MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Good morning!
Should Christians view the coronavirus as evidence of God’s judgment? Should we consider the economic costs against the health and life costs?
Will ask John Piper today about these and other thorny theological questions.
NICK EICHER, HOST: An extended Culture Friday today.
Also a streaming series inspired by the New Testament, perfect timing for Easter.
And George Grant on the Word that made all others possible.
BASHAM: It’s Good Friday, April 10th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
BASHAM: Up next, Kent Covington with today’s news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Unemployment continues to soar as economic aid begins » New unemployment numbers released Thursday showed more than six-and-a-half million U.S. workers filed for jobless benefits last week. That as a wave of coronavirus layoffs and furloughs continues to sweep the country.
At the White House Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence said Americans are beginning to receive a portion of the $2.2 trillion relief package. A program designed to help small businesses keep workers on the payroll is online.
PENCE: The Paycheck Protection Program now in day five; reporting $125 billion has been approved so far. 30,000 new individual users and 3,900 lenders are participating.
And he said direct payments to Americans are still on track to go out by the end of next week. Most individuals will receive a one-time $1,200 payment, along with $500 per child.
And President Trump said more help is on the way.
TRUMP: The Federal Reserve announced this morning that it will provide up to $2.3 trillion dollars in support to businesses, states and local governments. $600 billion dollars in loans will be available for midsize businesses with up to 10,000 employees.
He also said the government is waiving student loan payments for six months.
Republicans, Democrats clash on additional coronavirus aid funding » Meantime, more infighting on Capitol Hill Thursday as lawmakers debated additional coronavirus aid. Democrats torpedoed a Republican Senate bill that would have added $250 billion to a small business payroll fund. And Republicans refused Democrats’ demand for another $250 billion for hospitals and states.
On the Senate floor Thursday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell complained that Democrats are playing politics with a program needed to keep Americans employed.
MCCONNELL: The distinguished Democratic leader and the speaker of the House sought to use this crucial program to open broader negotiations on other topics, including parts of the CARES Act where literally—listen to this Mr. President—literally no money has gone out the door yet.
Speaker Pelosi called McConnell’s $250 billion request a “stunt.” She said McConnell and the White House were trying to ram a bill through Congress with little data to back it up.
PELOSI: There are outstanding needs. What we should have been doing, and what we offered to do, was to sit down and figure out what the numbers are that are needed most urgently.
But both Democrats and Republicans agree more aid will be needed, and talks will continue.
NY again sees record coronavirus deaths even as curve flattens » New York state reported a record number of coronavirus deaths for a third straight day on Wednesday, 799. More than 7,000 New Yorkers have now died since the coronavirus arrived in the state.
Most of the confirmed cases are in New York City. And Mayor Bill de Blasio said a big part of the problem has been a lack of testing.
DE BLASIO: We have had to, from day one, ration testing in a way none of us wanted to do.
He said the city still needs more coronavirus testing capacity.
Despite the worsening death toll, Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York City’s hospitals have so far stood up under the enormous strain. And in fact, the increase in hospitalizations is down.
CUOMO: The hospitalization rate does suggest that it is coming down, and we are flattening the curve. We had 200 net increase in hospitalizations, which you can see is the lowest number we’ve had since this nightmare started.
Cuomo said that’s good news, but he warned this is not time to relax. He noted that the tragic death toll is a result of interactions before the government put restrictions in place to slow the spread. And the death toll will drop only if New Yorkers continue to follow the instructions of health officials and maintain social distancing.
Navy sailor from coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier in ICU » A sailor from the USS Theodore Roosevelt is now in an intensive care unit at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam after contracting the coronavirus aboard the aircraft carrier.
General John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday—quote—“We’re hoping that that sailor recovers. We’re praying for him and his family and his shipmates.”
He said the Navy has now tested almost the entire crew of the ship.
HYTEN: We still have about a thousand tests left to report out, but 3,170 of the crew tested negative. 416 have tested positive.
The carrier is now docked in Guam.
British prime minister out of ICU » Meantime, on Thursday doctors moved British Prime Minister Boris Johnson out of intensive care. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has that story.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Johnson’s office said the prime minister’s condition continues to improve. And a spokesman said he has been moved out of the ICU “back to the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery.”
Johnson checked into a London hospital last Sunday when symptoms didn’t improve 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19. The next night, doctors moved him to the intensive care unit after his condition worsened.
Officials said doctors placed Johnson on oxygen but he was breathing on his own without a ventilator.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: John Piper joins us for Culture Friday.
