Tag Archives: COVID-19

A better way of dealing with Covid-19

‘How much have we been duped and sold down the river by the response?’

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[COVID-19 disease, image courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)]

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article appeared in On Line Opinion, 31 August 2020, A better way of dealing with Covid-19

I was waiting to see my local Dr this week and scrolled through Google News on my mobile. I was shocked to hear Sky News host, Alan Jones, state that ‘people are being swept up into a sense of hysteria and alarmism around COVID-19’ (10 August 2020).

Alan Jones slammed our political leaders for not showing leadership in the Covid-19 pandemic. He said more people died in Australia in 2019 from influenza than from Covid-19 in 2020.

And there was no closing of borders and wrecking the economy in all states and territories.

It would be misplaced to discard Jones’ views because you disagree with his worldview and place him in the ‘right wing’ category of commentators. It would be wrong-headed to do that as the evidence has not been presented.

1. People dying from flu – with a vaccine

His point was, ‘More people are dying from the flu with a vaccine than are dying from Coronavirus without a vaccine’. ‘Eighty per cent of Covid-19 cases are considered mild. But nearly 99% of Covid-19 patients experience the same symptoms – fever, dry cough, and fatigue – at different levels of severity’.

A check of the Australian statistics revealed a total of 705 influenza-associated deaths were notified between January and September 2019, compared to 417 in 2017. However, this figure reached 745 deaths in 2017, reflecting a later seasonal peak. These counts were not statistically significant in their differences (654-759 vs 692-800).

The 2017 season had moderate clinical severity based on ICU admissions among hospitalised cases’ (Global Biosecurity, Severity of the 2019 influenza season in Australia- a comparison between 2017 and 2019 H3N2 influenza seasons).

How do the flu deaths (with a vaccine) compare with Covid-19 deaths? ‘As at 3pm on 12 August 2020, a total of 22,127 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Australia, including 352 deaths, and 12,774 have been reported as recovered from COVID-19’ (Australian Government: Department of Health).

There you have it: 705 influenza-related deaths in Australia in 2019. To date, there have been 313 Covid-19 related deaths. So, flu deaths (even with a vaccine) account for double the number of Covid-19 deaths.

However, in an attempt to deal with the alleged Covid-19 pandemic the …

2. The Australian economy has been wrecked

Image(image of queue outside Centrelink office, Townsville Qld., courtesy The Guardian: Australian edition, 24 March 2020)

 What has happened to our states and nation with closure of businesses, closure of borders, and quarantine? It has wrecked our economy, caused many to be placed in unemployment queues, and sent small and medium-size businesses to the wall.

Australia now has a national debt crisis. Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, presented an ‘optimistic’ deficit of $184.5 billion for the current financial year. That will take zillions of years to pay off.

The Commonwealth government has assigned almost $150 billion to prop up our economy. To this is added $35 billion from the States and $26 billion in tax cuts, which the Treasurer brought forward.

ABC News reported (20 July 2020), ‘For the financial year just ended, UBS’s chief economist George Tharenou is tipping a deficit of $81 billion and for the current year a massive $194 billion. The only way the Government can fund that is through raising debt’.

3. Lockdowns don’t work

Why don’t we listen to the research authorities such as the leading British medical journal, The Lancet, which concluded ‘the U.S.’s major weapons against the Coronavirus–––lockdowns and wide testing––do not reduce death rates?

See recent Lancet research, ‘A country level analysis measuring the impact of government actions, country preparedness and socioeconomic factors on COVID-19 mortality and related health outcomes’ (latest issue published 4 August 2020).

The Lancet study’s assessment was:

In our study, an increasing number of days to border closures was associated with a higher caseload, and more restrictive public health measures (such as a full lockdown compared to partial or curfew only measures) were associated with an increase in the number of recovered cases per million population. These findings suggest that more restrictive public health practices may indeed be associated with less transmission and better outcomes. However, in our analysis, full lockdowns and widespread COVID-19 testing were not associated with reductions in the number of critical cases or overall mortality.

The conclusion to this research was that the Queensland government’s approach of full lockdowns and widespread Covid-19 testing is not associated with a reduction of serious medical cases and deaths.

4. A better policy to follow

What’s the alternative? Is there a national policy for Australia to emulate? The model set by Taiwan, with a similar size population to Australia (23.8 million), is worth considering. It consisted of these elements:

clip_image002 There was quick action to control the country’s borders.

clip_image002[1] On January 20 the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) was activated to coordinate cooperation across government agencies and between government and businesses.

clip_image002[2] ‘The CECC also coordinates big data analytics, testing, quarantine and contact tracing’.

clip_image002[3] The national health insurance administration and immigration agency ‘worked together to identify suspected cases for COVID-19 testing, integrating their databases of citizens’ medical and travel history’.

clip_image002[4] Like Australia, since late March all new arrivals in Taiwan must quarantine for 14 days.

clip_image002[5] The CECC partnered with police, local officials and telecom companies to enforce the quarantine. This included support of mobile phone tracking.

clip_image002[6] Care for those quarantined was guaranteed by citizens who asked about the health of people in quarantine and basic daily supplies were provided, if required.

clip_image002[7]A 24-hour helpline was available, provided by Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control collaborated with two tech companies – HTC and LINE. This created a chatbox which allowed people to report their health status and get advice about the virus’.

clip_image002[8] Taiwan tests about 5,800 samples a day. A health worker distributes hand sanitiser at Ningxia Night Market, Taipei in late May.

clip_image002[9] To avoid the panic buying of face masks, the government rationed their distribution and ramped up production. In February, the government partnered with the Machine Tool & Accessory Builders’ Association and manufacturers, investing in new machinery to produce surgical face masks. In return, manufacturers have to sell the masks back to the government at an agreed price. This cost approximately $6.8 million (What coronavirus success of Taiwan and Iceland has in common, The Conversation, 29 June 2020).

