Chance: Editorial

October 26, 2023

Chance: Editorial

William L. Peirson

 Chance raises questions about God. Believers have long pondered whether there can be such a thing as chance at all. After all, if there are things that happen randomly mustn’t they be outside God’s control? Or is randomness merely apparent, the result of our ignorance of what God is doing behind the scenes? The dilemma is particularly disturbing when we’re struggling to square the apparent randomness of tragedies around us with the existence of a loving sovereign creator. If God is in control, why do people seem to suffer indiscriminately? Theories in contemporary physics also point to randomness being part of the universe. Does this force us to conclude that there is such a thing as chance? And does this rule out the existence of God?

 In our opening article, physicist Paul Ewart takes the relationship between chance and God in a different direction to these traditional approaches, arguing that not only do both exist, but that God may value and use chance to achieve his ends.

 In the social arena, chance raises the vexed question of gambling. New South Wales notoriously has one of the highest rates of poker machines per capita of any jurisdiction in the world, and recent years have seen a massive rise in online betting. Behind the statistics lie heartbreaking stories of addiction, poverty, and family breakdown. The political will to effect change has been slow to develop but is gaining momentum, a push that has been facilitated by the work of Wesley Mission. In this edition, Stu Cameron and Jim Wackett show how the Bible motivates their action for policy change and urge Christians to add their support.

Given the prevalence of gambling and its impacts, there is surprisingly little Christian discussion of the ethics of gambling. In a thought-provoking article, Andrew Schmidt lays out common justifications provided for gambling, and argues these gain no purchase in a Christian framework.

Drawing on their varied expertise, several of our Case in Point columnists have added further perspectives to help us think about chance in relation to understanding God, the world, and how we should live: 

  • Is happiness in marriage a matter of chance, as Pride and Prejudice’s Charlotte Lucas would have us believe? 
  • What does the Bible say about casting lots, and is this an appropriate way to make decisions today? 
  • Do we have agency to make decisions or is everything we do predetermined? What does this mean for education? 
  • Does God have agency? Can he change his mind and is there any point praying? 

For those who are not evangelical Christians, this is an opportunity to peer deeply into the world as it is viewed by the Bible. It may be an opportunity to reflect and review your beliefs about the world. Why do we see nothing but chaos? If God is not totally in control, what does this mean for the future of our world and the universe? Why do you hold your position on gambling and its destructive impact on society? How does God interact with life and love? How can anything be but predetermined – whether by God or other? 

In spite of the chaos and suffering we see in the world, the Bible tells us nothing lies outside the sovereignty of the Lord of the universe. And while at times great faith is needed to trust that God has things under control, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ endure, and we look forward to ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived—the things God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9). 

I trust that no matter who you are, you will be both encouraged and challenged as you read this edition.

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