June 2, 2020

The 2019-nCoV Corona Virus – An Internet Monk Primer


There has been much talk and much misinformation being spread about the Corona Virus that is currently hitting China hard. As a statistician, I thought I would help to shed some light on the topic in terms that most of us can understand.

My data that I am using here is taken primarily from two sources:

1. The real time interactive map that John Hopkins University is using to present the current status and trend of the virus.

2. A Lancet Medical Journal article published a week ago and updated/corrected February 4th.

The first image is part of a map of China. The data was updated as of 7:43 p.m. EST on Thursday. It is changing rapidly! The largest red circles that you see represent the provinces that have at least 1000 cases. When I started writing this post earlier this evening, there was only one large red circle, it contained 22,000 of the approximate 31,000 cases. By 8:30 when I saved this map there were two large circles. By 9:00 p.m. there were three. Within the next day or two there will be several more. This by the way is only confirmed cases. There is likely a multiplier effect of those who had such mild symptoms, that they did not even register as cases.

So what do we know?

The virus originated in a market in Wuhan through animal human interaction.
Wuhan is a major transportation hub, and the start of the virus corresponded with the Chinese Lunar New Year, when many were travelling.

The virus is spreading at an exponential rate. The Lancet Journal article estimated a doubling of the number of cases every 6.4 days. From recent data, cumulative deaths are doubling about every four days.
In my graph below I show the cumulative number of deaths. I calculated a best fit line that shows the number of cumulative deaths equal to approximately 1.8 times the square of the number of days since January 20th. To simplify and illustrate: 5 days after January 20th the approximate number of deaths was 5 squared * 1.8 = 45. 10 days after January 20th, it would have been 10 squared * 1.8 = 180. Yesterday, 17 days after the baseline date our calculation is 17 squared * 1.8 = 520, slightly under the actual number of 637. By Sunday night the number of deaths will have climbed to 20 squared * 1.8 = 720. A week from then the number of deaths will in excess of 1300. A month from now, 5600. Two months from now, 16,500. I hope these numbers are inflated, but I don’t believe they are. By contrast, SARS killed around 800 people total.

It is spreading quickly because each person has been infecting approximately 2.6 other people.

Currently the virus is killing 2 to 3% of those known to be infected. This number is still very hard to judge as the number of true infections is unknown. Contrast this to SARS which killed 10% of those infected. 2019-nCoV is much less lethal than SARS, but much more contagious.

What does the future hold?

The authors of the Lancet study suggest that the virus will peak in Wuhan sometime in April or May. What the number of dead will be by then is anyone’s guess. The disease seems to be fairly unstoppable in China right now. Regions outside of Wuhan as experiencing the same exponential growth as Wuhan, but a week or two delayed. As they too become epidemic centers, the disease will continue to spread outwards.

So far, the rest of the World has been fairly fortunate. The virus has not been able to get much of a foothold outside of China. There are some countries as risk however, and places like Vietnam, Thailand, and Japan will bear close watching over the next two weeks. The greatest fear is that it might somehow make its way to a continent like Africa, where it is very hard to control the movement of people.

There is a possibility (the jury is still out on this) that people may be infecting others before they start to show symptoms. If so it will be very difficult to contain. Lancet warns that “Independent self-sustaining outbreaks in major cities globally could become inevitable because of substantial exportation of presymptomatic cases and in the absence of large-scale public health interventions.”

The authors of the Lancet study conclude:

Our findings suggest that independent self-sustaining human-to-human spread is already present in multiple major Chinese cities, many of which are global transport hubs with huge numbers of both inbound and outbound passengers (eg, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen)…
On the present trajectory, 2019-nCoV could be about to become a global epidemic in the absence of mitigation. Nevertheless, it might still be possible to secure containment of the spread of infection such that initial imported seeding cases or even early local transmission does not lead to a large epidemic in locations outside Wuhan. To possibly succeed, substantial, even draconian measures that limit population mobility should be seriously and immediately considered in affected areas, as should strategies to drastically reduce within-population contact rates through cancellation of mass gatherings, school closures, and instituting work-from-home arrangements, for example. Precisely what and how much should be done is highly contextually specific and there is no one-size-fits-all set of prescriptive interventions that would be appropriate across all settings.

