth: the scientific method. How Elijah confided in the one true God in the story above provides precedence for this method developed by the Church. By drenching the altar in water, Elijah demonstrated that, no matter how much we try to disprove God’s dominion over creation, we will fail. That is at the heart of the scientific method: testing your hypothesis, failing to disprove it, and thereby proving it to be true. This has been called counterintuition by some because it challenges our intuitive sense to just believe what we want to believe. Counterintuition was heralded by scientists of the past, but is not so popular today. Instead, we live in a world where scientists focus on studies that prove their hypothesis and often ignore those studies that don’t, saying they're “not peer-reviewed”.

And this is the world Pharaoh sought to create, one where he had the final word. Pharaoh gave unjust and irrational orders to the Hebrews to exercise his power over them, and told his magicians to imitate the plagues to see how his power compared to God’s. In a similar way, many of today’s leading politicians are playing God, creating their own moral system based on their own truth. In a society that attempts to usurp God as the ultimate authority, our government is building a self-affirming system based on lies, fear, and concern for health above all else, including freedom and common sense. Our zeal for truth must rise above this tyranny.


Featured image: The Triumph of Elijah Over the Prophets of Baal by Domenico Fetti (circa 1622), sourced from Peter K. Levy on Flickr