Original Research - Special Collection: Wentzel van Huyssteen

Theology, philosophy of biology and virology: An interdisciplinary conversation in the time of COVID-19

Rian Venter
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 42, No 2 | a2354 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v42i2.2354 | © 2021 Rian Venter | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 August 2021 | Published: 20 October 2021

About the author(s)

Rian Venter, Department of Historical and Constructive Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) moment has stimulated multiple intellectual attempts to make sense of the pandemic. The complexity of the challenge obviously requires an interdisciplinary approach. The specific problem explored in the article is the question whether a dialogue between Virology and Philosophy of Biology on the one hand and theology on the other may open new possibilities for understanding the very nature of reality. The point of departure is that the interdisciplinary conversation is a practice of negotiation and not of addition. New developments in Virology are narrated and the conventional association of viruses as mere pathogens is countered with an appreciation of their age, abundance and evolutionary impact. The discipline of Philosophy of Biology is included in the conversation to underline the metaphysical consequences of thinking about viruses. In the theology of creation, interpretations which resist equating viruses merely as natural evil are narrated. The central proposal of the article, transpiring from the conversation, identifies the notion of equivocity as fundamental description of reality. This ontological insight may do justice to contemporary Virology and to the sense of Mystery in theology and the Christian doctrine of creation.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The article is an explicit attempt to engage two disciplines of the natural science – Virology and Philosophy of Biology, and theology. Contemporary developments in the state of scholarship of these disciplines are mentioned. A basis in ontology is proposed for the conversation, and a central insight transpiring from the disciplines is suggested – that of equivocity. An interdisciplinary conversation may give rise to a more nuanced insight into the nature of reality.


COVID-19; creation; evil; equivocity; interdisciplinarity; ontology; pandemic; philosophy of biology; virology


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