Plus, George Grant with a special Good Friday edition of Word Play.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MEGAN BASHAM: It’s Friday the 10th of April, 2020.
Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Megan Basham.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up: Culture Friday.
Earlier this week Franklin Graham gave an interview to Fox News about the emergency field hospital Samaritan’s Purse is operating in Central Park.
But something else he said towards the end of the segment raised some media eyebrows.
GRAHAM: I don’t think God planned for this to happen. It’s because of the sin that’s in the world, Judge. Man has turned his back on God. We have sinned against Him, and we need to ask for God’s forgiveness. And that’s what Easter is all about.
BASHAM: Several outlets including The Washington Post and Salon.com reported on these and similar remarks Graham has made over the past week. The Post specifically noted Graham’s comment, and I’ll read it here, quote: “We have worshipped other gods in this country, and those gods are sports or entertainment …. The people we’ve idolized are on the shelf. I think God is trying to get our attention.” End quote.
Now, most of the outlets who wrote about Graham’s comments weren’t especially critical—certainly not by today’s standards of divisiveness.
But they did seem a bit, well, puzzled might be the right word, about why Graham would connect coronavirus to sin if he wasn’t calling the pandemic a punishment from God.
EICHER: We could think of no one better to whom we could bring this and other weighty theological questions than author, theologian, and founder of the ministry, Desiring God.
John Piper, for the first time ever on Culture Friday.
This is an honor. Welcome!
JOHN PIPER, GUEST: Honor to me, too. Thank you!
EICHER: Well, Pastor John, I think judgment is one of those issues believers understand in the abstract.
I want to mention our editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky continually stresses to us “the ladder of abstraction”—in other words, the higher up, the more abstract, the lower down, the more concrete. So we move up and down in our journalism: bring in an abstraction, but then ground it in reality.
So in that spirit, it seems we’re in a moment right now where the world is asking questions about judgment or punishment in really urgent ways. And the basic question comes down to: Is God punishing us?
So down the ladder, straight into scripture, Pastor John: What connection do you find in the Bible between physical afflictions and God’s methods for getting our attention, as Franklin Graham put it?
PIPER: Right. And so what comes to my mind are two passages, and one is general—like you said, maybe more abstract—and the other is really, really, really specific. And it’s the way Jesus thought.
The first one is Romans 8:19-23 and it relates especially to the connection between sin—or the moral condition of our heart—and the physical state of the world. And so you read from verses 19 following, and it talks about the creation being subjected to futility, not of its own will, but the will of him who subjected it in hope and that’s God. Satan didn’t subject it in hope. Adam and Eve didn’t subject it in hope. God—we call it the fall, we call it the curse—subjected the world to futility and to corruption. Now, that involves every manner of misery for thousands of years. And death. Everybody dies because of that moment. It’s a horrific judgment from God and it’s in everybody’s life.
So, that’s the first thing to say.
And my question, when I read that, is “Oh my goodness. Why did God take out the moral issue on the physical world?”
Here’s my attempt at an answer: God knows that sinful people are blind to the moral outrage of belittling God through their indifference or their sin. Nobody loses any sleep in this world over the fact that we pay more attention to the style of our hair than we do our creator. But you let God touch their body, touch their body with cancer or you got a horrible sore throat right now. Touch that and, man, are we awake? We are wide awake and we’re saying, “Where are you God?”
Well, what is that? That’s God’s way of saying, OK, if we are blind to the moral outrage of sin, because of our own fallenness, how will I give them a thunderclap of awakening so that they can see the outrage of their failed relationship with God? So that’s the general understanding of why the world is the way it is, I think.
So it’s not just coronavirus. When I get sick, I think it’s God’s wake up call, “Get serious, Piper. You’re going to die and your relationship with me is not all it should be.”
Now, one more text and I’ll try to keep this one shorter. When the people came to Jesus in Luke 13 and Pilate had murdered some people in the temple and the Tower of Siloam had fallen on 18 people—evidently just bystanders—and the people wanted to know, OK, Jesus, tell me what’s up with this. What have they done?
And you talk about moving from abstract to concrete, Jesus looked them right in the eye and said, “You’re astonished that 18 people died or that 10,000 people have died of coronavirus? You’re astonished at that? Here’s what you ought to be astonished at, that you haven’t died yet.”
That’s exactly what he said. He said, “Unless you repent, you”—he didn’t say they. He shifted it from they to you. Really concrete. “You will perish if you don’t repent.”