My final thoughts.

Xenophobia (a prejudice against those from other countries) is on the rise in North America, especially against those who look Chinese. My city has a large prep school made up primarily of Chinese students. Many of them must be living fear of what is going on back home. They need our support and our prayers.

God, we pray for China.
We pray for those outside China, who have a real fear of this virus spreading to their countries. I think especially of places like Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, and the continent of Africa.
We pray for the health workers and their families who risk their lives in treating this every day.
We pray for wise decisions from our political leaders.
We pray that effective vaccines might be developed quickly.
We pray for hope, where there seems to be not much.
Amen.

I leave you with a picture of Dr. Li Wenliang. He was one of the whistle blowers who warned the world of the dangers of this virus. He passed away this morning after contracting the virus himself. He was 34.

I will be resuming regular Friday writing at Internet Monk. More on that to come next week.

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this. I’m a physician, although not practicing, and have been reading the articles on some flu blogs. This kind of distillation of information for lay people is so helpful. I haven’t seen really good articles in the mainstream media. I see a lot of xenophobia on social media and IRL which is disturbing. We need to be aware of the risks of the illness, but be smart about it. My husband and I are especially sensitive to this since we have an exchange student from Vietnam with us right now. We live in a very small town so she hasn’t felt any negativity related to the virus. And, she says that her family is fine and not concerned about their health. So, again, thank you. I found the statistical projections to be so helpful.

    • “This kind of distillation of information for lay people is so helpful. I haven’t seen really good articles in the mainstream media.”

      Between the typical lack of specialized knowledge among reporters, and the dictum that Sensationalism Sells, that is hardly surprising.

  2. Thank you, Mike. I’m very glad that iMonk decided to address this issue directly, from a perspective of faith and facts.

    Re: the risk of coronavirus to Africa: I work with a man originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (most recently from France), and he says that many Chinese business people go to Africa on a regular basis. He believes that coronavirus must already be there in a big way.

    Rest in peace, Dr. Li Wenliang. Lord be with him, and all other victims of coronavirus.

  3. senecagriggs says

    Do pandemics serve the will of God? [ I think so }

    How? [ I don’t know ]

    • senecagriggs says

      “As for God, His way is perfect; The Word of the Lord is proven: He is a shield to all who trust in Him.”
      Ps 18:30

      • I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these.

        Is. 45:7 KJV

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Your “I Have a Verse!” thus resolves the Paradox of Evil in the same way as Calvin and Mohammed. By making God Omnipotent but NOT Benevolent. By removing “God is all-Good” from the paradox. God can will Evil, do Evil, BE Evil, do any and all dirt He can to us Just Because He Can, and who are we to complain?
          In’shal’lah… Al’lah’u Akbar!

          The paradox of Evil:
          1) God is All-Powerful.
          2) God is All-Good.
          3) Evil Exists.
          Any two of these three axioms, No Problem.
          All three together: Paradox.

          • HUG, if your comment was directed at me…

            It wasn’t my intent to resolve theodicy, rather to demonstrate the absurdity of proof-texting and the attempt to resolve the problem by saying that God is “perfect in his ways” thus obvious bad things must be “God’s will.”

    • The only thing that should matter to the Christian is a faithful, caring, healing response to suffering and death. It doesn’t matter whether you think pandemics are the will of God or not; your opinion about that matter is devoid of value. Expressing it to people who are suffering is more likely to result in their hating the Christian God than finding any comfort in your words.

      • senecagriggs says

        And that is YOUR opinion Robert.

        I don’t think struggling with the Sovereignty of God is ever passe.

        • David Cornwell says

          Yes, I’ve always thought that God has a bad side. He wakes up in a bad mood and strikes the world with a pandemic. He loves us all so much, but sometimes when he’s tired he becomes angry and unreasonable. And if he can find some people — other than the white race — he will give them a good hard slap.