Iceland has a much smaller population (341,600), but has implemented a strategy similar to Taiwan’s. As of 29 June 2020, there were 1,838 confirmed Covid-19 infections; 1,816 have fully recovered; and 10 deaths were recorded. The government took quick action through its National Crisis Coordination Center on January 31, 2020.

5. What was the outcome in Taiwan?

It is important to remember that Taiwan learned its strategy as a result of the SARS epidemic in 2003. Thus, it was more prepared for the Covid-19 outbreak than many countries.

As a result of these strict measures taken, there have been 487 Covid-19 cases; 462 recovered; and there have been only 7 deaths.

6. Why not listen to these professionals?

Professor Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, is advising the British Government on Covid-19. He said that there is no proof that Covid-19 is transmitted from pupil to teacher in school anywhere in the world (with one exception in Australia). Therefore, ‘closing all schools completely during Britain’s lockdown might have been a mistake…. Statistics show 15 children and teenagers have died of coronavirus in England and Wales since March, 0.03 per cent of the total deaths’.

Australia is listening to the developers of a Covid-19 vaccine in the UK. ABC News, Brisbane (19 August 2020) reported Prime Minister Scott Morrison as saying the vaccine developed by Oxford University is ‘one of the most advanced and promising in the world’.

In addition, ‘the Australian Government has secured the rights to manufacture millions of doses of the potential vaccine — called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 or AZD1222 — if trials are successful and it’s approved. Plus, it’ll be free’.

Why aren’t ScoMo and his cabinet listening to another Professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford University, Sunetra Gupta? She is a top disease expert who has urged Australia to abandon its ‘selfish’ and ‘self congratulatory’ lockdown tactics and embrace a Swedish-style herd immunity strategy to fight Covid-19.

Professor Gupta said the Scandinavian country of Sweden has ‘done quite well in terms of deaths’ – despite its record of 5,300 fatalities not comparing with Australia’s much lower level.

The Daily Mail (4 July 2020) reported: ‘Sweden holds the fifth-highest rate of deaths per capita in the world after the Nordic nation took its own path and declined to close its restaurants, bars, schools and shops to fight the spread of the virus.

Sweden took the soft line, as opposed to Australia’s tough stand. The Daily Mail provided a photograph of Swedish locals lapping up the sun next to a social distancing sign which they ignored. The Swedes were sunbaking at Malmo, Sweden in June. They took their own liaise-faire line, in spite of recommended discipline. Could this have as much to do with the Swedish worldview of liberty than to abiding by the recommended Covid-19 course of action?

While the Swedes ignored their government’s recommendations – with no fines for infractions – Australia’s shopping precincts of shopping centres, restaurants, pubs, clubs and streets remain deserted. The tourism industry around Australia is ruined by the strict cross-border restrictions.

Alan Jones commented:

Red-Glass ‘No proper checks and balances to lockdown measures’ (President of the Rule of Law Institute of Australia, Robin Speed).

Red-Glass ‘Health advice should have been released months ago regarding lockdowns, keeping children out of school, or shutting businesses’.

Red-Glass You can’t travel more than 5km from home for essential items (Melbourne); curfew is from 8pm-5am; limiting numbers in restaurants. Shut the borders’. Where’s the evidence to justify these actions?’

‘I’m telling you there is none’ (Jones).

Red-Glass ‘The central issue is, “How much have we been duped and sold down the river by the response?”’ (Alan Jones).

7. Conclusion

It took a shock jock to alert me to these facts – yes, facts – about the Covid-19 virus:

snowflake-light-green-small We have been tricked into allowing unelected officials – such as Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeanette Young – to influence government policy. This policy includes:

snowflake-light-green-small Closing state borders, restricting numbers of people in restaurants, social distancing regulation, and school closures.

snowflake-light-green-small These measures were taken with the view of restricting Covid-19 deaths. I didn’t read public evidence to support these policies.

snowflake-light-green-small There are many infectious diseases for which there is no vaccine and these are controlled in the community, e.g. Dengue, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Hookworm infection, Venezuelan haemorrhagic fever, Chistosomiasis, and more.

snowflake-light-green-small The whole suite of strategies used to prevent Covid-19 from spreading across Australia should have been released months ago to provide the evidence to implement these policies.

See the Alan Jones’ commentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scZJFQCYEFA

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 31 August 2020.

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Why I oppose use of the COVIDSafe app.

Warning sign Covid-19

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The Australian government has spent a lot of time and money on encouraging all Australians with a mobile phone to download COVIDSafe app.

The COVIDSafe app is part of our work to slow the spread of COVID-19. Having confidence we can find and contain outbreaks quickly will mean governments can ease restrictions while still keeping Australians safe.

The new COVIDSafe app is completely voluntary. Downloading the app is something you can do to protect you, your family and friends and save the lives of other Australians. The more Australians connect to the COVIDSafe app, the quicker we can find the virus….

Your information and privacy is (sic) strictly protected (COVIDSafe app, Dept. of Health).

My reading led to my being not so sure of the privacy and security of the app, so I sent the following information to my friends by email and on Facebook.

