“because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” Romans 8:21, NKJV
We know from the book of Genesis that when God had completed each step of creation, He saw that it was good. What are to we make of this, though? There are some who declare that everything we seen in nature today is inherently good, because the initial creation was good. In particular, discussions of the Corona virus (SARS-CoV-2 in particular) have led some to argue that the virus is good as well. This is frequently followed by rather painful semantic argument that “disease” is separate from “disease causing organism”, when discussions around the transmission of disease arise. The disease, one can argue, isn’t transmitted, just the virus. We’ll address this point a bit later on.
It would perhaps be useful to delve into the literal 6 day creation vs. evolution debate, but I don’t think its necessary in this case. I’m interested in the state of the cosmos when man was created, vs. the state of the cosmos after the fall. We are told in Genesis 3 that God declares that the very ground is cursed because of what Adam did (I note that it doesn’t declare that God changed anything about the created order. The implication is that Adam caused creation to become corrupted). This theme is played out in some of the hymns of Forgiveness Sunday (the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise), and then again at the Nativity, where we can only then look forward to Christ restoring creation to a state where the curse no longer exists. There is no corruption.
“O miserable soul, you have departed far from God through your carelessness; you have been deprived of the delight of Paradise and parted from the angels; you have been led down into corruption, How are you fallen!” – Canticle VI, Forgiveness Sunday
“O Paradise, share in the sorrow of your master who is brought to poverty, and with the sound of your leaves pray to the Creator that He may not keep your gate closed for ever. I am fallen , in Your compassion have mercy on me.” – Canticle VI, Kontakion, Forgiveness Sunday.
In Genesis 3 we also see that because of Adam’s actions, the ground will now bring forth thorns and thistles. It appears that his actions caused new things to arise that would no longer be considered good. This is particularly interesting given that the three main theories of where viruses come from, have them starting from something else. The first theory is that they developed from genetic material in earlier single cell organisms. There are certain viruses that have traits that appear as if this is the case. The second theory, which appears to be true for other classes of viruses, posits that the virus was originally an organism capable of reproducing on its own, but came to a place where it needed to rely on another organism to reproduce. The third theory, which is somewhat more controversial, is that viruses may represent the original self replicating organism. Even in this third case, what we have now is something that relies on another organism to reproduce (I am admittedly playing fast and loose with terminology, as calling a virus an organism may imply that it is living, and that debate is still very much ongoing). What makes viruses dangerous, by and large, is that they need a host in order to reproduce, and they damage or kill that host in the process of reproduction. While it is true that in the case of SARS-CoV-2, the worst of the disease comes from our immune response to the virus, the virus wouldn’t be much of a problem except that it infects us, and starts destroying large numbers of cells.
In all cases, though, the virus is a corruption from something that existed before it. Therefore, one can easily argue that it is not part of that which God called good, but rather a corruption. The result of the ground being cursed as a result of Adam’s actions. We can only hope that restoration promised in the hymns of the Nativity and elsewhere will result in the elimination of all viruses. Fr. Hovorun’s article would have us believe, I guess, that viruses would be around even after the second coming. Apparently continuing to infest healthy cells, take over their reproductive machinery, but, not causing disease somehow?
As for the semantic argument that disease is different from disease causing organism, that argument is used to hand wave away statements from the Church Fathers about how disease cannot be transmitted via communion. Using the most precise definition of terms, of course, disease is never transmitted anyways (perhaps genetic disease would be the exception). Thus statements by the Fathers are merely absurd statements of the obvious. Of course communion won’t transmit disease, because nothing will. However, I think the Fathers meant more than stating the obvious.
One final item of note. Hovorun asserts that Christ would have carried around viruses and transmitted them. This means that Christ would be the primary cause of many people coming down with influenza, and many other diseases. Does that actually make sense?