          So we may as well forget treating them or working for a cure. That would be going against the Sovereign Will of God. We sinned when we stopped polio and measles. They were the result of another Holy Tantrum. He always delighted in seeing young girls in iron lungs. He’d laugh and laugh — a holy laugh.

          He’s sorta the same when he sees souls piled in hell. Ask John Calvin.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            “IN’SHAL’LAH! IN’SHAL’LAH!”
            (As long as it’s SOMEBODY ELSE on the receiving end of the Holy Tantrum…)

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Abstract Theology going round and round while pastors’ widows have to eat out of dumpsters.

          • Michael Bell says

            Might have a post on that soon!

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              Do It.

              Here’s my contribution:
              1) Chrisitanese Cult Watch groups defining CULT as Theology instead of abusive control-freak behavior to their people and parsing Theology letter by letter, jot by tittle while ignoring abuses.
              2) “Pastors Widows eating out of Dumpsters” was something my writing partner/burned-out preacher told me was common in his denom. But “Be Warm and Well Filled — I’ll Pray For You(TM)” while getting over to the other side of the road.
              3) Before the Enlightement eased up things, we had 1800+ years of The Age of Faith. Over 18 centuries of Theology, Prayer, Theology, Devotions, and Theology. Anyone of learning went into Theology. And over half of children died before age 6 of now-preventable diseases. Women had to roll a saving throw vs Death every time they gave birth. You could and did die of infection from a small cut. Famine was normal. The only labor-saving device was still Slaves.

      • Remember Job’s Comforters…

    • It’s easy to be glib about “God’s will.”

    • Thanks for spreading your unhealthy view of God with everyone, Sen. It’s like an infectious virus itself.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Remember the movie Contaigion.
        According to the moviemakers, it’s actually about TWO epidemics.
        One is the main disease (a highly-communicable SARS originating in or near China).
        The other is the internet rumors, memes, and misinformation/disinformation.

  4. To possibly succeed, substantial, even draconian measures that limit population mobility should be seriously and immediately considered in affected areas….

    That may be necessary, but I haven’t the least trust that the current administration wouldn’t exploit this crisis in the US to suspend civil liberties for its own purposes rather than for the public health — perhaps suspend an election, along with other equally terrible things? When I hear the word draconian, I think of someone in the Oval Office who would have no problem living up to its connotations and denotations.

    • senecagriggs says

      Can we NOT discuss Mr. Trump today?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        To 81% of American Evangelicals (and an even higher percentage of Celebrity Christian Leaders), he is LOOOORD. (DT Prayer Coins? To hold in your hands and start at while you pray? Really? At $45 a pop? Really?)

        That makes it a Christian subject, especially for a blog for survivors of the Evangelical Circus wandering the Post-Evangelical Wilderness.

        Curving back to Wuhan Coronavirus, local talk radio was asking “We’ve spent millions on homeless shelters and affordable housing in this state and have yet to see a single bed or apartment (at over half a million each). How can China build 1000-bed hospitals in two days?” Immediate answer: “Step 1 — Become a Dictatorship. Step 2 — Do It (by decree).”

      • Christiane says

        “Demagogues thrive in dim light.”
        ? Garrison Keillor

    • Christiane says

      as for draconian, he couldn’t even get through the prayer breakfast without starting (out of respect for senecagriggs, I will not mention the name HE mentioned for us)

      elephant in the room is a good status for him anyway . . . we all know he’s THERE

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        The guy just cannot resist any opportunity to brag about himself, can he?

        • Christiane says

          but at a prayer breakfast???

          ??????????????

          • At the prayer breakfast he said he disagrees with the teaching that we should love our neighbor. I mean Jesus was smart and holy and all, but nothing in comparison to the stable genius.

            What he said at that prayer breakfast was a disgrace. I wish Pelosi and the others had walked out when he was attacking them.

  5. “Dr. Li Wenliang… was one of the whistle blowers who warned the world of the dangers of this virus. He passed away this morning after contracting the virus himself. He was 34.”

