When humanity confronts a threat to life as we know it, which includes widespread human suffering and death, conventional perspectives on the nature of reality, including divine reality, are thrown into a tailspin. This is the old theodicy question that troubles many faithful religious devotees, including Christians.

Confronting the coronavirus, the question across the globe becomes especially acute. Each of the world’s religions has their own answers to the question “Why?” but answers seem never to be satisfactory. There are even multiple answers to the question within the Bible and its commentary. In their efforts to make sense of an extreme circumstance such as the pandemic, many people find the concept of evil useful as a way to describe a force that causes suffering with no apparent goal. But can you really call a virus that is not even really alive evil? And how can we turn our meditations from speculation about causes and goals to a call to action?

On July 16, 2020, Sinai and Synapses Fellowship alumnus Arvin Gouw presented at the Institution on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) as part of “Science, Religion and Society,” its monthly webinar series. Arvin’s talk has been excerpted and transcribed here, but the full webinar, including a response from Ted Peters and a Q&A, is available here.

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