God, COVID-19, Fear, Death, and Nonsense

Nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”—C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Recently I read the following posted on social media:

“COVID-19 is not your enemy, fear is. You will not die one day sooner or one day later than God has planned for you. But he did not create you to live in fear. The Bible says, ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.’ 2 Timothy 1:7.”

So, please explain to me the case of 41-year-old Louisiana COVID-19 victim Congressman-elect Luke Letlow. Picture his distraught widow holding her nine-month-old as she tries to explain to her four-year-old what’s happened to Daddy, all the while struggling to stanch her own tears, which just won’t stop flowing. Did fear put her in that situation?

And is it fear that has caused thousands upon thousands upon thousands of others to go through a similar soul-shredding after COVID-19 stole their loved one?

Only a person who’s never observed major human suffering up close, who’s altogether without human compassion or who’s just blindly parroting some party line could utter such cruel absurdity.

I’ll grant that fear certainly can be an enemy. If it’s pathological, if it’s all-consuming, if it’s debilitating, then it definitely needs to be addressed at a psychological and, perhaps, medical level. But the fact that some people may be inordinately fearful doesn’t make COVID-19 any less an enemy.

The coin of fear has two sides: Fear can be both a curse and a blessing. Fear is one of the most crucial factors in human survival. Often, it’s when we lose appropriate fear that bad things happen.

But the statement gets worse.

“You will not die one day sooner or one day later than God has planned for you.”

I’ll admit, that’s a popular and frequently cited platitude. But that’s all it is: a platitude. And a harmful one, at that.

Not only is the statement nonsense, I can all but guarantee that the person who made it doesn’t truly believe it. And how do I know that? By observing human behaviors that are universal: Loving parents don’t allow their two-year-olds to play unattended in busy streets because they’re confident the toddler is not going to “die one day sooner or one day later than God has planned.”

If you think God has a foreordained, individualized death date for each human, have you ever wondered why the average age God chooses for death in the little country of Monaco is 89.4 years, while the average age God chooses for death in the Central African Republic is 52.8 years?

If God’s life-termination plan calls for one nation to experience 41 percent less life (on average) than is enjoyed by another nation, doesn’t that strike you as discriminatory?

Or are the foregoing survival differences not based on God’s decisions about when people should die? Are there earthly cause-and-effect factors that produce such varied results, quite apart from any divine death decrees based on predetermined dates?

To the writer of this wholly inappropriate statement, I would ask: Just how does your assertion help to “heal the brokenhearted” (Luke 4:18), who are weeping because COVID-19 has robbed them of a spouse, a mother, a father, a sibling, a child, a dear friend? And why would anyone be attracted to a God who plays such a capricious role in planning far in advance who’s going to die on which day?

I find pertinent to this discussion what I believe is the real message of 2 Timothy 1:7: “God has not given us a spirit of [debilitating, paralyzing] fear, but of power [to take action and make a difference in life], and of love [for all whose lives are affected by their own actions and by ours], and of a sound mind [capable of rationally distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy fear, and between God’s role and ours in issues affecting life and death].”


James Coffin, who retired from Seventh-day Adventist Church employment after more than 35 years as a youth pastor, senior pastor and editor, has since 2011 been executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.

Photo by Nate Isaac on Unsplash


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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10967

Great article. Thank you James.


Well said! Healthy fear is keeping many of us alive.

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Excellent article. I have stated somewhere on this blog before that the second temptation of Jesus was what we are dealing with at this moment in time. For us to suggest that we need not fear, or more simply, we need not take precautions, is a sin. It is the sin of presumption. Satan told Jesus that he could throw himself from the peak of the synagogue and His father would send angles to save him. If this was one of only 3 temptations Jesus experienced, then why would it be anything but a sin for us to ignore danger and expose ourselves to a deadly virus, needlessly. To assume that God will protect you from your own reckless behavior is a sin. Presumption is a sin. You cannot force God to protect you from your own stupidity.

Coved has killed 50,000 more Americans than were killed in battle in WWII. And the slaughter isn’t over yet. Please don’t take my word for it. Look it up. That war lasted over 4 years. We are just rounding the 1 year mark for Coved 19. Please ignore the “fake news” crowd. They are lying to you. This is dangerous and fear is a God given mechanism that was instilled in you to bring clarity to your behavior.


“You will not die one day sooner or one day later than God has planned for you” actively upsets me.

Suicides went out the roof in 2020. So…God planned all of those. And all of those verses about death being an enemy – those are a pack of lies, because God’s actually in league with death. Come on.

And yet whenever I hear it, it’s some well-meaning super-traditional believer…who’s clearly talking without thinking. (It’s probably because I’m surrounded by them, but that’s not important.) What I mean is, if you believe in Creation – and they all do – you ought to believe no one was never supposed to die at all. By that train of logic, then clearly everyone who’s ever died did so before God planned.

(Note: I absolutely do not intend to start a debate on origins, so PLEASE don’t take my comment in that direction. It’s just weird how often people mouth meaningless platitudes, even when they blatantly contradict their entire belief system. Like Pastor Coffin said, they’re blindly parroting.)


A wise old friend observed two classes of Adventists. The thinkers and the parrots. Helpful observation.


I see you’ve restated your facts to make them a little more accurate but they are still questionable as are all statistics.

For example, just as the vast majority of the world’s population did not die in WWII, it is a foregone conclusion even under a worst case scenario that an overwhelming percentage of Americans will not succumb to COVID-19.