So, I would say we can draw a line from Romans 8:19-23 and Luke 13:1-5. We can draw a straight line from those two passages to the coronavirus and say, well, we know at least two things that God is doing or saying. He is saying to the world the moral outrage of the sin that pervades this world is as great as the horror you see in this coronavirus.
And the second thing he’s saying is unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. And so I think when Franklin Graham turned from his first statement about “God didn’t plan this” to his other statement, namely “God’s doing something to get our attention,” he was on the right track the second time.
BASHAM: You know, Pastor John, I’d like to take just a second to maybe indulge in a personal question. Speaking for the Marthas of the world, I almost feel like I have multiple personalities given the many, often contradictory, things I’ve been getting upset about over the last couple of weeks.
On the one hand, there have been moments where I’ve sort of rolled the eyes of my heart at the new restrictions. I’ve felt frustrated and resentful that I can’t just get back to life as I knew it.
But then only a couple hours later, if seasonal allergies cause a little tickle in my throat or my husband suddenly sounds congested, I go straight to fear and panic.
What would you say to a Christian like me who may be feeling tossed by some pretty wild swings of emotion right now?
PIPER: Tossed by wild swings is almost a paraphrase of Ephesians 4. Christ doesn’t want his people to be like leaves blowing around or waves tossed by the sea. So the fact that he would even go there with that kind of imagery says he knows what you’re talking about.
So, I’ll just give you my own personal testimony. When I have to deal with my emotions going up and down and sideways, I have to fly to the word of God. I have to fly to promises. When the doctor told me—so you talk about an emotional swing here—I walked into my urologist office 12 years ago, feeling great, and he does his usual exam and then he looks me in the eye and says, “I want to do a biopsy.” And at that moment, you talk about an emotional swing. I said, “When?” He said, “Now.” So he goes to get the machine, I’m left alone for about 10 minutes. I’m alone with my emotions doing what your emotions do, right?
And God—because I’ve spent 65 years reading my Bible and had some things stored up here—brought to my mind something from, I can’t remember if it was the same morning or just recently, and it was as though God said to me, “You are not appointed for wrath, but you are appointed for salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ who died for you so that whether you wake or sleep, you might live with him.”
I’ll tell you, that was so perfect at that moment. That’s all I needed.
And so my answer is we fly to the word and we lay hold on promises. Promises about frustration and anxiety. Promises about the sickness of our loved ones and maybe I’ll just mention one because it’s for me been prevalent right now. When we talk about the sovereignty of God in this, nobody spoke more sweetly and firmly about the sovereignty of God than Jesus. He said, “Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from your father.” Now, that’s first century language for, “There are no rogue viruses.” None.
The next thing out of his mouth is, “The hairs of your head are all numbered. You are of more value than many sparrows.” Now, that’s what makes Jesus so unparalleled in his way of talking.
And so on the one hand Jesus is saying to you in your emotional swings and me in mine, I’ve got this world in my hands and not one sparrow is going to fall out of a tree apart from my design, my purpose, my plan. And, by the way, “even though Piper doesn’t have as many hairs on his head as he used to, I know exactly how many there are.” Which is surely, I mean, surely the point of that is he’s close and attentive.
So I think when you get words like that in your head and heart and then you pray down the Holy Spirit, he applies the words to our lives and there is a peace that is produced in a way that goes beyond what reason can produce.
EICHER: Last question, maybe the thorniest question. And that’s the economic costs. Some we know, some we don’t, some we can’t, at least not now.
So along with stories of suffering from illness, we’re reading about GDP loss, massive unemployment. We’re hearing stories of people, often people the least able to afford suddenly being out of work.
Now, those of us in the so-called knowledge economy, we can work from home. We keep earning paychecks.
But what about those who can’t?
And I should preface, we don’t want to worship mammon. But I think we’re in danger of ignoring the economists, or, worse, looking down our noses at them as indifferent to life, and this, it’s just what’s really bugging me right now, honestly.
PIPER: Well, I certainly don’t know the answer to when more harm is going to be done by pulling workers off the job than keeping them on the job. And I am very slow at—what surprises me in our day is how quick people are to judge our leaders for the decisions they are making, as though they were God. I don’t have a clue how to weigh the horrific costs in life for job loss over against the possible health loss of getting out and going to work. I don’t know. I mean, who knows? Who can know what this virus is going to do?
I mean, if we sent everybody back to work and then 5 million people died in the next three weeks, we’d probably say, “Well, that wasn’t the right idea.” But who knows? I mean, who can be a judge in these matters?
