Across the world, people wonder how much is predetermined & predestined (see related Ephesians 1 Audience article). What must happen that we can do nothing about? What is fate? Where does our free will come in during this life? The answer to these questions significantly impacts one’s world view and even how God‘s own scriptures are understood. In the Christian community, people agree that God is Sovereign, yet what does that mean in terms of God’s control, our choices, and chance itself? While there are over-simplificiations out there, what does the Bible have to say?
Chance Under the Sun:
What does the Bible say about Chance? Does it exist? Even if it exists, is it marginal? Does chance impact people’s life?
The Wise King Solomon shares in our Biblical Scriptures that chance happens to people in many areas of life.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 (ESV): 11 Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.
The scripture shares from our viewpoint, from observing how the world works, that chance does exist, chance is not marginal, and chance impacts people’s lives.
Chance impacts the outcomes of battles within a war, who wins competitions, the food you have to eat, how wealthy or poor you will be, and whether you’ll be treated favorably in this life.
Chance Under the Son of God:
What did the Son of God say about Chance?
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is one with God, who existed before Our Universe was created, who is greater than King Solomon, speaks to us about being a good neighbor, and about the presence of chance, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Luke 10:29-37 (ESV): 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
The Son of God revealed God the Father‘s divine message, and God’s divine message recognizes chance. Clearly Jesus could have revealed any other message, like that by the Divine Providence of God, the Priest was made to pass by there. Jesus clearly acknowledges chance was the reason. The Divine perspective by the co-creator of Our Universe is that chance is real, that chance definitely exists, and that chance influences who is in & out of our lives.
Chance under God’s Sovereignty:
Do you find the Wise Revelations of King Solomon and the Divine Revelation of Jesus Christ the Son of God concerning the presence of chance as disturbing? Even the highly respected scientist / theorist Albert Einstein found it unpalatable, saying:
“God does not play dice with the universe.” – Albert Einstein, The Born-Einstein Letters 1916-55, http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/2669-god-does-not-play-dice-with-the-universe
Does chance undermine God’s Sovereignty? How can God be Sovereign even in the midst of chance?
Let’s consider a thought experiment, which is a common tool scientists use to understand complexity. This thought experiment will illustrate how chance exists without undermining God’s Sovereignty.
Most everyone is familiar with the game of tic tac toe. Imagine you were playing a game with an opponent who is invincible. Even if you made random moves, you would still be unable to win. The game itself at best results in a tie when playing with an invincible player. Think about God’s Sovereignty in the same way. No randomness in the game play undermines God’s Sovereignty in any way by design.
Choice in Our Universe:
The Divine Word of God illustrates many choices people have, as already elaborated upon on the topic of “What Choice Do You Have?” . To Summarize, People have Choices like the following:
God tells the truth and does not lie. God gives you legitimate choices. God wishes for you to pick blessings, but will let you pick curses. Pick Wisely!
Choice under God’s Sovereignty:
Does choice undermine God’s Sovereignty? How can God be Sovereign even in the midst of choice?
Let’s consider the other side of that same thought experiment, except this time with choice rather than chance. A thought experiment is a common tool scientists use to understand complexity. This thought experiment will illustrate how choice exists without undermining God’s Sovereignty.
Most everyone is familiar with the game of tic tac toe. Imagine you were playing a game with an opponent who is invincible. Even if you use your intellect to makes the most intelligent move choices, you would still be unable to win. The game itself at best results in a tie when playing with an invincible player. Think about God’s Sovereignty in the same way. No deliberate choice in the game play undermines God’s Sovereignty in any way by design.
Control under God:
What are ways in which God institutes control in our world, to optimize the outcomes that result in the midst of chance, choice, and the fallen character & fallen culture of humankind?
The entire Bible’s testifies into the ways God has intervened with promises and with actions in the 66 Books of Bible. God promised to send his Son Jesus Christ into the world to bear our sins. Jesus Christ came and offers to bear the sins of all who become true believers & followers of his.