    And he was harassed and arrested by the authorities for simply sharing his concerns with his co-workers. The numbers you post here are scary enough, but they are ultimately based on the information that the Chinese government has released publicly. And I have ZERO trust that the Chinese government has fully disclosed the extent of this epidemic.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And he was harassed and arrested by the authorities for simply sharing his concerns with his co-workers.

      The actual Chinese Newspeak term is “Disturbing Social Harmony”.

    • thatotherjean says

      Dr. Li joins the long list of people who, had they been listened to at the time, would have spared the world a great deal of suffering. May he rest in peace and his memory endure.

  6. Oh, and welcome back MB.

  7. I would like to know more about the few in our country who have come down with the virus, but never hear any updates. Does anyone know if they have recovered, or are they still sick? Do doctors have any idea on how long it takes to get over this virus, and when a person is no longer infectious.

    • The recovered stats seem to be lagging. I know we have had recoveries in Canada that aren’t showing up yet.

    • The person in Washington state has been determined to be recovered and allowed to go home. A chart of his sympoms over time can be seen at 9:10 in this youtube video. (https://youtu.be/jbvibANxARg?t=550). Discussion started earlier close to the 8 minute mark and it gets put onto a calendar around 11:45. He was hospitalized 16 days. After the discussion of him is the discussion of the California couple.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Check the comment thread to that video for some REAL Conspiracy Craziness.
        Mostly being done as Innuendo (“Hmmmmmmmm…?”)

        Including WHO being part of The One World Government, FEMA coffin warehouses, Bill Gates, and even hints of Nephilim. (“Hmmmmmm….”) One specifically explaining the death rate in Hunan Province being so much higher as Deliberate Plague to cull Dissidents which broke containment.

        The Second Epidemic (of misinformation and rumor) is already spreading faster than the First (the coronavirus proper).

        • Yeah that youtuber and his audience are more on the “sky is falling” side about everything. Not my preferred information sources, but it was the one that actually answered Jon’s query. I prefer MedCram’s youtube series for most purposes.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            It was the commenter indirectly hinting at Nephilim which really got me.

            And “Coming One World Government” IS a Christianese Code Word.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              There was also comment speculation (and you know how reliable YouTube comments are) that Chinese/East Asians might be unusually susceptible to this virus and complications. Genetics CAN play a role in disease resistance, but that has become Thoughtcrime these days.

              Though the comment thread still has a ways to go to get to the weirdness factor of YouTube comments on Paranormal videos. Those usually have a Christian(TM) weighing in with “DEMONS!” and the Plan of Salvation within the first ten comments. What a town, huh?

      • Thanks

  8. One thing that struck me on the Johns Hopkins website was the comparison of total deaths versus total recovered. For most provinces affected, it’s something like 1 or 2 deaths versus 60 or 80 recovered, which sounds hopeful. But for Hubei province (which includes the epicenter of Wuhan) it’s currently 618 deaths versus 865 recovered. I would love to hear an epidemiologist or infectious diseases specialist weigh in on what this means.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      So would I.
      As I said above, there’s YouTube comment speculation on whether Asians might be more susceptible (or it just hits them harder), but that wouldn’t explain such a discrepancy between ONE PROVINCE of China and the rest of the country. More stimulant for the Conspiracy Rumor Mill. That death rate for Hubei Province is even worse than for Ebola.

      • Regions that are still trying to prevent the virus from spreading to them will be extra vigilant and trying to catch and report every last case. On the other hand, Hubei Province’s resources are stretched to the limit right now; there’s no way they can screen for and detect every case. And there’s quite possibly an incentive to people who are worried they’re infected to not come to the attention of the authorities unless they need hospital care, because they and their families would be isolated even more strictly. So, one possible explanation is that the death rate is fairly consistent (aside from being deadlier for people with weakened immune systems), but the total number of infections is being under-reported in some regions.