1. Questioning COVIDSafe

I emailed my son, Paul, on 27 April 2020 to get this advice on downloading the COVIDSafe app to my phone. He’s an IT professional.
His response was: “My expert opinion is that this app will create far more problems than it solves, and it was very irresponsible of the government to even attempt it.  Stay far away”.

My personal view is that COVIDSafe app is the kind of approach of a totalitarian Communist government and not that of a democracy. I won’t be downloading it.

2. Taken to task

One of my respected Christian friends with a PhD in his discipline responded to the ‘Questioning COVIDSafe’. He wrote:

We’ve actually taken the opposite position.

COVIDSafe app logo(Image courtesy Australian Government, Dept of Health)

I’ve seen that there are experts such as Paul who are against it and there are experts for it. They might be right. They might be wrong; I think it’s a risk worth taking.

Re the totalitarian approach:  Certainly, the Chinese government and other totalitarian regimes will use this new app (they already have their own version up and running in China) to exercise population control in the same way that they already do with the internet and all manner of gadgets. But this doesn’t mean that the app itself is evil. This is important. 

If you were to be consistent in not using systems, equipment or approaches taken by the totalitarian regimes, then you would not use the internet, security cameras to all manner of things. But you do use these things, and benefit from them. In the hands of properly-motivated people, these systems are OK. 

My view is that if there’s anything we can do to reduce the risk of the spread of this virus, then we should do it. We have four phones in our home … and all four of us have downloaded the app (email received 28 April 2020).

3. Consider this response.

It’s important because my friend engages in some erroneous reasoning in his reply. I sent this email to him (29 April 2020).

Thank you for sharing your perspective on the COVIDSafe app. From your line of reasoning, it appears to me that you have committed two logical fallacies:

  1. Cherry Picking. This is also called the fallacy of suppressed evidence: ‘When only select evidence is presented in order to persuade the audience to accept a position and evidence that would go against the position is withheld. The stronger the withheld evidence, the more fallacious the argument’. I’ll explain the suppressed evidence below.
  1. Red Herring Fallacy: ‘Attempting to redirect the argument to another issue to which the person doing the redirecting can better respond. While it is similar to the avoiding the issue fallacy, the red herring is a deliberate diversion of attention with the intention of trying to abandon the original argument’. I’ll discuss below.

3.1 Cherry Picking

In saying experts could be right or wrong, you provided no evidence to demonstrate your point. I was staggered by your comment, ‘It’s a risk worth taking’. You’re a bright and respected man who should not be entering into the gamble of using an app that some experts have many questions about.

Let’s check a couple examples:

Here are some links with information from experts who are recommending against it:

clip_image002Who can access our data? Does digital contact tracing even work? Five questions about the government’s new Coronavirus app.

This is from ABC Science, 20 April 2020. This article and a link in the article provide this information.

clip_image004 I don’t understand how over a million have downloaded the app while ‘the Government hasn’t yet released the app’s source code and new legislation governing its use has yet to be shared. But that hasn’t stopped researchers from digging into both the technical and legal implications of this unprecedented bit of software’.

clip_image005[4] ‘The Digital Transformation Agency did not respond to detailed questions about how it will work’.

clip_image005[4] ‘We also need to know if the data the app collects will be treated in a centralised or decentralised way, said Vanessa Teague, cryptographer and chief executive of Thinking Cybersecurity’.
‘In Dr Teague’s view [cryptographer and chief executive of Thinking Cybersecurity], this model raises problems of both reliability and privacy’.

How do you download the COVIDSafe app and will it drain your ... (Image courtesy abc.net.au/news)

clip_image005[4]‘Before rolling out technology built for a pandemic, we need to know if and when it would be “switched off”. Technology that records who we’ve been physically near, even if that information is encrypted, raises serious implications, and may be tempting to use in other contexts like terrorism cases. “This has to be absolutely limited,” said Kimberlee Weatherall, technology law professor at the University of Sydney. “It has to have sunsets, and some real-time limits”‘.

clip_image005[4]‘Will your employer force you to use the app?’

There are other reasons in this article recommending against downloading this app yet. I encourage you to read this ABC News Science article to gain a contrary view by other experts, instead of cherry picking some experts on your side.

Another link that expresses concerns about the app is:

clip_image002[1]Tracing the challenges of COVIDSafe (Why GitHub?)

The opposition includes:

clip_image007  ‘The Australian app instead downloads a new UniqueID only every two hours. It has no batch capacity, so if it cannot reconnect to the Internet within two hours it simply keeps using the same UniqueID. This has serious privacy implications that are not adequately addressed in the PIA [Private Impact Assessment]’.

clip_image007[1]  ‘This does not frankly describe the opportunity for the national data store to check, regularly, whether a particular individual has the app up and running’.

clip_image007[2]  ‘It greatly increases the opportunities for third-party tracking’.

clip_image007[3]  ‘Like TraceTogether, there are still serious privacy problems if we consider the central authority to be an adversary. That authority, whether Amazon, the Australian government or whoever accesses the server, can

  • recognise all your encryptedIDs if they are heard on Bluetooth devices as you go,
  • recognise them on your phone if it acquires it, and
  • learn your contacts if you test positive.

These are probably still the most serious privacy concerns for some COVIDSafe users. None of this has changed since TraceTogether.

Note: I have not included the experts who support COVIDSafe as my friend was aware of them. I’m not cherry picking by leaving those sources out, but sharing a perspective from the professionals that is opposed to his view.

