God at Work in Us

This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Rev. Raymond Hylton,
FPCE Senior Pastor.

Dear friends,

I am not sure if you saw Governor Andrew Cuomo’s interview on CNN on Monday, where he said, “God didn’t stop the spread of the virus, we did.”

What I am about to say does not attack Mr. Cuomo. This is America. People have the freedom to speak and express their views. But I would like to make a brief probe into his comments because they do reflect the relationship between faith and our culture’s response to the pandemic.

In one sense, the Governor is right.

As human beings, made in the image of God, we do possess the ability to choose what is wise and sensible. Social distancing, washing hands, wearing masks and gloves — not to mention the truly heroic frontline efforts of our medical professionals and “essential workers” — all are based and working on sound medical science and good epidemiological practices for combating this virus.

But there is a sense in which he is wrong.

The Governor’s sense of God, at least as evidenced in his statement on Monday, is typical of secular culture’s deistic view of God. God may be the Creator of the world, in this view, but this God is detached from the machinations of the material world: The running of the world is now up to humans in accordance with (or against) predictable laws of logic and science.

This is exclusive Humanism at its “best.”  In this world view, humans can find meaning, help, significance without any appeal to the Divine or in transcendence. In this kind of closed system, we are alone in our quest to survive and fight all enemies and threats to human existence.

I don’t know about you, but the notion that human beings are the sole arbiter of meaning, ethical value, and purpose in the universe is rather depressing. You don’t have to look too far back in human history or too far abroad in the news today to see what a hideous botch we humans regularly make of world events, large and small.

Our track record of managing the world without God’s supernatural help does not inspire confidence. Our greed, pride, perpetual warfare, Holocaust, ethnic cleansings, slavery, Jim Crow laws, environmental destruction — these are just a few headline examples of our inability to live with ourselves without God.

As opposed to excarnation, where God is just a set of external, abstract beliefs divorced from our common reality, we Christians celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ. He took on our flesh, walked among us, entered our messy life circumstances to redeem the world. Scripture presents a God who is called Immanuel — God with us (Matthew 1:23). God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son (John 3:16).

In the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, he sent the Holy Spirit to empower the church to be agents of the Kingdom of God in this world.

Just so, God works and we are called to work. It is God who works in you to will and to do his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). We will never be able to take any credit for our lives; even our highest accomplishments were enabled in us by God, for the good pleasure of God.   

Instead, like King David, let us always confess, O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name! But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace (I Chronicles 29:14-15).

 Tonight at 7 pm, I invite you to join me on a Zoom call to pray. We do not live in a closed world system, thanks be to God. We live in a world that is spiritually porous and open to the activity of God. This is why we pray. I hope you will join me. Use the link below to connect by phone or online.

 Trusting in the power of God to lead us,

Pastor Ray Hylton