Even more important is the question of why any Christian should fear anything given that the primary take away from Jesus’ message is that god is everywhere and in everything (remember Jesus line about singing rocks?)and thus all is right with the world.

A life lived in fear for a Christian seems as ludicrous as a squirrel worrying about falling from a tree given that physics tells us that a rodent’s mass times gravity’s acceleration are insufficient to generate enough force to cause something as small as a squirrel any harm.

I’m not encouraging anyone to jump off a bridge anymore than I’m suggesting people should avoid the COVID vaccine but as Paul Simon sang, “I have reason to believe we all will be received in Graceland” and when any of us dies for whatever reason (as will all most certainly will) I’m as confident as I can be that god will consider all of the facts of our lives extenuating circumstances and accept each of us with open arms.

And at which point we will understand why it was silly to waste even one second doubting his love or living in fear of something as inconsequential as disease and/or death.

If one’s Christian “faith” doesn’t necessarily include that level of peace of mind, it seems rather pointless and the opposite of true faith, in my estimation.

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No, facts are facts. You can continue to believe the pages of those conspiracy rags on the checkout stand at your local grocery stores, but the numbers of people dying reported by all the media, even FOX, are the numbers. They are independently derived by highly respected and non-partisan medical experts. And the number of Americans who died in combat in WWII varies from 291,000 to 297,000. I don’t know why the disparity, but they are still 50K less than have been killed by Coved 19 and in one fourth of the time. These portable morgue trucks parked at numerous hospitals across the country are not photo shopped into the videos. They are real. The hospital beds in the halls, in the break room and yes, even in the gift shops as well as the tents pitched in the parking lots are also real. And I will repeat. Presumption is as Sin. It is a great sin because it was one of only three sins that Satan tried to corrupt Jesus with. We should also not tempt the Lord our God.

I know I won’t change your mind but I hope you don’t take others down that rabbit hole.


If god considers refusing to live in fear of facts, anecdotes, statistics and predictions of perpetually impending doom to be an unpardonable sin, l’ll happily sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to Charon as he’s ferrying me across The River Styx.

“…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…”

At times I feel there is a discord between what we as Christians believe and how we live our lives. At times there’s such a huge contradiction.

In a time of great evil such as we are living in now, remember the words of David “…your rod and your staff, they comfort me…”

No one knows which day shall be his last. Let us take this time to introspect our lives and make things right with God and fellow men. That’s how we should have been living our lives anyway, in peace, kindness and truth.


BTW, facts are never cold and hard, they are soft as mud and malleable like warm plastic.

For example, “facts” like the sun orbiting around the earth, disease being caused by sin and Jesus returning before 1844 are no longer considered to be facts at all.

So it is reasonable to hold facts at arms length as we know for certain that some of them are not facts and we have no reliable means of predicting which of our so-called scientific facts will one day be shown to be falsehoods.

Further, statistics are not absolute truths.

For more on this, read a little book written in the last century called “How to Lie with Statistics “.

Lastly, and in my previous comment, I wish I’d said I’d be “merrily” singing to Hades’ Boatman rather than “happily”, as it would have been a more apt adverb, given the context. :wink:

I take it you’re not a scientist then?

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This discussion makes it sound like truth is inconvenient

Looking for truth in on the internet is as inefficient as going to IHOP to find a used car.
Sure, some of the cars on the lot might have “For Sale” Signs on them but there are definitely more efficient and convenient ways to find what you’re looking for.

This is where we are in 2021. No one believes anyone. Everything is suspect. The Right doesn’t trust anything from the Left and the Left doesn’t trust anyone from the Right. This is the legacy of the past 4 years. If we haven’t destroyed ourselves yet, we are certainly well on our way.

We have many to thank, but the biggest contributor will be the internet. People can post the most ridiculous things and there are bound to be some who will believe it. When you put people into the most powerful office in the world who propagate this garbage, the problem is compounded. Welcome to 2021.


I see scientism as being in the same boat as is every other human “ism”.
Yes, we have learned much using the scientific method but it is most important for every human to acknowledge that his picture of the cosmos is one frame taken from a movie reel which might be infinitely long.
Thus the most reasonable scientific theory would seem to be the overarching assumption that every one of us is like the entirety of humanity itself in that we all will almost certainly always have a lot to learn.

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Ah, we need to pray for the gift of discernment
lest we toss out incredible truths and fall for believable errors.

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From an Aussie point of view, I whole-heartedly agree with you James. Our days are in His hands, it is true, but only if we accept His offer to walk with us through each day. I agree with you that He is not the author and instigator of our demise, but again He will never leave us nor forsake us during this momentary lapse between life on this planet and the resurrection morning.
On a personal note - my husband and self and family were recipients of your pastoral care during your stint of service in “country music capital” down under. We still think of you both with fond memories. May God keep you both safe until we meet again.
Kindest regards H&D H (now at Rathmines, NSW - Catalina Conference Centre)

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Thank you James for your insightful post.
Empathy with victims of COVID or any other of the effects of living in a heavily sin-scarred world will enable us to see beyond platitudes to helping hurting people.

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I’m not talking about scientism. I’m talking about the ability to understand data and apply the scientific method.

You seem to dismiss all data and statistical analysis because you read a book about how to lie with statistics. Of course you can lie with statistics. Hence the need for critical logical thinking to detect the lie.

You can also lie with theology but that doesn’t mean that theology, as a discipline, is fundamentally suspect.

I don’t understand your point.

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