3.2 Red Herring Fallacy

My friend stated:

Certainly, the Chinese government and other totalitarian regimes will use this new app (they already have their own version up and running in China) to exercise population control in the same way that they already do with the internet and all manner of gadgets.  But this doesn’t mean that the app itself is evil.  This is important.  If you were to be consistent in not using systems, equipment or approaches taken by the totalitarian regimes, then you would not use the internet, security cameras to all manner of things.  But you do use these things, and benefit from them.

When you bring into our conversation issues such as the app in China and it is not evil. Then you bring in an agenda of getting rid of the Internet and all manner of gadgets because the Chinese use them. It is a Red Herring because …

  • I opposed acceptance of COVIDSafe and gave my reasons.
  • Then you introduced another argument of how the Chinese government exercises population control and that would mean I should not use the internet and all manner of gadgets.
  • Then you abandoned my evidence for why I won’t support COVIDSafe.

It is fallacious reasoning and we won’t progress in discussions when you do this.

You say your view is: ‘If there’s anything we can do to reduce the risk of the spread of this virus, then we should do it’. That’s pragmatism as a world view, but without a careful analysis of the pros and cons of the app.

I shared your information with Paul and one point he made was: It is not ‘a neutral piece of technology like the Internet or security cameras or whatever.  It was created with the sole purpose of tracking people, and that makes it something that’s 1) more likely to be abused, and 2) easier to abuse’.

4. Breaches of data have happened before.

Could this happen with the COVIDSafe app?

A prominent university professor has quit after the health department pressured her university to stop her speaking out about the Medicare and PBS history of over 2.5 million Australians being re-identifiable online due to a government bungle.

In 2016, Vanessa Teague, a cryptographer from the University of Melbourne, and two of her colleagues reported on a dataset, published on an open government data website by the federal government, of 2.5 million Australians’ Medicare and PBS payment history dating back to 1984 that had supposedly been de-identified so people were anonymous.

Teague and her colleagues reported that the dataset had several samples where people were able to be identified breach (The Guardian Australia Edition, 8 March 2020).

5. Conclusion

There are too many ifs and buts about the privacy and security of this app. There are professionals in the field who consider it is safe enough. Others oppose this view and give their reasons.

Until better information is available to guarantee the security and privacy concerns of COVIDSafe, I will not recommend its downloading on any mobile phone.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 April 2020.

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Why does the good God allow COVID-19?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Published in On Line Opinion (30 April 2020)

Thoughtful people can have honest questions about God’s goodness because of COVID-19, the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Cyclone Tracy (1974), the Nazi Holocaust during World War 2, and the September 11, 2001 disaster in the USA. So …

What makes him a good God?

Everything he does is ‘worthy of approval’. God is the final standard of goodness, holiness and righteousness. It is his very nature – as demonstrated through Scripture and the world around us.

Dr David Jeremiah explained:

God’s goodness conveys His generosity. His goodness means far more than His generosity, but it certainly includes His infinitely generous attitude toward us. By nature, He longs to bring joy and blessing to all His creatures.

The Bible repeatedly presents goodness as a core quality of our Lord.

clip_image002[4](Image courtesy Turning Point: Dr. David Jeremiah)

Jesus said ‘no one is good but God alone’. After he had created everything in the beginning he declared ‘it was very good’. We may find it hard to understand but the truth is that ‘The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made’.

Consider how this is worked out in a Covid situation. We are dependent on God for every breath we breathe. He made plants to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Human beings mainly breathe in nitrogen and oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. So the God-given cycle continues with God maintaining it.

He created the universe in the beginning and provides light through the planets. The scientific discipline of astronomy has helped us gain a much better understanding of the enormous universe. He sustains the cosmos. Life and death are in his hands. Is this pandemic causing people to consider how short life can be and what lies beyond death? God patiently waits for people to come to him in remorse for their sins against him.

Adam and Eve fouled it up for the whole universe.

When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, he gave them the choice to eat from any tree in the garden except ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’.

They ate from that tree and death and sin entered the human race with disease like we are experiencing. There was increased pain in childbirth, cursing of the ground with thorns and thistles. Its origin is from our first parents who disobeyed God’s command.

What were the consequences of sin-disobedience entering the human race? Romans 8:19-21 explains that creation is waiting for God’s children to be revealed. Until then, creation is subject to God’s curse (including COVID-19, SARS, Ebola, rabies, the plague, and Black Death). ‘Glorious freedom from death and decay’ awaits God’s future kingdom.

Bill Gates, writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, considers ‘Covid-19 has started behaving a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about. I hope it’s not that bad, but we should assume it will be until we know otherwise…. It can kill healthy adults in addition to elderly people with existing health problems…. Covid-19 is transmitted quite efficiently. The average infected person spreads the disease to two or three others — an exponential rate of increase’.

I disagree about the origin. The great harm to creation brought on by Adam and Eve’s sin resulted in the curse of disease for plant and human life. Yes, there may be transmission from animals to human beings but the origin is not with Mother Nature but with the first human beings.

Fadela Chaib, spokesperson for the World Health Organisation, told a news briefing in Geneva: ‘All available evidence suggests the (Covid) virus has an animal origin and is not manipulated or constructed in a lab or somewhere else’.

The media and Mother Nature

Who are the media blaming for the virus?

Common Dreams’ assessment (2 April 2020) had nothing to do with God: The coronavirus may not, in retrospect, prove to be the tipping point that upends human civilization as we know it, but it should serve as a warning that we will experience ever more such events in the future as the world heats up…. In so many ways like these, Mother Nature strikes back when her vital organs suffer harm’.

With the Ebola virus, it is known that villagers became infected when ‘a number who had carried, skinned, chopped or eaten a chimpanzee from the nearby forest.