        Or, an even simpler explanation is that the majority of infections in the Wuhan area happened before they started screening for the virus, so the numbers there don’t include the population of people who already got infected and recovered before the detailed record-keeping began. But, the numbers would include all the deaths attributable to the virus, from the very beginning.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          And there’s quite possibly an incentive to people who are worried they’re infected to not come to the attention of the authorities unless they need hospital care, because they and their families would be isolated even more strictly.

          Especially if such “hospital care” involved being sealed in a quarantine hospice and left to die. (After all, with a population of over a billion, who cares about a millon deaths? The population will breed back in a year or two. Asian cultures tend to emphasize the Group over the Individual — some in a more benign way, some not-so benign — and the transfusion of Communist philosophy from Europe would just cement this axiom among the powerful.)

          “May you come to the attention of those in power” is said to be a traditional Chinese curse.

  9. Although the current growth is clearly exponential, there’s always a risk in assuming a trend is going to stay exponential. A good example is the world population – 50 years ago, the trend was exponential and people were predicting extreme overpopulation, but instead the growth has plateaued and will probably level out at around 10 billion.

    Similarly, we’ll only know in retrospect how effective the quarantine, etc. have already been. At some point there will be an inflection point where the rate of new infections begins to slow, and there’s no way to know whether that will be a week from now or months from now. In terms of public health policy we need to put safeguards in place based on the worst-case scenario, but it’s still quite possible that the worst-case scenario won’t materialize.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Natural systems and populations often show an “Sigmoid Curve”, a S-shaped curve that starts out exponential (always increasing at an ever-increasing rate) until it hits some sort of “carrying capacity” of its environment and plateaus at or near the carrying capacity. The result is a “S-shaped” curve, easier to show than describe:

      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/88/Logistic-curve.svg

      (This example is a mathematical function; natural population dynamics is not quite as clean and symmetrical, but does follow the same pattern. The important takeaway IRL is that a Sigmoid Curve cannot be distinguished from an exponential curve until it starts to plateau.)

      I was first introduced to the concept years ago in a Stephen Jay Gould essay, after a lot of verbal beatdowns from proto-Singularity geeks giddy as puppies over The Fact that the rate of Technological Advance would always increase exponentially (faster and faster and faster) until It Became Infinite (AND HERE’ THE MATH TO PROVE IT, STUPID!).

    • Absolutely correct Michael Z. The best fit line that I had today was substantially different to the best fit line that I had yesterday. The Lancet article writers expect a peak in April and May in Wuhan, while it will continue to grow elsewhere. Clearly that does not fit my line. Lancet did point out that cutting the rate of transmission would significantly impact what the curve would look like.

  10. “To possibly succeed, substantial, even draconian measures that limit population mobility should be seriously and immediately considered in affected areas, as should strategies to drastically reduce within-population contact rates through cancellation of mass gatherings, school closures, and instituting work-from-home arrangements, for example”

    Ironies and paradoxes abound. The Chinese state, draconian in matters of political dissent and military security are least prepared for this kind of event. The first tendency is always towards secrecy, The people inherently distrust the authorities and assume in most cases they’re being lied to because in most cases they are.

    Only an open society with a free flow of information can really deal with this kind of thing. What’s needed here is communication not soldiers on the street corners. The Chinese, adept at the soldiers on the street corners approach, find themselves stymied at every turn.

    • Michael Bell says

      Interesting, I had some opposite thoughts. Imagine trying to quarantine L.A. A draconian government is able to do things that a free and open government cannot.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        As they snarked on morning drive-time radio:
        “How can China build thousand-bed hospitals in three days while doing anything here takes years of lititgation?
        Step One: Become a Dictatorship.
        Step Two: …..
        Step Three: Get It Done.”

        And there are a lot out there who are very comfortable with that approach — as long as the Dictator agrees completely with them.

        • thatotherjean says

          Maybe it’s possible to build a large hospital in 10 days or less–but I wouldn’t want to be housed on the second floor of that hospital. Concrete takes time to cure, and many corners are likely to have been cut. I hope it doesn’t collapse as quickly as it was built.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Imagine trying to quarantine L.A. A draconian government is able to do things that a free and open government cannot.