And so, wow, what a good question to ask and what a crucial question to ask in our day. And so health and economic well being are not easily distinguished.
That’s what you’re drawing attention to. The economic costs are more difficult to immediately assess than getting sick and dying. That’s easy to assess. And so I’m praying earnestly for our leaders—many of whom I don’t like and think their attitudes stink—ah, help the rest of us know how to make these calls because I surely don’t. I wish I did, but, you know, we used to say as an eldership, when we don’t know what to do, we know what to do when we don’t know what to do. We pray. And God was so merciful to us many times when we had absolutely no idea what the solution to an issue facing us was. And we’d call these extra prayer and fasting mornings and say, ‘God, we don’t know what to do. We don’t know what the solution to this is.’ And I never failed to see him answer when we did that. And so I think that ambiguity and inscrutability is another summons to the people of God: get on your faces and repent and pray.
EICHER: Well, before we go, let me say thanks on behalf of WORLD for offering your Coronavirus and Christ book that you just wrote—and for making it available free to our readers and listeners. It’s a thoughtful and brief, 100-page, book aimed at exactly this time in history: Desiring God contacted us and said we could offer it for free. So generous!
Coronavirus and Christ is available to you in hard copy, but also in a digital copy you can have today, right away, as well in an audiobook format, where you can hear Pastor John read it. Takes about two hours.
As I say, free to you. No reason you should not head over to wng.org/piper and give your contact info, so we can send it to you in any form you like. Wng.org/piper
BASHAM: I’ve read and listened already, and I’ll just call your attention to the prayer at the very end. So totally on point. It’s a prayer I personally borrowed just last night, so good!
And when you hear the audiobook version, you hear the urgency and passion. It’ll bring you to tears.
Pastor John, thank you so much for being with us today.
PIPER: Well, what a privilege. Thank you so much.
NICK EICHER: Today is Friday, April 10th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MEGAN BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The perfect series to binge over Easter weekend.
I think I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve unequivocally recommended a Christian production not just for its moral value but it’s entertainment value as well. When I do come across that kind of rare gem, I tend to get a bit gushy.
Well, get ready, because I am about to gush.
CLIP: I saw the Messiah today. The man all of us, including you, have been praying for our whole lives. Don’t you even care? Was he a big man? Big? No. Rich? No, he didn’t seem so. He didn’t seem he could get us out of this debt to Rome? Maybe, maybe he was a doctor? No. So he can’t help with Eden’s eema who’s now living with us, Andrew. Dasha’s sick? So pardon me if I’m not exactly jumping out of my sandals because creepy John pointed at someone.
It’s important to note that The Chosen isn’t a straight retelling of Bible narratives like a Mark Burnett miniseries. It takes creative liberties by asking intelligent questions then imagining stories that might answer them.
For example, what might cause a hot-tempered, blue-collar guy like Peter to go fishing at night? He needs to pay off a debt, perhaps? Why is Matthew willing to become a pariah in his community for the sake of dollars and cents? Maybe he has an Aspergers-like disorder that makes social connections difficult but mathematical calculations easy.
It’s a fascinating interpretation that works perfectly with what we do know of Matthew’s meticulous nature.
CLIP: Where’s your escort? He didn’t want to enter. He feels that my lack of social graces…He thinks you’ll get him killed. Yes. Not today, Matthew. No. Today, I am in need. You heard me right. I am in need of your machine. My machine. You mind, Matthew. Keep up.
The Chosen’s extrapolations reinforce the New Testament narrative, giving us full personalities and backstories to go with the bits we already know. In fact, the filmmakers go to great lengths to get both the Scriptural and cultural details right. It’s clear they have a deep theological understanding of the material.
Funny and relatable, the series doesn’t just check off events as they occur chronologically in the Gospels. It uses flashbacks and quick references to the Old Testament to make a holistic case for Jesus as the Messiah.
CLIP: The man claimed to be God and you said nothing. I will petition Jerusalem, requesting permission to search the archives for all matters pertaining to such false prophecy. Will you oppose my petition, rabbi? The question on the mind of every man who reads my account will have to be what did Nicodemus do? So it’s all about politics and promotion for you, is it? It’s not to serve God. On the contrary teacher, it’s about the law. And the law is God. If I’m rewarded for that it’s because I learned from the very wisest. I will not oppose your petition. And Shmuel, you have learned nothing from me.
None of this to say that the show is perfect. Sets and costumes occasionally show evidence of budget constraints. And a few of the actors overplay their roles. My only serious gripe, though, is that every once in a while the script invents dialogue for Jesus that isn’t as careful as it should be.
