Chance or Coincidence?|
Is there such a Thing?
"They were in the wrong place at the wrong time," quipped world leaders. The poor victims were unfortunate people who just happened to be there.
Is that what we believe as Christians? Does God sit back and helplessly watch tragedies unfold?
Was this an event caused by so-called "chance?" Is this what we believe and teach to fellow Christians from our church pulpits? Do we believe that people just "happen" to be in an earthquake, or a flood, or a tornado, or a war, or a terrorist bombing, or a beheading ceremony, or a school shooting, or an oil rig explosion?
Think about it. Does chance really lead people to their killing circumstances and disastrous events and places? Even more basic, we need to ask this question: Does "chance" play a part in our lives?
Laws of Physics Dictate No Randomness or Chance
In addressing the idea of randomness or chance, one of the most important recent discoveries of physics is that there really is no such thing as "chance." It doesn't exist in scientific or mathematical models.
Instead, "chance" is the god of the atheist, a sort of blind-faith we might add. "Chance" is the atheist's prime mover and sustainer of all living organisms. Amazing. Especially since chance is no "thing," or no-thing - nothing!
Trillions of Interconnected Processes
In fact, today sincere or honest evolutionists are stumped because they know our universe is not nearly old enough to account for the trillions of interconnected processes and dependencies of one species or body upon others. Trillions. These are webs of tangled but perfectly functioning interconnected processes.
In fact, hardcore evolutionists have concocted ideas of bizarre things such as "panspermia," or little green men who must have spread spores from outer space to fertilize our busy, populated little planet which swarms with thousands of varieties of life forms. (Never mind asking where the little green men came from).
It is either that, or atheists insist that there must be an infinite number of parallel universes to make-up for the lack of time for our known universe to have evolved life forms and interconnected stellar bodies. Fascinating. It is more improbable than creation itself. But, atheists will accept anything but the ABCs (Anything But Christianity).
Rolling Dice&Tossing Coins
Back to the subject of chance. Take the throwing of dice or the tossing of coins, for example. Do you think the results are really up to chance?
Think about these factors:
How hard were the dice tossed?
How much force did the index finger have?
How strong was the thumb flip?
What was the angle of the palm?
How heavy were the dice?
How many times did they flip?
What about the force behind the tossing of coins?
How heavy were they?
How dense was the air as they flew up and fell down?
How strong was the thrust in tossing them?
Shooting for the Moon
Once we know all of these factors and gain control over them, there is no "chance." That is why we can aim a rocket away from the moon knowing that it will eventually reach the moon. Had we seemingly aimed the rocket at the moon at that point of time, it wouldn't have reached the moon.
Scientists are not playing guessing games with the rocket. They have studied all of the factors such as gravity, distance, weight, fuel power and geometry to achieve their goals. In the same way there are no guessing games with God either. In our study of Scripture we learn that He has complete control over all factors and variables in our universe.
One of the things the Reformers and Puritans did so well is to give us a body of knowledge concerning God's providence over our lives and over the universe. They showed that the Bible clearly says that God is sovereign over all of life.
They emphasized that God creates, preserves, or takes life. He governs all His creatures and their actions. This is particularly revealed in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q.11. Perhaps today's believers would do well to give "chance" and "providence" a review in their own understanding of biblical theology.
God's Control over the Universe
But, too many modern day believers do not know what the Bible says about much of anything. It is a sad state of affairs because we live in a world filled with vengeance and evil. Not only that, but nature itself seems to be rebelling against us and our own planet. So we really need to tackle the problem of our seeming "fate" in the midst of tragic events. It is imperative if we are to survive as "believers" in a holy God.
Consider that more and more we are subject to earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, pandemics and diseases, blight, insect infestation, and even a growing number of dying bees! More than ever we need to study and understand God's providence over our lives.
What the Bible says about God's Providence
We cannot help the skeptics. But, as Christians we must learn what the Bible says about such things. To that end the Bible clearly teaches God's providential control over the universe.
So let's review a few of these Scriptural principles:
God Controls the Universe
"The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all" (Psalm 103:19, ESV).
…"all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. And none can stay his hand or say to him, 'What have you done?'" (Daniel 4:35).
"In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…" (Ephesians 1:11).
God Creates&Controls Disasters
These verses state that God is in control of the universe at large. Furthermore, the Bible says that it is God who creates and controls disasters, too. We may not like it. But, we should know that everything comes from the hand of God.
"I form light and create darkness. I make well-being and create calamity. I am the Lord, who does all these things" (Isaiah 45:7, ESV).
God Controls Brute Creation
God is in control of the animal creation:
"The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God" (Ps. 104:21)…When you give it to them, they gather it up. When you open your hand, they are filled with good things" (v. 28).
"Look at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them." (Matt. 6:26).
God is Sovereign over the Physical World
"You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth" (Psalm 104:14).
Look around you. The earth is filled with abundant varieties of foods: colorful fruits and vegetables, rice, wheat, cattle, birds and fish. Do we really believe that these thousands of varieties just "happened" to evolve alongside man's need for nutrition?
Think of it. We have apples, pears, figs, oranges, bananas, grapes, strawberries, kiwi fruit, pomegranates - Please…let's wake-up and praise God for his lavish love and provision for His creatures!
"Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps" (Ps. 135:6).
God Controls the Nations
God is in control over the world's individual countries and nations, too.
"He makes nations great, and he destroys them. He enlarges nations, and leads them away" (Job 12:23).
"For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations" (Psalm 23:28).
"Therefore did we rejoice in him, who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations - let not the rebellious exalt themselves" (Psalm 66:7).
