Covid-19 is one of the most serious and challenging issues to face our world at present. Millions of people have been infected and over 2 million people have died in this pandemic. There is no question that Covid-19 is one of the most serious medical, scientific and social challenges our world has faced for a century. Yet Dr. Denis Alexander in our recent Bigger Questions conversation made the claim that there was something even more serious than Coronavirus.
The now retired, Dr. Alexander was a molecular biologist with specific expertise in molecular immunology. He has an impressive resume of credentials in the field (he was previously Chairman of the Molecular Immunology Programme and Head of the Laboratory of Lymphocyte Signalling and Development at The Babraham Institute, Cambridge). Hence he is acutely aware of the medical dangers and challenges of Coronavirus. Yet he doesn’t see Covid as the most serious issue facing humanity at present.
He claimed that sin was more serious than Coronavirus.
It may seem surprising that a well credentialed scientist would claim that sin was more serious than the virus which has affected our lives so comprehensively and has dominated our conversations, news headlines and government policies like nothing since World War II.
Sin feels like a religious kind of word and concept which means little to the average person today in the real world.
Indeed some dispute the reality of sin and claim it has been simply invented by the Bible with no connection to the real world. Atheist Dan Barker claims,
“The very concept of sin comes from the Bible. Christianity offers to solve a problem of its own making! Would you be thankful to a person who cut you with a knife in order to sell you a bandage?”
This view can lead sin to seem utterly irrelevant, as fellow atheist Matt Dillahunty claims, “Sin is a meaningless concern for me. It is unrelated to good & evil, moral & immoral or ethical & unethical. There is some overlap but no correspondence.”
So how can this disputed concept of sin be more serious than a real and dangerous virus which has taken the lives of 2.5 million people?
Sin is real and universal
Sin is not simply a religious concept, it is clearly seen through human moral failure and corruption - one only needs to spend a few minutes on Twitter to see how ‘toxic’ human nature can be. It should be relatively uncontroversial that human nature is “inherently evil”, as the famed atheist Christopher Hitchens once claimed. All humans have proclivity to selfishness, pride and moral weakness, as author Alexander Solschenizyn famously remarked
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.
It’s uncomfortable, but this moral failure, this evil lying in the hearts of all people is real.
This describes sin.
Indeed Jesus describes many of the evils of sin in Mark 7:21-23
For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
Sin is moral failure. Hence this is one of the reasons it’s more serious than Coronavirus. For whilst a person can recover from or be vaccinated against coronavirus, the moral failure, the human depravity at the heart of the human condition - ‘sin’ - remains.
The impact of sin will remain long after the world has been vaccinated against Coronavirus and its threat diminished.
Sin is more than just moral failure.
Perhaps the controversy lies in the Christian explanation of the human condition. The Christian explanation is that moral failure is caused by a rebellion from and separation from God. This means that at its heart sin is concerned about offending God. As Jesus claims these things ‘defile’ a person in the sight and presence of God.
Yet at this point, your assumptions about the nature and reality of God become critical. If there is a God and we have offended and rejected him, then sin becomes far far more serious than any human ailment or virus. Yet if God isn’t real, then people are just mean to each other and there is no ultimate cosmic connection.
Thus how serious you see sin in relation to Coronavirus perhaps depends a lot on your assumptions about God.
The consequences of sin are far more significant
If God is real and Jesus is telling the truth (and there are many good reasons to believe he is), then Dr. Alexander rightly points out that the consequences of sin or Coronavirus are ultimately vastly different. He says,
“Sin is a lot more serious, Coronavirus can kill you for this life, but sin can kill you for this life and the future life as well.’
Given the universal nature of sin, the judgement of God is something all humans must face after death, which makes sin far more serious.
The solution for sin demonstrates its seriousness
The solution to Coronavirus is a vaccine. A wonderful product of science, and with a small dosage and a quick jab, one can be immunised against Coronavirus to a high degree of confidence.
Yet the solution to sin is far more costly. It can only come through the death of a perfect substitute, someone who can take on our wickedness and sin to make us perfect. This perfect person was Jesus Christ, as 1 Peter 3:18 says,
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
Christ’s death doesn’t just pay the penalty for sin, but he also offers us eternal life with him. This offer is far greater than any Coronavirus vaccine or cure.
Which is more serious?
So whilst Coronavirus is clearly serious and a huge challenge, a bigger question remains how we can solve our sin problem. How can we deal with the human condition - the moral corruption inside us all?
The Christian message offers good news, the solution to this problem is being connected with Jesus Christ, the one who has defeated sin and death.