- God intervened with the flood, saving Noah and his immediate family
- God used Prophets to warn Kings
- God intervened in battles & wars
- God appointed & disciplined Kings
- God sent Prophets who delivered God’s message and performed miracles to help people
- God performed miracles to heal others, feed people in need, bring people back to life, and to teach deep theological lessons about forgiveness
- God transforms the personal & eternal character of those who diligently seek him with all their heart, mind, body, soul, and strength
- God reminds us of our choices & responsibilities
- God determines the bounds of the length of our days & the locations of our journeys, though is open to change those bounds upon request, under the right circumstances
- Jesus Christ came back to the Earth after his death to testify again to the Divine & Eternal Truth & Life found in The Way
Even though God rested from adding new physical rules governing Our Universe after the 6 days of creation (see Bible Genesis Creation Account), God still intervenes in Our Creation for the benefit of our souls.
The Wise King Solomon also acknowledges that although chance exists, God is able to intervene in chance.
Proverbs 16:33 (ESV): 33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.
This verse does not preclude God from deciding that the outcome is to be determined by chance, yet rather asserts God’s ability & right to intervene in a way that looks like it was just chance.
This means that just as many people have seen God acting in the world through what seemed like chance fluke outcomes, that at least in some of those cases, it was God acting, even though it’d be difficult to prove at times.
“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”, Albert Einstein, The World as I See It, http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/14140-coincidence-is-god-s-way-of-remaining-anonymous
Even though much encouragement can be gained from observing these events, make sure your faith rests on the firm foundation of God’s Word. Likewise, looking back at the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus does not reveal whether the Samaritan was there by chance, or by God’s intervention.
Control under the Son of God:
The ultimate control over all is in the process of being handed over by God the Father to God the Son, Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (ESV): 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
Because all people have sinned, except for Jesus, all deserve death for their wrongdoing. Jesus’ life & death provided a way for those who were enemies of God, to become God’s friends, and to obtain forgiveness of sins and everlasting life (reference Hebrews 2 (ESV) at BibleGateway.com and Romans 6 (ESV))
God is Sovereign in the Midst of Chance & Choice:
The analogy to use Tic Tac Toe provides a simple way for people to understand these very complex and robust concepts about God’s Sovereignty & Control in the midst of Chance & Choice in our life.
English: Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d’Albert Einstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am optimistic that many who are presently secular will be able to understand this mystery, since a very similar analogy is present in the 1983 science fiction movie War Games. The basic premise is that a self-aware computer gets the codes necessary to start nuclear war, and only by running several simulations of Nuclear War and Tic Tac Toe does the self-aware computer grasp finally that there is no guaranteed way to win.
In the context of religion, understand that there is no way to win against God, yet the way to win, is with God, through his Son Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 54:16-17 (ESV): 16 Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy; 17 no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”
God ran the necessary calculations & setup the appropriate controls & contingency plans ahead of time to ensure it, even though the calculations are more complex than Tic Tac Toe or Global Nuclear War scenarios. To understand more how creation & calculations are intertwined, refer to the Genesis Creation Account Universe Tools Paradigm.
Games like Tic Tac Toe and even more advanced games like Chess are generally understood to lead to ties, if neither side made any mistakes. Satan the Devil will will face final defeat, having already made a mistake by rebelling against God (Ezekiel 28 (ESV), and by tempting humankind to fall away from God (see Genesis 3 (ESV)). God is Sovereign, and worthy to receive all the honor, power, and glory (see Revelation 4 (ESV))
For those who find chance and choice distasteful, rest in this assurance, that God is Sovereign whether or not you accept the realities of chance and choice. You can also comfort yourself, knowing you are in well-respected company, as even the honored scientist Albert Einstein found that concept distasteful, despite investigations of Our Universe pointing to the conclusion that God does play dice with the Universe. The thought experiments introduced complement scriptural illustrations to show God plays dice with the Universe responsibly.
Each person has the responsibility to seek God and his righteousness to live in faith, being faithful to God.
Romans 5:1-4 (ESV): 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Seeking always to do what is right out of faith is expected of everyone, regardless of your viewpoints on God’s Sovereignty, Chance, Choice, Predestination, Election, and Calling. While people might want to debate these Paradigms, never miss your own personal responsibility, so you’ll accompany fellow believers in the New Heaven and New Earth for eternity.
The Wise King Solomon recognized that many aspects in life are subject to time & _________________.
Jesus, the Son of God, revealed that ______________ exists in life.
You have the responsibility to ___________ good or evil.
You have a ___________ to seek God’s righteousness.
God plays dice with the Universe _____________.
There is no way to ______ against God, yet the way to ________, is with God, through his Son _______ _______.