Channel 9’s ’60 Minutes’ programme reported in March 2020: ‘“This is Mother Nature’s revenge”: Coronavirus expert calls for shut down of Asia’s wildlife markets…. The Coronavirus is believed to have originated at a wildlife market in China’s Wuhan city’ and ‘it is suspected that the virus crossed to humans from the pangolin’.

What is Mother Nature? It is a personification ‘used for referring to nature and natural forces’ (Macmillan Dictionary 2020. s.v. Mother Nature). This is how the meaning of Mother Nature is skewed, with an example from the Macmillan Dictionary: ‘We hope Mother Nature will save the crops by bringing rain’. This is an example of mistaken identity for God the Father who sends the rain (see Matthew 5:45). The invented Mother Nature has not a skerrick of power to create rain or send the sun.

The stupidity of human beings

It started with the defiance of the first human beings. We know God sends judgments on people and nations for disobedience to his commands. We’ve seen it through Noah’s flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. That’s not where it will end. God has set a day when all people will be judged by Jesus: ‘He will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead’.

‘Scientists from multiple countries have published and analysed genomes of the causative agent, SARS-CoV-2, and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens’ (ABC News, Brisbane, Qld, 18 April 2020). Would this virus have originated without contact through ‘wet markets’?

WetmarketHK.jpgA wet market in Hong Kong

This folly is seen in how human beings transmit HIV/AIDS. It is spread through certain body fluids of an infected person. Mostly it is from sexual behaviours and sharing injection needles. However, it can also be proliferated through ‘blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk’.

Research by Deo et.al. (2009) confirmed the hypothesis that human beings who cleared the land of native vegetation had a ‘significant effect on climate extremes including the duration and severity of droughts in eastern Australia’. Could we call this an example of raping the land and experiencing the cost?

Don’t expect transparency from a Communist government.

At the beginning of January 2020, the mayor of Wuhan admitted there was a lack of action but when 100 cases had been confirmed by 23 January, ‘city-wide restrictions were enacted’. About that time a whistleblower, Dr Li Wenliang warned colleagues of a Sars-like virus. He was silenced by the authorities and later died of COVID-19.

The Lancet medical journal reported Dr Li’s message was ‘meant to be a private message, he encouraged them to protect themselves from infection. Days later, he was summoned to the Public Security Bureau in Wuhan and made to sign a statement in which he was accused of making false statements that disturbed the public order’.

Wuhan, sub-provincial city, China

File:Montage of wuhan(2017).jpgBBC News reported on 17 April 2020 that the ‘China outbreak city Wuhan raises death toll by 50%’. On 27 March 2020, Radio Free Asia estimates the death toll in Wuhan is much higher than 2,500. ‘The city’s seven crematoriums should have a capacity of around 2,000 bodies a day if they worked around the clock’.

This isn’t the first time the Communists misrepresented the facts. Remember the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989; the persecution of the Muslim Uighurs in western China, and Hong Kong’s core freedoms to continue after the British handing over of the colony in 1997?

China-based media support the deceit of the Chinese regarding the pandemic: (1) According to Chinese authorities, the death toll from COVID-19 in Wuhan (population 11 million) is a little over 2,500. (2) Those figures don’t add up as Caixin investigative journalism discovered ‘one native crematorium within the metropolis was working for 19 hours a day and in simply two days, 5,000 urns [for ashes of the dead] had been delivered to the institution’.

The principles of Marxist atheism are demonstrated in China. COVID-19 has exposed the lie at the heart of Communism. Eminent Soviet dissident and writer, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, put it bluntly in his Nobel Laureate lecture for literature. His Soviet experience demonstrated the root of Communist totalitarianism ‘is invariably intertwined with the lie…. Violence cannot conceal itself behind anything except lies, and lies have nothing to maintain them save violence. Anyone who has once proclaimed violence as his method must inexorably choose the lie as his principle’ (Nobel Lecture 1970)

Tragedy sent to shake our priorities

Before COVID-19, how long has it been since you considered the shortness of life and the possibility of dying? Has this loss of income and job caused you to re-evaluate how dependent you are on God’s mercy and compassion? When did you last thank him for the food in the fresh food market or the supermarket?

Over the last 12 months, Australia has been subjected to horrific drought. Where has been the call from Christian politicians and churches for the Lord to break the drought? He has answered our prayers in many areas but March rainfall was below average across the country. ‘Water storage levels in the northern Murray–Darling Basin remain low despite some inflows’. Drought continues in SE NSW.

Reasons why God allows suffering

Pope Francis spoke to God about the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it was not a time of God’s judgment ‘but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others’.

I’m not as confident as he about God’s justice allowing wickedness to continue worldwide without consequences when Scripture states, ‘God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness’. How can we as a nation live with clear consciences before God when we kill 80,000 unborn children a year, legalise euthanasia, brothels and same-sex marriage?

This is God’s recipe for Australian greatness: ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people’. In Isaiah’s day, king Cyrus the Great, was anointed as leader of a non-Jewish nation by Isaiah who confirmed that the Lord forms the light, creates darkness, brings prosperity and creates disaster. ‘I the Lord do these things’ (Isaiah 45:7). So, we could be in the midst of a pandemic created by God to shake up our values to get us on track with the Lord of the universe.

Conclusion

Evidence provided above indicates evil began with Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden. The diseases among human beings, animal and plant life are related to the effects of disobedience.

