If there is anything we have learned through this pandemic, it is the value of science. Look at how quickly the vaccines were developed and produced – and how effective they are! Look at how we are able to identify variants to the infection. Look at how science keeps developing new and more effective treatments. The list goes on and on … the value of God’s gift to us in science is very impressive.
If there is anything we have learned through this pandemic, it is how the value of science has limits. Science is about asking questions and finding the answers, which then produce more questions … and answers … and questions … Just as there is no limit to the new and variant infections/diseases in our world, so, while science provides us with many valuable answers, it is unable to provide us with the final answer. I must confess that a smirk comes upon my face every time I hear someone say that a new discovery or treatment is “reducing the death rate.” As far as I know that rate still is at 100% … we may be able to delay death, but every one of us will inevitably die.
This is why it is so important for us to remember that science is God’s gift to us … just as government is his gift to us.
Luther rightly connects honoring and obeying government officials with the fourth commandment, recognizing these words: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2.13-17)
We have a tendency to make simple things very complicated. The Gospel sets us free. We, in fact, are “called to freedom.” (Galatians 5.13a) However, that very verse continues “Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5.13b-14) How much simpler can things get?
Both science and government are gifts from our gracious and loving God … given to us for our good. Note, they are not gods, but they are given to us by God for our good. I have been surprised over the past year by how many Christians have mocked these gifts. I have been equally surprised by how many have treated them as gods. And now, some of the same people who were saying, “Trust the CDC” are saying, “I do not trust the CDC.” Like I said, we complicate the very things that God has made simple.
Our bodies and our lives are gifts entrusted to us as children of God. Part of our role in being good stewards of these gifts is to use what God gives us in science and government to take care of them (and to similarly assist our neighbor in caring for them). However, as you know, elevating any gift from God to be his equal – or to be above him – is a huge mistake. As I pray you think about these things, please also note that “just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9.27-28) Or, to make it even simpler, “Be faithful unto death,” says Christ Jesus, “And I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2.10)