With almost 4500 deaths from the Ebola virus in Western Africa to date this year, it has become a concern for many people. Myself included. I have lots of friends in sub-Saharan Africa – specifically the countries of Malawi and Mozambique. I am concerned for their safety. I’m glad they live a distance away.
Ebola is – by all accounts – a brutal virus. It would be natural for some people to ask the question – if God exists – how could he create such a vicious, microscopic killer? It’s a good question!
I’ve been reading some articles this week written about Ebola by:
- Andrew Fabich, Assistant Professor of Microbiology at Liberty University.
- Doctor Fazale Rana, who has a PhD in Chemistry and Biochemistry from Ohio University
What is a virus?
It is basically a strand of rogue DNA (or RNA, the cell’s DNA messenger) with a protein coat around it. This microscopic organism exists to insert its genetic material into the cells of its host. The genetic instructions from the virus essentially reprogram the cell on insertion.
The end result is that – the cell continues to function and reproduce – but the cells that it reproduces now contain the newly reprogrammed DNA from the virus. This – I guess – is a simple picture of what infection is all about.
Are viruses always destructive?
Mammals have a pair of genes that lead to the formation of the Placenta, and they appear to come from a virus. You could therefore argue that a virus is essential for animal reproduction.
Also, natural processes in the Earth’s oceans rely on viruses for the cycling of nutrients.
And as Microbiologists are becoming more and more adept at using and modifying the building blocks of life, they have found that viruses can be used like ammunition to combat dangerous and resistant bacteria. If the bacteria is infected, its cells break down, the bacterial infection is cured. And so on.
So what is Ebola?
I am reading that Ebola is a strand of genetic material composed of messenger RNA in a thin protein coat.
It is thought that – perhaps the Ebola virus originated in the African Bat population. But no one is exactly sure. The first human case of Ebola was detected in 1976.
What is fascinating tho, is this. The genetic material that makes up the Ebola virus – has been discovered to be part of the genome of Guinea Pigs and Wallabies…and a number of other mammals.
Could it be that what is now a dangerous virus, was once intended for good and healthy purposes? It has somehow become displaced from its intended place and function. It is striking that the virus is composed of the cells communication mechanism. Has it become subverted in some way? What was once good…has become tainted…dangerous…poisoned (in microbiology terms!).
So Where is God in the Midst of the Ebola Crisis?
I have no doubt that many (not all) of the caring profession who are treating the sick and the dying are people of faith in Jesus Christ. And so – in one sense – Jesus is right there caring for the sick. God is at the centre of this crisis – bringing hope and comfort in the midst of awful suffering.
But in another sense – I cannot help but wonder whether mankind has itself to blame for much of its suffering – Ebola included. God’s not to blame – we are. Now – I certainly don’t mean that each person who has contracted Ebola is to blame. Of course not – these people need care and attention, not criticism!
I am pointing to a wider issue that the Bible raises about mankind in relation to its Creator.
The Bible points out in Genesis that – when people got a real taste for rebelling against God – there was a devastating result on God’s good Creation.
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.”
Genesis 3:17-18, NIV
Some people might blame “Darwinian Evolution” for the appearance of deadly viruses. It is certainly true that the existing virus mutates (but it stays as Ebola, it doesn’t become something else). Others may shrug their shoulders and say – “I dunno why these deadly viruses exist. But if God existed – and he was as loving as the Christians say he is – then surely he would do something to help?”
I am more inclined to see rogue, weaponised genetic material like Ebola as Biology’s example of the “thorns and thistles” that the Bible points to. We live in a word which has gone wrong because of mankind’s rebellion against God. All of creation is groaning as a result. Disease and genetic material turned dangerous could just be one of the awful symptoms of the bigger problem.
Can we find a cure for Ebola? I hope so! According to my Microbiologists…there is hope.
But the big picture is – who knows how long you and I have to live on this planet? How long will our world last? Dunno. But I do know that we are secure when we put our trust in the Creator and Saviour Jesus.
“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”
Hebrews 1:10-12, NIV
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
John 14:2, NIV