No person or thing, no tsunami, September 11, or the Qld floods, can ruin the nature and actions of the sovereign will of God. They may cause people to doubt God but we need to get back to the fundamentals of God Himself. ‘I am God, and there is no other’. Will we scoff at Him, blame disasters on Mother Nature, or will we bow before Him who could be the one sending this debacle?

C S Lewis’s words from 70 years ago ring with a contemporary sound if we replace ‘atomic bomb’ with ‘COVID-19’, which I will do in some places. We think too much of COVID-19. How can we live in a pandemic age? We could have lived through it before with the London plague, the Viking raiders from Scandinavia, the age of cancer, STDs, strokes and paralysis, heart attacks, and terrorism.

‘You and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was discovered…. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty’.

If we are going to be destroyed by the atomic bomb and these other calamities, including COVID-19, we ought to be sensible people – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about a pandemic. ‘They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds’ (Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays 1948).

For a case study on suffering, read the Book of Job in the Bible. I have gleaned these principles:

gold foward button  Job 1:8-12 (ERV) gives a powerful message that provides the meaning of suffering for Job:

8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him. He is a good, faithful man. He respects God and refuses to do evil.”

9 Satan answered the Lord, “But Job has a good reason to respect you. 10 You always protect him, his family, and everything he has. You have blessed him and made him successful in everything he does. He is so wealthy that his herds and flocks are all over the country. 11 But if you were to destroy everything he has, I promise you that he would curse you to your face.”

12 The Lord said to Satan, “All right, do whatever you want with anything that he has, but don’t hurt Job himself.”

God used Satan to test a good man to determine if Job would continue to serve the Lord while experiencing horrific suffering. Will we go on living the Christian life in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis? Suffering is meant to test the tenacity of our faith in the Lord. For unbelievers, God can use suffering as a ‘rattling of the cage’ to get them to consider God’s call. It also confirms that in God’s world, bad things happen to good and godly people.

gold foward button

According to Job 1:21 (ERV), Job bowed before God and said: ‘“When I was born into this world, I was naked and had nothing. When I die and leave this world, I will be naked and have nothing. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of the Lord!” In other words, no matter what happened to Job (and he lost everything), the Lord God was sovereign and he accepted God’s actions in his life.

gold foward button  There are about 25 ‘why?’ questions in the Book of Job. Job wanted to know why God did this to him. No answer came from God, but Job continued to serve Him.

gold foward button  Job stood strong in the middle of this atrocity:

10 But God knows me.
He is testing me and will see that I am as pure as gold.

11 I have always lived the way God wants.
I have never stopped following him.
12 I always obey his commands.
I love the words from his mouth more than I love my food.

13 “But God never changes,
and who can stand against him?
He does anything he wants.
14
He will do to me what he planned,
and he has many other plans for me
(
Job 23:10-14 ERV).

gold foward button  Imagine you were in Job’s shoes: horrific loss and suffering beyond imagination and you got this message: ‘Then he said to humans, “To fear and respect the Lord is wisdom. To turn away from evil is understanding”’ (Job 28:28 ERV). So, COVID-19 suffering is the Lord’s wisdom that we need to respect. It is wise to turn away from evil to bring understanding. This is profound wisdom from the Lord, through Job’s ministry: Suffering sent by God has a purpose to make us wise and bring understanding. That’s a higher knowledge than the esteemed Cambridge Dictionary.

gold foward button  The human race doesn’t have all the answers about suffering. Job gives us a peep into God’s view. However, Job was so angry with what was happening to him that he cursed the day he was born:

I wish the day I was born would be lost forever.
I wish the night they said, ‘It’s a boy!’ had never happened.
4 I wish that day had remained dark.
I wish God above had forgotten that day
and not let any light shine on it (
Job 3:3-4 ERV)

Will COVID-19 cause more people to think about how quickly people have died across the world? Will they seek God and his revelation that happens after death? Is eternal salvation on their minds?

(image courtesy OCHA)

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 April 2020.

Total depravity

Image result for clipart Total Depravity

(image courtesy David Cox)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The term, ‘total depravity’, gets people squirming as they think of all people being put into this wicked, sinful, immoral and evil class. The language used, ‘total depravity’, is enough to scare people away from considering Christianity.

Most Christians I know wouldn’t use the term when sharing Christ with unbelievers. I don’t use it in evangelism but speak of ‘we are all sinners’ who have missed the mark of God’s standard. Most people can get a handle on that type of language.

Isn’t it over the top to think that non-Christians and people of other religions are totally bad? How is it possible to say that about Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Corrie ten Boom, and those who work to relieve the poverty and deprivation of children through Compassion International?

What did it mean to Reformers such as Martin Luther, Jacob Arminius, and John Calvin?

1. Martin Luther on total depravity

In The Bondage of the Will (1976), he replied to the Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (The Netherlands), The Freedom of the Will which Luther called the ‘Diatribe on Free-Will’ (1976:13).

1.1 Who was Erasmus?

Erasmus was a Dutch philosopher and Christian scholar (AD 1466-1536) who translated the New Testament into Greek. His publications included ‘the Novum Instrumentum consisting of the Greek text and Erasmus’ own Latin translation of the New Testament’.[1]Textus Receptus was published by Desiderius Erasmus in his 1516 edition of the Greek New Testament: Novum Instrumentum omne’.

This is the New Testament base for the New Testaments by William Tyndale, the Bishops Bible, the Geneva Bible and the King James Bible. Although none of Erasmus’s manuscripts was older than the 10th century, it essentially agreed with the others. Erasmus made the Greek NT available to scholars across Western Europe.

