Statistics and the Providence of God.

It’s funny how we use statistics to comfort us. With this Covid plague going on around us we can be fairly certain – statistically speaking – that most of us aren’t going to die from the virus. Yet, when we talk to those around us or when we look at the news, there is great fear out there because people are just plain scared of dying. So, to find some comfort we might quote the stats. But it’s not always all that comforting really is it? Stats only spell out – from human perception – the less than perfect measure of likelihood that someone may or may not die, it doesn’t tell us who will die. Imagine a world where we could know who would die. Every morning we could wake up hearing the names etc., read off tv of those who would succumb to the virus that day, week or month. That could be greatly comforting – at least for those whose names are not read. I guess the problem would lie in the fact that people would still go to sleep wondering if their name was next?!

We have a problem here don’t we. It doesn’t matter how much we could comfort ourselves about our longevity, likelihood or risk, there is no tangible way for anyone to take comfort with statistical analysis. Why? Well, even if we were to have 1% risk of perishing, I would feel fairly safe, but if that 1% also relates to my children I would have a slightly different perspective. I am willing to the take that risk for myself, but when it come to those I love a 1% risk is not actually something I am prepared to entertain! What if my family was to be part of that 1%? Well, in that case, stats are not particularly useful.

Well that’s where we as Christians have a greater resource for comfort – the sovereignty and providence of God. The understating that God is actually in charge of all things -governing the good and the bad, it doesn’t matter what the stats or experts say, unless God says you will die of Covid (for example), you will not die from Covid. In fact, there is no chance you will die from Covid if God has not determined it for you. Moreover, there is no chance you won’t die from Covid if God has determined that that is how you will die. In the end, there is no chance at all in our world, in anything, if God is sovereign. Chance simply does not exists, thus stats are merely a fictional and superficial comfort and a vain intellectual exercise when it comes to God, and I am 100% sure of that. As Christians, we are not fatalists, we know that if God in his love and wisdom chooses for the sake of his holy name to take us to be with Him – then we know 100% that is it for our good, that it is 100% for His glory, and that His faithfulness will continue to prove 100% true. Now, that is a comforting statistic. I don’t know of anything else that is. Thus, stats cannot comfort, only the sovereign rule of God and 100% confidence that he is working all things for good. Something, that we as christians can be 100% sure of.

Here is what the Westminster Confession says:

5.1. God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

WCF 5.1

This truth in practical truth has been so wonderfully put to words in the Heidelberg Catechism (this is distinct to the Heidelberg Disputation – same city different people involved):

1. Q. What is your only comfort in life and death? A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 1.

Amen.

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