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Coronavirus Series Part I

Coronavirus at the Crossroads of Faith and Science Part I: Is the Pandemic a Punishment?

Together, the world is experiencing a frightening time as we confront the coronavirus pandemic. It’s natural to have questions about this crisis, and one of the most troubling questions we were hearing from faithful people all over the globe was, “Is the pandemic a punishment for sins?”

GBHEM decided to ask this – and other questions about the disease’s cause and effects – to two experts. In Part I of its ongoing e-panel series, “Coronavirus at the Crossroads of Faith and Science,” GBHEM sought answers from Dr. James E.K. Hildreth and Professor Randy L. Maddox.

Hildreth is the president of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN and is one the United States’ foremost experts on infectious diseases. He holds a Ph.D. in immunology from Oxford University and an M.D. from Johns Hopkins University. Hildreth is an internationally recognized leader in HIV and AIDS research and has been spearheading efforts to combat COVID-19 in Tennessee and beyond.

Maddox is the William Kellon Quick Professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies at Duke Divinity School and a globally renowned theologian and Wesleyan scholar. He is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and author of numerous articles and books including, “Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology.”

When asked, “Is the pandemic a punishment for sins?” Hildreth and Maddox clarified that the simple answer is “no” and then explained why.

They answered many of our most common medical and theological questions about the virus and addressed some frequent misconceptions. Hildreth explained the medical science of this infectious disease and how it travels from person to person, while Maddox taught us what the Bible and John Wesley have to teach us about reacting to illness.

You can view their responses to individual questions in the short videos below or watch the full recording on our YouTube Channel.

Is the pandemic a punishment for sins?
Professor Randy L. Maddox explains how Christ answered this question and why we should see the pandemic as a time to model care and mercy over all God’s works.
Why is the virus spreading?
Dr. James E.K. Hildreth gives us the medical explanation of why the virus is spreading.
How can we help slow the spread of the virus?
Dr. James E.K. Hildreth explains tactics for protecting ourselves and our neighbors from COVID-19.

Where do you see opportunities for hope?
Professor Randy L. Maddox points to the goodwill of humankind and how he has seen faith put into practice during this time.

Would you like to suggest a topic for a future installation of “Coronavirus at the Crossroads of Faith and Science”? Email us at

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