It was a monumental feat and one for which the Dutch priest should be given much credit. While Erasmus Himself was not thinking in terms of Bible translations for the masses, the new Protestant movement certainly was, and this Greek text became a vital tool to that end (Wayne 2018).

1.2 Debate over Erasmus’s diatribe

Image result for image total depravity

(image courtesy Peace Apostolic Ministries)

Luther wrote insensitively to Erasmus:

For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily?…

Responding to Erasmus, he said that throughout Erasmus’s treatment he forgot that “that ‘free-will’ can do nothing without grace, and you prove that ‘free-will’ can do all things without grace! Your inferences and analogies [fail]. “For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily?” (1957:149)

Luther went on to drive home the point: “Let all the ‘free-will’ in the world do all it can with all its strength; it will never give rise to a single instance of ability to avoid being hardened if God does not give the Spirit, or of meriting mercy if it is left to its own strength” (1957:202).

It seemed that Luther caught out Erasmus when Luther said that he would not want ‘free will’ nor anything eels be left in his own hands to enable him after salvation.

This is ‘not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground; but because even were there no dangers, I should still be forced to labour with no guarantee of success’.

He stated ‘that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him (1957:313-314).

Therefore, Luther confessed that total depravity meant there was no such thing as free-will and God had taken his salvation out of the control of his free will. Human beings cannot will to do good before God and are left in their sin – unless God intervenes.

This strict view of total depravity is similar to that of Calvin.

2. Calvinism and total depravity

The Calvinistic Synod of Dordt concluded concerning the corruption of human beings:

Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto (The Canons of Dordt, Of the Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God, and the Manner Thereof, Article 3).

2.1 John Calvin’s view

John Calvin wrote that concisely in expressing his view:

… our nature is not only destitute of all good, but is so fertile in all evils that it cannot remain inactive. Those who have called it concupiscence have used an expression not improper, if it were only added, which is far from being conceded by most persons, that everything in man, the understanding and will, the soul and body, is polluted and engrossed by this concupiscence; or, to express it more briefly, that man is of himself nothing else but concupiscence. (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. I, Bk. II, Chap. 1, Para. 8; J Allen transl.)

‘Concupiscence’ is an antiquated word that means ‘strong sexual desire; lust’ (lexico.com 2020. s.v. concupiscence) and ‘ardent, usually sensuous, longing’ (dictionary.com 2020. s.v. concupiscence’). It came into middle English via the old French and late Latin.

2.2 Summary of Reformation doctrine of total depravity

‘The Reformational doctrine of total depravity seen especially in Calvin can be stated summarily in these sentences:

1. Sin is the responsible choice of man to violate God’s law.
2. Sin is a depravity of the whole nature of man.
3. Sin conveys guilt before God for man’s personal and Adam’s representational sin.
4. Sin is the actively developed apostasy of man against God.
5. Sin is a full warrant for eternal punishment’ (Gregory n.d.).

3. Reformed Arminian: Total depravity

I accept a traditional Reformed Arminian approach to total depravity. Reformed Arminian is the theology of Jacob Arminius. It is not that of Wesleyan Arminianism or Semi-Pelagian Arminianism.

This means that because of the Fall into sin, no human beings are able to save themselves. Sinners are ‘dead in sin’.[2]

My understanding of total depravity or total inability is parallel with that of Jacob Arminius. Before the Fall into sin, human beings were ‘good’ in their ability to love and do the works of God.
Before the Fall, human beings were created in the image of God (
Gen 1:26-27). According to Gen 2:17, before the Fall human beings hd the ability to choose good from evil. After the Fall, for believers, they have ‘put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Col 3:10 NIV).

3.1 Dead in sins

Ephesians 2:1-2 (NIV) are critical verses in understanding Total Depravity:

‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient’.

What does it mean to be ‘dead in sins’?

They were spiritually dead in their former lives and this was their lifestyle (present participle – continual action). We note in Eph 1:7 the plurals, ‘In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace’ (NIV). Every trespass/sin (missing the mark) demonstrated this deadness.

?Does it mean that unbelievers cannot respond to God’s offer of salvation? We know this is not the case because of the content of Titus 2:11 (NIV). Do sinners have a total inability to respond to the offer of salvation without God’s unconditional election and irresistible grace?? See my article: How to interpret ‘appeared’ in Titus 2:11

?We know that Adam ad Eve, after they had sinned, could still hear the voice of God (Gen 3:8-19 NIV). Therefore, Total Depravity does not cut one off from hearing the voice of God. It is a demonstration of what has happened within human beings.?

3.2 The crunch time

The crunch is this, described as total depravity, and it is that sinful human beings cannot do what is good towards God. That’s because the free will has not only been ‘wounded, maimed, made infirm, bent, and weakened’ but also it is ‘imprisoned, destroyed, and lost’.

Its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace’. For Christ has said, “Without me you can do nothing.”?

St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: “Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.” That this may be made more manifestly to appear, we will separately consider the mind, the affections or will, and the capability, as contra-distinguished from them, as well as the life itself of an unregenerate man’ (Arminius 1977:525-526).?

But the great and good news is that God has provided a way to deal with this ‘dead in sin’ situation: ‘For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people’ (Titus 2:11 NIV). This is the enabling grace of God available ‘to all people’ for the offering of salvation.

I believe in Total Depravity because it is a Bible teaching. It refers to comprehensive inability to do God’s good because of sins and transgressions.

