Atheist question of C-19 and church closures

An atheist friend messaged me shared is picture saying:

•Why are your churches closing?
•Do you not have faith that your God will protect you from the virus?

I understand several things from this statement:

  1. There’s an assumption that all Christians live by a blind faith and ignorance of science.
  2. There’s an implication that we are of little faith and will cave into a natural threat whenever convenient-in other words- hypocrites.

I can’t help from comparing this “low-resolution” accusation with Jesus’s temptation from Satan. The basis of this accusation stem from SOME truth, but there’s way too much to unpack in the form of a quick, witty yet effective one-liner. Could I have some help with how to approach this?

Thank you, all!

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As believer’s we are never promised a “walk through a rose garden”. We are in fact promised just the opposite as Jesus told His disciples to expect to be persecuted on account of Me. The passage in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus teaches His disciples to cast their anxiety upon Him when they were grumbling because they had no food or clothing assumes that they will experience tough times. Our faith in God is a faith that finds its basis in a future resurrection of our bodies and an eternal rest with our Lord. God has given us over to a spirit of wisdom and common sense in the here and now. We lock our doors at night, we don’t consume rat poison and so on. Jesus tells us to love our neighbor and one of the ways that we can be doing that is by not spreading the virus to our loved ones (or anyone for that matter). Paul tells us in Romans 13 to be submissive to our governing authorities. The government isn’t telling us to not worship, they are just asking us to not do it physically for a period of time.

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@Quasi_Tomasi88 While I don’t have a one-liner (and perhaps a one-liner might not be best for this situation - unless it’s a really good one), I’ll note some observations/misconceptions in addition to what you stated that may be at the core of these questions:

  1. Misconception of the importance of physical buildings. I suppose this misconception comes from the assumption, especially in Eastern religions, that a religious building is a shrine or temple for a god - and closing it, of course, does convey some sort of message. That is not true for Christianity, while I recognize there may be some who disagree with me here, I don’t think there is disagreement on whether the answer to “Is the physical church a one-for-one clone of the Jerusalem Temple?” is no. They are clearly different in at least one way, and the Temple has passed for now. And while I believe the Temple may be rebuilt in the future, in this era, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and the actual Church comprises of all believers. So we are always in the Church, whether or not we are in the physical church. And worship is no longer confined to the Temple.

(I’ll note that despite physical closure, churches should not stop being the light and salt of their community, providing services to society, or showing the path to the Gospel and God. I’m concerned that some churches have stopped this - thankfully, it is possible to continue many services with or without physical presence in this day and age. Hopefully, those who have ended some outreach services will restart them soon, perhaps in a different way

Also, I will go as far to say that even if every physical church building was destroyed, Christianity would not have a problem. And even without the digital world, we can continue our worship and other functions just fine. It was the case during the early Church, continues to be the case in certain countries (for example, underground house churches in the PRC), and can be the case everywhere else as well. Of course, it’s better to have a building and the internet available. And in the midst of this pandemic, I think it is good to reflect on the grace of God for those of us who do have access to such tools and services, and prayers for those who continue on serving God and the Church with much limited freedom.)

  1. Misconception of God. I think there is an assumption by some of what God’s purpose is. Certainly, in some religions, the purpose of a god is provide protection, money, etc. and not much else. And as @trailblazinjoe has said, the Lord explicitly says that we won’t be protected all the time. That might elicit a response of “Well, what good is that for?”, but it presents an opportunity to present God’s greater purpose for us is and truth of the Gospel. And I suppose there is also a misconception that God does not meet the needs of Christians, dislikes fun, is a killjoy, etc. But that of course is not true: God created this world. He simply asks us, in this era, to sacrifice our time and efforts to proclaim the Gospel as the Lord did and to keep us away from sin. And wait patiently until His return (2 Peter 3:8)

I think responding with some of what is in these two paragraphs and, in general, pointing out the uniqueness of Christianity will be helpful in this situation.

I can’t help from comparing this “low-resolution” accusation with Jesus’s temptation from Satan. The basis of this accusation stem from SOME truth

And I agree with you about this assessment. Many of misconceptions of Christianity are not fully based in lies, but rather half-truths, half-lies. But, at the same time, it may be an advantage to deal with someone who believes in a half-truth rather than a complete lie.

(Also, I’ll apologize for the lack of direct references; I’m writing this off my memory, so I am paraphrasing and I don’t guarantee that everything is completely accurate. If you have question about what I wrote, I do encourage you to consult another source that directly references Scripture. I’ll note that Dr. Thomas Constable’s commentary is one such good resource)

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@Quasi_Tomasi88 I’ll add one additional observation:

  1. The second “Do you not have faith…” question is actually a strawman (based on what I discussed in 4), so the direct answer to the question would actually be “God never promised to protect us from the virus. So… [this isn’t relavant and doesn’t affect Christianity…]” The question isn’t related to faith or Christianity at all. (But again, it allows us to correct them and present what Christianity actually is). I’ll also note that it’s possible there is a misconception of what faith is - this apologetics piece is perhaps the best that I’ve read that answers the question of “What does faith mean?”
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One liners?

Our church buildings close every Sunday, but the church that meets there never does - we are very much open and serving!

Absolutely He protects us - why else has He made online services possible for such a time as this?

