Thursday, January 12, 2006
This will have to be a first draft of several attempts. I want to go after the concept of chance. My last post was originally going to be called Chance vs. Choice. As I wrote that one, I found that choice was plenty to bite off in one post. I also realized that I wasn’t sure that choice and chance are necessarily opposed. However, I do believe that the sovereignty of God is antithetical to the idea of chance.
First define terms:
chance Function: noun1 a: something that happens unpredictably without discernible human intention or observable cause b: the assumed impersonal purposeless determiner of unaccountable happenings: LUCK c: the fortuitous or incalculable element in existence:
It is meaning 1b that I want to dwell on. “The assumed impersonal determiner of unaccountable happenings”.
So something happens. Why did it happen?
That domino fell because the one before it fell and hit it. Cause and effect works just fine. If the second domino didn’t fall after being hit by the first, we would seek a cause.
It must be glued down. Why do we seek a cause? If chance ruled, we would just say there was a chance it would fall down when hit and a chance it wouldn’t. However, we are so sure that one domino will knock down another, that folks spend weeks building elaborate patterns of dominos, just to push the first and watch the rest fall and fall and fall.
We largely work on the assumption that the universe behaves in a deterministic way. Natural laws are thought to be our best effort at describing how bits of the universe will behave as they do. The pebble falls to the ground. The hot steel glows various colors as its temperature rises higher and higher. Of course we generalize: one object attracts another by gravitation and a heated body will radiate energy to cooler surroundings.
Now we just need the first domino. Once it is set into motion, all else that happens could be known by someone with enough knowledge of the natural laws that would prevail.
But who or what pushed the first domino? And will anyone or anything ever intervene once the dominos have begun to fall according to the law that governs such things?
One idea is that of the prime mover: the one who sets the first domino into motion. It might be speculated that the dominos always existed. I suppose one might even suppose an infinitely long chain of dominos that had started falling an infinitely long time ago. Yet the idea of a start is still there haunting us with the need for a starter.
If we were to suppose that the first domino fell by chance, why not presume that all the rest are simply falling by chance as well. Where do we get the sense of certainty that one domino pushed means that the rest will fall? I don’t think I can imagine thirty seconds of life on earth where I did not operate in the certainty that cause and effect were operating. Abandon all hope you who enter there.
However, neither can I imagine that whoever, or whatever, moved the first domino would necessarily stand back and refrain from ever stopping a domino collision. If I saw a domino stop, and could find no discernable reason for it to do so, I would be likely to consider it a miracle. A miracle might be defined as follows: an extraordinary event manifesting the intervention of someone or something acting outside the scope of the natural laws.
Now I want to call up choice again. Something can choose to act outside the scope of the natural laws. Without choice a universe is at best an enormously intricate domino pattern that has always been in motion and will always be in motion. There are no choices. Choice is banned. Every domino must fall just as it has always been destined to fall in accordance with the natural laws.
That is the universe at its best without choice. In it I am a very complicated domino collapse, hitting the keys of the computer as I must. The universe without choice would be at its worst, to my sensibilities. It would be that universe where every domino may fall or not according to chance: the assumed impersonal purposeless determiner of unaccountable happenings
With choice, the universe at its worst is a vast domino fall set into motion by a single choice. No more choices after that. Natural law prevails. It seems a very lonely place to me for the one who made the choice.
In his revelation to man, God seems to be very intent on insisting that we make choices. Choose him or reject him. Choose his way or the other way. And those choices make possible the idea of good and evil, right and wrong. Those universes without choice have no good and evil. Things must either happen according to the rules, or by chance, in a universe without choice. And in a universe that does have choices, I believe that chance is ruled out. God has assured us that if we make the right choice, we will live with him forever. A sovereign God rules over all and there is no chance that can overrule him. A God who is not sovereign really doesn’t rule at all. In any particular instance, chance may intervene. And chance is by definition impersonal and purposeless. It cannot be in accord with Gods purpose because it is by definition purposeless.
God is sovereign. We are able to choose. Nothing is left to chance. Chance is left as no thing.
It is a first draft. Will I choose to revise it? Or is there a chance that I will not? (