Vinoth Ramachandra – Beyond the Vaccine

Vinoth Ramachandra, Secretary for Dialogue & Social Engagement for the IFES

The human costs of the pandemic are mounting in lives lost, economic collapse, children dropping out of schools and lost livelihoods. But there is now a glimmer of light in the form of remarkable vaccines developed and coming on board at an unprecedented rate. These vaccines are safe and offer hope to many. 

Yet there are serious questions about who will have access to them, and how soon. And lurking behind all this is the all-important question of whether the exclusive pursuit of “technological fixes,” apart from giving rise to new sets of problems, can ever be a substitute for addressing the deeper moral, ecological and political challenges the world has been ignoring and which have intensified and spread COVID-19. Unless these challenges are addressed, we will both face a high risk of more pandemics and fail to learn and grow from this one.  

Here’s the reality: The World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly warned that several viruses similar to COVID-19 are on the horizon unless we take preventive measures. Five new diseases are emerging in people every year, any one of which has the potential to spread globally.  Furthermore, the 2020 Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Workshop warned that an estimated 1.7 million currently undiscovered viruses are thought to exist in mammal and avian hosts. Of these, up to half of them could have the ability to infect humans.  

What are the underlying causes of these pandemics? While their origins are in diverse microbes carried by animal reservoirs, their emergence is driven by human activities. These include agricultural expansion, land-use change, and wildlife trade which bring wildlife, livestock and people into closer contact, allowing animal microbes to move into humans. This can lead to infections, sometimes outbreaks, and more rarely into true pandemics that spread through road networks, urban slums and global travel.  

Here is the bottom line we must face. Many of the drivers of pandemics are similar to those that drive climate change. It is our unsustainable global consumption habits, driven by demand in developed countries and emerging economies, as well as by demographic pressure, that must change. Scientific and economic analyses warn that unless we make transformative changes in our taken-for-granted ‘lifestyles,’ the costs of climate change coupled with more regular pandemics will prove disastrous for the entire human race. Notwithstanding technological breakthroughs, this will be a century of crises, many of them more dangerous than what we are currently experiencing.  

We now know what it’s like to have a full-on global-scale crisis, one that disrupts everything. The world has come to feel different, with every assumption about safety and predictability turned on its head. Yet we must remember that the conditions of going “back-to-normal” are what allowed for the COVID-19 pandemic in the first place. As the Intergovernmental Platform warns: “The business-as-usual approach to pandemics is based on containment and control after a disease has emerged and relies primarily on reductionist approaches to vaccine and therapeutic development rather than on reducing the drivers of pandemic risk to prevent them before they emerge.” 

“Once the threat of COVID-19 recedes,
there should not be any return to ‘business-as-usual’ 
whether within or between nations.”

How can faith, “seeking understanding” as always, direct our walk into the darkness of the future? The moral theologian Oliver O’Donovan raises this question, and answers in terms of Christian hope: “No act of ours can be a condition for the coming of God’s Kingdom. God’s Kingdom, on the contrary, is the condition for our acting; it underwrites the intelligibility of our purposes” (in Self, World, and Time). And hear the novelist Marilynne Robinson, a sane public voice in a time of religious and secularist deception: “[B]y nature we participate in eternal things – justice, truth, compassion, love.  We have a vision of these things we have not arrived at by reason, have rarely learned from experience, have not found in history. We feel the lack. Hope leads us toward them” (in What Are We Doing Here). 

This is not a time for nostalgia or national posturing. Once the threat of COVID-19 recedes, there should not be any return to “business-as-usual” whether within or between nations. If we ever needed globally-minded statesmen and stateswomen, as opposed to mere politicians, it is now. 

Dr. Vinoth Ramachandra lives in Sri Lanka and is the Secretary for Dialogue & Social Engagement for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. He holds a doctoral degree in nuclear engineering from the University of London. His books include Gods That Fail, Faiths in Conflict, Subverting Global Myths and, most recently published Sarah’s Laughter: Doubt, Tears, and Christian Hope. His blog is

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Marching for Science | Vinoth Ramachandra

Source: Marching for Science | Vinoth Ramachandra

Dr Ramachandra, prophetically again, about how science undermines itself these days, by becoming a servant of Big Business.