        Remember all the Conspiracy Paranoia about FEMA in the Eighties and Homeland Security after 9/11?

        And that Eighties phrase “Prepare To Do What Has To Be Done” you heard from Eighties Survivalists (the extreme fringe of what are now called “preppers”)? There were some real scary attitudes going around back then near the end of the Cold War

  11. I attend a church that is relatively high risk for this. In a western city with a confirmed case: check. Have international college students from China and Taiwan attending regularly: check. Have people in the congregation who minister to international students on nearby college campuses: check. Have an adult in the congregation with a father from Wuhan who has visited here since the beginning of the disease: check.

    But that isn’t reason to panic. Our biggest related health and prayer concern is that the father from Wuhan suffered either a heat attack or stroke (I forget which) after returning to Wuhan, and getting normal healthcare there is difficult in these times. As a church we haven’t stepped up precautions beyond the normal winter season one of having hand sanitizer at the entrances.

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    What does the future hold?

    Figuring out how I can get from SoCal to the Black Lady in Boulder without having to pass through The Walking Dude’s Vegas.

  13. God is the author of life, not death. Pandemics are not in His will for humanity to thrive.

    Praying that God helps mutate the thing to something less harmful. THAT is probably in His will.

    • And if it’s not his will, then I’m going to argue with God, like Abraham did, and maybe he’ll change his mind as he did in that case.

      There is more comfort in the face of epidemic, and more spiritual wisdom concerning it, in Albert Camus’ existentialist/atheistic novel The Plaguethan in all the Christian arguments about God’s sovereignty.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I remember Rabbi Boteach writing that the main difference in attitude between Judaism and the other two Abrahmaic monotheisms is that Judaism struggles and argues with God (like Abraham’s haggling and Jacob’s wrestling match) while Christianity and Islam passively submit to Whatever God Saith.

  14. Long Absent says

    Thank you for this! I have read a lot of articles concerning Corona Virus but your blog post here is the probably the most informational and helpful thing I have come across. An odd statement considering the nature of the site I find this on!

    • Michael Bell says

      Hi Long Absent,

      Thanks for your comment. I got my start in blogging writing about religious stats for this site. There are in fact four Mikes have had a hand in writing for this site.

      Mike Spencer, the founder and original InternetMonk who passed away in 2010.
      Chaplain Mike, the current primary writer.
      Mike the Geologist, who writes primarily on the intersection of Faith and Science on Thursdays.
      And me, Mike Bell, who writes Fridays when live doesn’t get in the way.

      I would encourage you to check out some of my other Stats articles (by clicking on my name), or check out some of the articles by Mike the Geologist.

  15. senecagriggs says

    “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.”

    ? R.C. Sproul, Chosen By God: Know God’s Perfect Plan for His Glory and His Children

    __________

    I truly believe the late R.C. Sproul was absolutely correct. I don’t believe the Corona Virus is out of God’s control

    • I’m left speechless.

      • Oh, wait… no, I’m not!

        Controlling every molecule, eh? There it is, PROOF that God DOES care who wins the Super Bowls!!!

    • It’s a huge theological difficulty when “God’s will” and/or “God’s control” become “bigger” than God himself – when God is constrained by one of his attributes. If God is not free, God is not God. God is all the ***greater*** for his providence to work in and through being free himself and respecting our freedom (such as it is – it’s not unlimited, but it’s significant).

      And if God is not good – if he is any way the author of evil and/or death – he is not worth worshiping. This is why I have never been attracted to Calvinism. Doesn’t matter how tight the doctrinal propositions are; God’s character has to be good, or it’s all a wash, and we *should* become atheists.

      Christ on the Cross is the supreme revelation of What God Is Like. It’s also the reply to the paradox of evil as noted by HUG above. In “The Brothers Karamazov”, Christ’s reply to the Grand Inquisitor is to kiss him. Worth pondering.