Lines like asking Nicodemus what his heart is telling him miss the mark. Jesus knew better than anyone how deceitful our hearts are, so it’s unlikely He would have asked the Pharisee what he believed in those words.
But this feels more like rare carelessness than intentional mischaracterization. Especially as the rest of the scene is so earnest in capturing the spirit of John, Chapter 3. It would take a pharisaical spirit indeed to impugn such an excellent series over minor quibbles.
Put simply, The Chosen is one of the most engaging adaptations of the New Testament I’ve ever seen. We continue watching episode after episode not because we feel like we should support it as dutiful Christians, but because it’s entertaining and hard to stop.
CLIP: Simon, what troubles you? Nothing, just excited for the trip. You can tell me the truth. You’re telling me you don’t already know what’s in my head? That’s a conversation for another time. But for now…I’m the only one among us who is married. So you think I should have only called single people? Of course not. And I’m glad you didn’t. But Eden will be alone with her eema. You’re scared things could get worse and you wouldn’t be there. See? That’s what I mean. You already know anyway. Simon, everyone here already knows what you’re thinking most of the time. It doesn’t take God’s wisdom.
MEGAN BASHAM: Today is Friday, April 10th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. In times like these we cannot repeat the gospel to ourselves enough. Here’s George Grant with a special, Good Friday edition of Word Play.
GEORGE GRANT, COMMENTATOR: He was the Word of God. And by His Word, all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible—all things were created as He spoke them into existence.
He was the king of glory and the image of the invisible God. In Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. By His Word, all things hold together, that in everything He might be preeminent.
Though Pilate had acquitted Him three times, He was cruelly, unjustly punished. He who bore no sin, was wounded on our behalf. Though He was very God of very God, begotten not made, of one essence with the Father, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped: He made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. He was crucified for us and for our salvation.
Amazingly, He was born for this moment. It was for this humiliation that He came into the world. He was made incarnate so that His holy brow might be crowned with thorns. He was made in the likeness of a servant so that He might be mocked by the ones He had come to save. He left His throne in glory so that His back might bear the stripes for our iniquity, so that His hands and feet and side might be pierced for our transgressions.
Through the whole ordeal, He who was the Word spoke not a word. He stood silent in the face of the cursing, the mocking, the jeering. He quietly endured the shame of the crowd crying “Crucify Him,” the brazenness of the Sanhedrin falsely accusing, the centurions coarsely jesting. Not a word at the horror of the betrayal, the trial, the scourging, the condemnation.
It was just as Isaiah the prophet had predicted: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep before her shearers is silent, He did not open His mouth” (Isa 53:7). He did not speak because He was guilty. The guilt He bore was not His own of course. It was ours.
But then, at last hanging on the cross, receiving our chastisement, the Word of Truth, the Word of Life, the Word of God spoke. On the cross He cried out seven times—with words of forgiveness, redemption, covenant, substitution, suffering, triumph, and resolution.
Three times He addressed men: to the thief He promised Paradise; to His disciples He proffered covenant; to His tormenters He professed His agony.
But those words were punctuated by His perpetual communion with the Father. He prayed: once interceding for His murderers, once mourning His separation, once declaring His work finished, and finally, commending His spirit to the Father.
Seven times the dying savior spoke. For more than 12 hours He had been in the hands of men. Now He was again in the Father’s hands. The victory was won. “Hallelujah! What a Savior!”
I’m George Grant.
NICK EICHER: The World and Everything in It is a team sport. So we thank these strong players: Paul Butler, Janie B. Cheaney, Kent Covington, Kristen Flavin, Katie Gaultney, Kim Henderson, Anna Johansen, Leigh Jones, Trillia Newbell, Onize Ohikere, Mary Reichard, Jenny Rough, Jenny Lind Schmidt, Sarah Schweinsberg, Cal Thomas, and Emily Whitten.
Production assistance to help us keep socially distant, special thanks to: Josh Etter at Desiring God, to Barney Cargile for recording his quarantine diary, to Behnam Ben Taliblu and David Bahnsen for recording from home.
MEGAN BASHAM: Our audio engineers are Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz. Managing editor J-C Derrick and editor in chief Marvin Olasky keep things running smoothly and journalistically sound.
And it’s you who make it all possible. So thank you for listening and for supporting us.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
I hope you celebrate that rest this Resurrection weekend.
Lord willing, we’ll meet you back here on Monday.