A New Reformation | Vinoth Ramachandra

Source: A New Reformation | Vinoth Ramachandra

My precious virtual friend Vinoth Ramachandra, the IFES Secretary for Dialogue & Social Engagement, wrote today in an email:

Dear friends,
Karin and I are often asked about the biggest ministry challenges we face. We have no hesitation in saying that the biggest challenges come from Christians: how to address the rampant mindlessness, divisiveness and lack of integrity that we find (not only here in Sri Lanka but in many other countries that we visit) and to model a different way of following Jesus.
I’ve written about this on my Blog (“A New Reformation?”)
Please pass on the link to any pastors, students or academics/ professionals whom you think should read this. If they disagree or are “offended”, please invite them to engage with me on my Blog.
warm regards,


So, here it is, for your consideration. And, if you disagree, write to Vinoth on his blog. He will certainly respond.

The American (Eastern Orthodox) theologian David Bentley Hart raises some thought-provoking questions about the American church that if raised by others would immediately be brushed aside as symptomatic of “anti-Americanism”. In an article (“The Angels of Sacré-Coeur”) first published in 2011, Hart writes:

“It is very much an open and troubling question whether American religiosity has the resources to help sustain a culture as a culture- whether, that is, it can create a meaningful future, or whether it can only prepare for the end times. Is the American religious temperament so apocalyptic as to be incapable of culture in any but the most local and ephemeral sense? Does it know of any city other than Babylon the Great or the New Jerusalem? For all the moral will it engenders in persons and communities, can it cultivate the kind of moral intelligence necessary to live in eternity and in historical time simultaneously, without contradiction?”

And he ends with the sober judgment: “European Christendom has at least left a singularly presentable corpse behind. If the American religion were to evaporate tomorrow, it would leave behind little more than the brutal banality of late modernity.”

Harsh words, perhaps, but they stem from a passion to see the Lordship of Christ embracing and permeating every area of the church’s life and engagement with the world. The apostle Paul too used harsh language in denouncing the way the face of Christ was distorted by both false teaching and behaviour inconsistent with the Gospel.

American Christian Fundamentalism (ACF) has made deep inroads into churches all over the world since the Second World War, and its influence has been magnified with the rise of satellite TV and the Internet. I have often said that, with the decline of old-style European theological liberalism, ACF poses a far bigger threat to the global church than Islamist fundamentalism. Why? Because the biggest threats arise not from those who can only kill the body but from those who kill our souls in the name of religion.

Here are four reasons, among others, for my concern:


Continue reading “A New Reformation | Vinoth Ramachandra”

Vinoth Ramachandra – Pocket-Sized Gods?

Vinoth Ramachandra

The Malaysian Church, in recent decades, was engaged in a prolonged legal battle with their Islamist-influenced government which prohibited non-Muslims from using the word Allah to refer to the supreme God and creator. Church leaders received directives stating that several words of Arabic origin, including Allah, Nabi (prophet) and Al Kitab (Bible) were not to be used by non-Muslims as Arabic was the language of Muslims. Usage by Christians would sow the seeds of “confusion”. The import of Malay Bibles printed in Indonesia (which used Allah) was effectively banned.

Christians countered by pointing out that Allah was the common term used to refer to the supreme God long before Islam came into existence in North Africa. Arab Christians continue to worship God as Allah and Malay-speaking Christians have also been using Allah for centuries. Far from sowing “confusion”, it has facilitated communication and promoted mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims.

Clearly this was more than a matter of official historical ignorance. Islamists fearful of the conversion of Muslims sought to deter the latter from reading the Bible by claiming that Christians and Muslims worship different Gods. They have been successful. Christians lost the legal battle, with dire consequences for the future of social justice and religious harmony in Malaysia.

How ironic, then, to find these Islamist arguments flourishing among conservative Christians in the so-called American Bible Belt. Continue reading “Vinoth Ramachandra – Pocket-Sized Gods?”

Vinoth Ramachandra on the Priority in the Gospel

Vinoth Ramachandra, InterVarsity

You have read already on this blog about the controversy created at the Lausanne congress in Cape Town by the one-sided presentation of the Reformed Gospel (whatever that means) by the well-known preacher John Piper.

Rene Padilla also alluded to it in his evaluation of this event that I have published yesterday.

Here is now another reaction to this controversial presentation, this time from Vinoth Ramachandra, one of the most important leaders of the student organisation InterVarsity. I imagine you understand, implicitly, that I agree with Vinoth’s analysis. Continue reading “Vinoth Ramachandra on the Priority in the Gospel”

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