Trapped in Petty Two-Party Fights
It is important for those of us sucked down into the petty fights of a two-party system that we consider these verses. Don't brag when a Republican becomes President, and don't strut when a Democrat gains her power. Remember, God warns, "My people - infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them" (Isaiah 3:12).
"And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place" (Acts 17:26).
God rules! Not our American presidents or Islamic mullahs. Not the E.U. or Chinese military forces. God alone is in control - not your party or nation. We need to rid ourselves of selfish, provincial concerns and remind ourselves that we live on a spinning globe among trillions of swirling galaxies!
God Rules over our Birth&Lot in Life
"Your eyes saw my unformed substance. In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them" (Psalm 139:16, ESV).
No such thing as Accidental Death or Birth
In this verse we learn that not only is God sovereign over our birth, but He is also in control of the number of days of our lives. There is no such thing as an "accidental" death or the "unplanned birth" in the life of a Christian or Jew.
Galatians 1:15-16 says, "But when he who had set me apart before I was born…was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…" which tells us that even our ministries and preaching is foreordained by God.
The Lord told Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel?" (1 Sam. 16:1).
Don't "Toot your own Horn"
Don't brag or boast about your position in life, a successful career, your riches or your degrees, either, because it is God who grants you successes and failures:
"I say to the boastful, 'Do not boast,' and to the wicked, 'Do not lift up your horn'…but it is God who executes judgment putting down one and lifting up another" (Psalm 75:4-7).
…"he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate…" (Luke 1:52).
There is no Chance, Dice, or Tossing of Coins
"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord" (Proverbs 16:33).
"But even the hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:30).
For thousands of years we thought this was a quaint expression. But, since the discovery of DNA we now understand that every hair, every molecule is in place just as God ordained it to be.
God Protects His Own
"In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety" (Psalm 4:8).
"For you bless the righteous, O Lord. You cover him with favor as with a shield" (Ps. 5:12).
"My soul clings to you. Your right hand upholds me" (Ps. 63:8).
"The Lord will keep you from all evil. He will keep your life" (Ps. 121:7).
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for your good, for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Ro. 8:28).
Inverse of Romans 8:28 True, too!
We need to remember that the inverse of Romans 8:28 is true, too. For those who hate God and who are not called according to His purpose, nothing works together for their good. R.C. Sproul makes this point well.
No Need to Envy Successful, evil People
This is also a primary reason why we must refuse to envy successful, evil rich people and rulers on earth. Their future is bleak and worthless. Even those "who die with the most toys" lose big time! They need our prayers, because their future is a hell they cannot even imagine.
God Supplies the Needs of His People
"Abraham said, 'God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son" (Genesis 22:8). …So Abraham called the name of that place, 'The Lord will provide'" (Gen. 22:14).
Jehovah Jireth found in Genesis 22:14 means that "God will provide."
Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 when he said…"man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."
Philippians 4:19 tells us that…"my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
God is Sovereign in Answering Prayers
Manasseh repented and prayed "to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God" (2 Chronicles 33:13).
"O you who hears prayer, to you shall all flesh come" (Psalm 65:2).
"Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8).
This verse means that we should keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking. It carries the idea of persistence.
"And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?" (Luke 18:7).
God Exposes&Punishes the Wicked
"If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword. He has bent and readied his bow. He has prepared for him his deadly weapons" (Psalm 7:12-13).
"And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against Me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh" (Isaiah 66:24).
"And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15).
Book of Life
In shock and dismay, unbelievers may find one day that their own personal DNA records are not found written in the "book of life." They will find that they are "judged, each one of them, according to what they had done" (Rev. 20:13).
They will learn too late that it is only through grace - only through the redemptive work and person of Jesus Christ - that they are saved from eternal death (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Nothing else saves them.
God Permits Evil
Of the sin and evil that contaminates God's world, the Bible states that God "permits" evil. Paul said that "In past generations he (God) allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways" (Acts 14:16). In fact, God uses mankind's evil as a punishment in and of itself.
"Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…" (Ro. 1:24). With this behavior they were "receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error" (Ro. 1:27).
Aids, venereal diseases, and Hepatitis C are just a few of the diseases unsanitary practices bring to practitioners of evil.
God is in Control
In summary, Christians are never in the grip of blind fortune or chance. Luck has no place in our vocabulary. Everything that happens to us is divinely planned and ordained.
The very God who creates and sustains the swirling galaxies is the same God who controls the nuts and bolts of an airplane or a bomb. It is "in Him that all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17).
Because God controls everything he tells us to pray about everything. He says to us,
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God…will guard your hearts and minds…" (Phil. 4:6).
Memorize this verse word for word and teach it to your children:
"The lot is cast into the lap but its every decision is from the Lord" (Proverbs 16:33).
For the Christian there is no such thing as "chance" or "coincidence." We may pound the table and scream out "Why?" But, God Almighty is ultimately in control of our lives and the universe. At the same time, evil and decay have rooted themselves among us. We invited it. But, that is another subject for another time.
Bridges, Jerry. 1992. Trusting God even when life hurts. Colorado Springs: NavPress.
MacArthur, John. 2006. Anxious for nothing. Colorado Springs: Cook Communications.
Sproul, R.C. 1999. God or chance? (tape). Ligonier Ministries. P.O. Box 54700, Orlando, FL 32854. 1-800-435-4343
The Reformation Study Bible, ESV. 2005. Orland, FL: Ligonier Ministries. (Notes on God's Providence, p. 900).
About the author: Valorie Emilio holds an MA in History from U.C.L.A. and a V.O.M. Certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University.