What Does God Teach Us About Chance?
Author: Pastor Paul Bartz
Note: Creation Moments exists to provide biblically sound materials to the Church in the area of Bible and science relationships. This Bible study may be reproduced for group use.
The idea that there is something called chance is so firmly rooted in our culture that even Christians speak of it as real. Is the idea of chance taught in the Bible? Is there such a thing as “chance”? Let’s see.
What is “chance” as it is used today? Chance is often associated with “the roll of the dice,” or the turn of a slot machine. Statistically, when the results of a study are compared with a chance outcome, undirected events are compared with purposeful activities. As far as evolution goes, the definition of chance is clearly illustrated by Richard Dawkins’ book The Blind Watchmaker. The sense is that the appearance of design by a purposeful Designer is simply the result of purposeless, unguided events – design is an illusion.
So if we want to define “chance”, perhaps the best definition we can find is that chance – where there are one or more unguided, purposeless events – produces some sort of result. Is the reality of this “chance” taught in the Bible? What does Scripture say about the events in human experience?
One of the first passages that comes to mind is Matthew 10:29-30. Let’s say that you are driving down the open highway. All of a sudden a sparrow darts in front of your car and you hear the sickening sound of him hitting your grill. Neither you nor, surely, the sparrow had purposefully designed this to be the outcome. Yet, does Matthew 10:29-30 leave this event a matter of blind chance? Do we know what God’s purpose was in allowing this to happen? Does our lack of understanding what God’s purpose might be here make it a chance event?
We hear about, and sometimes experience, events for which we can understand no purpose which God might have. Think of one or two of these. Though these are very perplexing in light of a ruling, wise and loving God, does our lack of understanding make them meaningless? Name some attributes (characteristics) of God which we don’t have, which would account for our inability to find meaning in these perplexing events.
Read Acts 17:26-28. Is it exactly accurate for men to take full credit for the rise and fall of nations and empires? Do nations rise and fall by chance? Here, things are less perplexing, for we are told God’s purpose in determining these events. What is His purpose? Can you think of some historical examples of where this purpose is easy to see?
Let’s make this even more personal. Read Psalm 139:16. Refer to our definition of chance again. Does this verse leave any room for chance in a person’s life?
Scripture, in fact, never speaks of chance. However, the word “chance” does appear a few times in the King James translation. Read 1 Samuel 6:9. Once you have read this verse you should now read the surrounding verses to see the context of this verse. Who is speaking the words of verse 9? Does this lead us to believe that the Philistines believed in chance? But did the unescorted Ark head toward Beth Shamesh or in another direction? So what did the Philistines have to conclude – was chance or purpose involved in the consequences of their contact with the Ark?
The word “chance” appears in a more difficult context in a few other passages. Read Ecclesiastes 9:11 and 2 Samuel 1:6. Without a little understanding of the Hebrew (and forgetting that the Bible elsewhere rules out “chance”), one might think that these verses are teaching that there is such a thing as chance. Though each of these verses use different words, in both of these verses the sense is not that of today’s meaning of chance. The Hebrew words do not even hint of a purposeless, unguided event. Rather, they suggest that the actual turn of events were not the events which were anticipated by the actors – not that the events were purposeless and/or meaningless chance.
The word “chance” is also found in the King James translation (and many others) in the New Testament. Compare the use of the word “chance” in Luke 10:31 ff, with the definition we looked at.
A second usage for the word “chance” is found in 1 Corinthians 15:37. What familiar English phrase appears to compare with this usage? The Greek here literally says “if it may be so,” which compares to the English phrase: “Oh, say, for example…” or, as the New King James translates it, “perhaps.” Does this usage teach chance as the modern world believes in the idea?
So we see that the idea of “chance,” to which evolutionists – including many theistic evolutionists – attribute much of the form of today’s life and world in general, is a figment of the imagination. Many ancient peoples as well as modern believed in “chance.” They believed, as many still do, that there are factors a Creator is not directly guiding. This is an essential element of paganism. Chance is not a helpful scientific concept either.
The Bible and the example of God’s people show us that there is no such thing as chance. No matter how small the event, God is personally involved in the entire thing in order to work out His purposes. Science, then, seeks to find the way in which He usually works in repeatable situations.
Close this Bible Study with a prayerful reading of Psalm 119:73-80.
Photo: Die made of bone used at the time of the Civil War. Courtesy of Kolby Kirk. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.