      Dana

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        It’s a huge theological difficulty when “God’s will” and/or “God’s control” become “bigger” than God himself – when God is constrained by one of his attributes. If God is not free, God is not God.

        My writing partner calls that “Socratic Atheism.”
        Because God is not God, that Attribute is. (Like sovereignty or extreme predestination – God is not God, but just another puppet doing what He has been Predestined to do by the REAL Prime Mover/First Cause — Eh, Kismet?)

    • While I think people of faith can find comfort in the concept of God knowing and overseeing everything, I’m not sure of the practical value of that with regard to something like a possible pandemic. Seneca, I urge you to read the article on the Bulletin Board about Martin Luther’s pastoral counsel in the time of plague. Few believed more strongly in God’s sovereignty than Luther, but he didn’t go there when advising Christians about such matters.

      And don’t forget that, according to Genesis, God created humans to be his image in the world, to subdue the evil in the world and have dominion — exercise stewardship — over the earth. God did not just put us here and say, “Trust me, I have it all in control.”

      • But there is something intriguing about unabashed deterministic Calvinism. There must be something attractive to that mindset in thinking you have absolutely no control over anything. It must be kind of a relief.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          It is a relief.
          No need to change, no need to think, Nothing to do except go with the flow.
          “Whatever Will Happen, Happens. Whatever Will Be, Will Be.”

          I remember reading years ago about British (and presumably Western) converts to the most Extreme forms of Islam. That seemed to be a major factor; raised in a “Do Your Own Thing” atomistic environment, they burned out with the burden and went for an Islam where everything Is Written — how to act, how to dress, what to think in micromanaging detail. And they were Relieved.

    • David Greene says

      I would like to know where in the BIBLE it ever says god has all the power. It seems to me that he has granted some power to people and if we have some limited amount of power then there is some power God does not have. And if we do not use that power to, for example, take care of widows and orphans then some widows and orphans are not going to get taken care of.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I think the word is “delegated” instead of “granted”.
        God has deliberately chosen to work indirectly, through His people.

        It is similar to the fantasy background trope of “Remote Monotheism” (most prominently in The Silmarillion) where a single Big-G God delegates authority and control to lesser supernatural beings (“small-g gods”, such as the Valar in Tolkien) as intermediates to run the day-by-day cosmic routine.

    • “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.”

      Quick, lock up all the molecules!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Seneca, get back to us when YOU contract Hunan Coronavirus and we’ll see.

      (This reminds me so much of The Pious Piper and “Don’t Waste Your Cancer”; his theology of Cancer as God’s Will and God’s Blessing lasted only until HE was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. After which he didn’t “Submit to God’s Will” in the form of Gleason Scores but went with secular medical treatment. Funny how things can change when YOU’RE the one under threat.)

  16. senecagriggs says

    Luke 12:7

    Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

    _____________

    You can trust God thru the Corona Virus. It has not caught Him unaware.
    _______

    The Corona pandemic is scary.

  17. The ones who speak most of God’s sovereignty show the least compassion for the afflicted. It’s almost as though power, & not love, is what they really admire. Which is weird, considering Jesus.

    • Amen.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I’ve heard it said that the main difference between Chrisitanity and Islam is Christianity emphasizes the Love and Personality of God while Islam emphasizes the Omnipotence and Power. With the latter, you all too easily end up with “A God who is Omnipotent but NOT Benevolent”; add Entropy over time and you end up worshipping that Omnipotent Will, i.e. POWER. God is not God, His Infinite POWER is God.

      This also explains why American Christians are such suckers for Donald Trump. He becomes a personification of POWER and offers Christians (in return for Utter Loyalty to Him) access to that POWER. Pretty much an analogy of the theology you alluded to in the Here and Now.

      (Aside — According to Slacktivist, after the Last Judgment Scene in Left Behind: Volume 12 — which hits almost all the Christian Culture War talking points — the two Author Self-Inserts walk away from the Throne with only one thought: “Now we can build a truly Christian Nation.”)

  18. Michael Bell says

    I will update this post in a week, either here or part of a new post.