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Part of my frustration stems from how easily disinformation and half-truths are spread in short phrases and images- with little effective forums to discuss it in. However, your answers provided me MORE than enough ideas and resources to dig in further-especially that link to the commentary!

Thank you once more!!

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@Quasi_Tomasi88 Some localities are “recommending” cessation of all large gatherings. This means many churches. My area in Northeast Philadelphia is doing this. It is not a matter of being scared, but rather being obedient to the authorities and not presenting a threat to our neighbors.

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1 Church buildings may close but the real church are the believers.
2. If I play in the traffic all day I have higher odds of being hit by a car as a believer or not.
If I play with matches and lighters all day I have a statistically higher chance of burning myself. (I believe God made statistical laws of averages). If I am exposed to someone who has ebola, there is a good chance I will get Ebola.
The same for this virus.
I have faith in God’s word that we are in a fallen world and things are not perfect. To believe otherwise shows an imperfect faith. Much is good, but there is some that is not.
It is only when God revamps the universe and ourselves that there will no longer have disease.
I am also told not to put God to the test.
Therefore it is only normal to take precautions against this coronavirus as Christians or not.

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BY faith in Christ we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Nothing and no one can s-natch us out of His hand.
That means our soul, our body and our heart and mind belong to God. To care for others we are asked by health officials and governments to distance socially. Meeting for service is possible online and allows fellowship. Christians, as any other human being, will possibly get sick and will possibly carry the virus and spread the disease. Why being ignorant and jeopardize the live of others by ignoring this fact.
My faith is in God being sovereign and merciful and good at all times. Regardless of my circumstances
Marion

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Hello there,

I would like to share my thoughts and response to these questions of your friends. I may not have the best answers, but I ensure to give some areas of thought to think about.

My assumption to this question is this; atheist thinks that christians are fully spiritual in terms of living.

Let me explain.

Why our churches closing during the coronavirus? Does that mean that our faith and God is delusional? Absolutely no, our churches are closing not because of lack of faith, but because of obeying the “Quarantine” given by the government. And social distancing is one of the practices to prevent the spread of the virus. We do put our faith in God, we see the reality in the lens of spirituality, but that does not mean that we neglect the orders practically.

One humor story to this question, when I was in Junior High School, I was asked by one of my friends, he said “Is it Jesus is the answer?” then I replied, “It depends on the question you asked.” Then my friend paused for a moment, “what do you mean?” he said.

I responded, “During an exam, if you encounter the question 1+1, what will you write? Jesus?” Then my friend smiled and got what I was trying to say.

We as Christians, yes we do see life through faith in God, but does not mean that we don’t do solutions practically.

Like Paul who has sickness, he was a great apostle, but he needed Luke as his doctor. If we only use spiritual things and not do our part in practical world, we may not really understand our faith.

Faith without work is dead.

Thank you so much for reading this.
I hope this helps. :heart::innocent:

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God gave us brains. He expects us to do our part, and trust the rest to Him. He does not expect us to CHALLENGE HIM for every difficulty that life presents.

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@domingoosabel That is a great, thought-provoking answer to the question, “Is Jesus the answer.” I will keep it in my evangelistic toolbox!

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Wow. Thank you so much @Jlee

It means a lot to me. :smiley:

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I reckon Martin Luther is spot on here:

“Martin Luther’s pastoral advice during the Black Plague:
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
—Martin Luther, Works v. 43, p. 132. Letter “Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague” written to Rev. Dr. John Hess.”

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There is a lot of great content already on here that people have responded with. This is a discussion that will take much digging into and I think a lot of grace on both sides. It might be helpful to just ask them the question, “How do you think this works?” (that might be a bit of an informal way to ask it, so maybe rephrase it). This simple question will open them up a lot of their assumptions of the Christian faith and the way God works. It might provide a wonderful opportunity to share not just the surface level, physical protection that they think God provides, but true security in eternal salvation.

I hope your conversations are fruitful and you are able to act as a great witness in this time.

in Jesus,

-Zac N.

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Hello,
Good experience you had. I think there will always be people who try to attack us or push us down. It’s frustrating, I know. But I think it’s also an opportunity to get to know better the person who asks and pray for him/her and bring them to Jesus
To me, in this case the person it’s clearly misunderstanding the concept of “church”. For christians our temple is our body and the church is our fellowship. As @domingoosabel did, you @Quasi_Tomasi88 should take the chance to ask your friend back and know why he/she think that

(My first post… sorry for any mistake)

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Hello Carlos,

Thank you so much for acknowledging my answer. It means a lot to me.

No worries if this is your first post, we are so glad you open up your thoughts. You are highly appreciated. We are looking for more.

Keep being awesome, man. :smiley::innocent:

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Amen! And true enough people are worshiping in their homes separately, but united in the spirit and online sharing encouragement. I think this and the general social isolation will mean more non-Christians accessing words from the Bible in these ‘services’! Praying for many to find the Lord in these days! Also for some, church-going is a ritual or habit. We find how derply rooted we are when such things are taken away from us! Meanwhile let’s pray for a door of faith to be opened for thosr badly affected by this virus! May God bless all this group and keep us safe, in the mighty name of Jesus! Sorry I didn’t mean to write such a long reply!
In love Angela WG

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It is not that we do not trust God, but rather being obedient to the directive to submit to authority, since the State or Federal government has directed that we shelter at home and not meet in groups. The Bible teaches that we are subject to the laws and government of the land.

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