3.3 Let’s explain this further

The Reformed Arminian perspective is that human beings in the beginning were created in the image of God. Adam & Eve fell from this sinless state through willful disobedience, leaving the whole human race in a state of total depravity.[3]
This means they were sinful, separated from God and sentenced to God’s condemnation (Rom 3:23; Eph 2:1-3). Total depravity does not mean that human beings are as bad as bad could be. But it means every part of a human being – body, soul/spirit, heart, and mind – has been infected with sin.

All human beings have a sinful nature with a natural desire/inclination to sin. So, all human beings are fundamentally corrupt throughout their entire beings (Jer 17:9; Gen 6:5; Matt 19:17; Luke 11:13).

All people are spiritually dead in their sins (Eph 2:1-3; Col 2:13) and as a result are slaves to sin (Rom 6:17-20). Could anything be clearer than the Apostle Paul’s statement, ‘For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature [flesh]. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out’ (Rom 7:13 NIV).

Paul further explains the nature of total depravity: “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one’” (Rom 3:10-12; cf. Rom 1:18-32; Eph 4:17-22).

So in their natural states, people are hostile to God and they cannot submit to his Law or please him – they are totally depraved (Rom 8:7-8).

4. What it looks like in the community

As I prepared this article today, I came across this headline from yesterday’s, The Sydney Morning Herald:

All over the world, patients are lying about virus: GP’

This was a headline in an Australian newspaper (online)

clip_image002

(image courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)[4]

Journalist Madonna King explained:

But for each good act, we’ve also seen how the fear of this disease, which is only beginning, can bring out the worst of human behaviour.

Today, that behaviour is being seen in our GP surgeries, where staff are being abused, ridiculed and told lies.

It’s that latter behaviour – where patients are lying to receptions and nurses, denying they have travelled overseas or have had contact with other COVID-19 cases, in order to see a doctor – that is particularly worrying….

Dr Glynn Kelly: ‘”They are lying. And it’s happening all over Australia,’’ he says. Some patients were filling out COVID-19 forms denying overseas travel or contact with other infected people, so they could get into see a doctor – and then would confess (King 2020).

We may well conclude that this lying is a manifestation of the environment since we are experiencing a pandemic of Coronavirus. We are tempted to place the blame on the environment from childhood to adulthood, i.e. it’s learned behaviour.

This is why we need God’s word on total depravity. Jeremiah 17:9 is but one example of the core problem: ‘The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (NLT)

Doctors are finding out how depraved a person’s inner being is – in their consulting rooms.

5. A biblical perspective

The sinfulness of all human beings, as a result of the guilt inflicted on us by Adam’s first sin is that righteousness cannot be found in us (Rom 3:10; Col 3:10; Eph 4:24).

Instead, the whole of human nature is corrupted (i.e. total depravity or original sin). See: Ps 51:5; John 3:6; Rom 3:18; 8:7-8, and Eph. 2:3.

Although the context deals with the prediction of Noah’s world-wide flood, Gen 6:5 (NET) summarises well the human condition: ‘But the LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time’.

clip_image003A Sistine Chapel fresco depicts the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden for their sin of eating from the fruit of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Image courtesy Wikipedia).

Sadly, that is the condition of all people without Christ.

After the Flood, the Lord still described human beings this way: ‘The inclination of their minds is evil from childhood’ (Gen 8:21 NET).

Could Isaiah be clearer? ‘All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf,
and our iniquities carry us away like the wind’ (Isa 64:6 HCSB).

‘It might be more accurate to say that we are totally unable to be righteous’ (Stack Exchange 2015).

The New Testament view is that all human beings are in a fallen state and are dead in sin (Eph 2:1-2). We are slaves to sin (John 8:34) and all unbelievers are ‘darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts’ (Eph 4:18 HCSB).

6. Conclusion

Human beings are wretches before God. ‘We can’t think, will, nor do anything good in and of [ourselves].[5] We are unable do anything that merits favor from God and we cannot do anything to save ourselves from the judgment and condemnation of God that we deserve for our sin’.

We cannot even believe the gospel on our own (John 6:44). If anyone is to be saved, God must take the initiative’ (see F.A.C.T.S. of Salvation: T).

All human nature is corrupt – total inability to respond to God unless he draws us to Himself.

7. Works consulted

Gregory, T M n.d. Presbyterian doctrine of total depravity (online). Available at: https://www.the-highway.com/depravity_Gregory.html (Accessed 20 March 2020).

King, M 2020. The Sydney Morning Herald (online). All over the world, patients are lying about virus: GP, 19 March. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/national/queensland/all-over-the-world-patients-are-lying-about-virus-gp-20200319-p54bob.html (Accessed 20 March 2020).

Luther, M 1957. The Bondage of the Will, J I Packer & O R Johnston (eds). Old Tappan NJ: Revell.

Stack Exchange 2015. What is the biblical basis for total depravity? (online), 24 February. Available at: https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/27/what-is-the-biblical-basis-for-total-depravity (Accessed 17 March 2020).

Wayne, L 2018. CARM (online). What is the Textus Receptus? Available at: https://carm.org/KJVO/what-is-the-tr (Accessed 19 March 2020).

8.  Notes

[1] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy n.d. Desiderius Erasmus (1468?—1536). Available at: https://www.iep.utm.edu/erasmus/ (Accessed 19 March 2020).

[2] This was my post to Christianforums.net 2020. T.U.L.I.P., OzSpen#16. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/t-u-l-i-p.81940/#post-1551578 (Accessed 16 March 2020).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#31.

[4] Available at: https://phil.cdc.gov/Details.aspx?pid=23313 (Accessed 20 March 2020).

[5] The original said, ‘themselves’.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 March 2020.

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