Does God need chance?

This post was published on Saturday 10 April 2010.

I have long disliked the central place that ‘chance’ has in modern scientific theories, particularly the ‘random’ mutations that drive evolution forward. As a Christian I don’t like the idea of utter randomness, of chance being the determining factor in the development of life.

I am also aware that as a concept it is lauded by many of the new atheists as the final nail in God’s coffin: there is no need for God, there is no proof for God’s existence in nature; everything is down to chance, and therefore there is no creator, and no ultimate purpose to life.

A good friend pointed me recently to this article, by Paul Ewart. It is one of those articles that forced me to look at something from a slightly different angle, which is no bad thing.

Paul Ewart argues that – maybe – chance is a necessary aspect of theology, because it helps us to understand the relationship between a sovereign creator and human agency (often called ‘free will’ – I’m not sure humans actually have free will, but that’s another argument).

Perhaps life is like a game of chess, with God as ‘an infinitely wise grand master.’ No matter what we do, which moves we make, God always wins, the outcome is always good, in the end: ‘God adapts his actions in sustaining the world in existence to take account of whatever happens.’

Of course, we would want to argue that God also knows which moves we are going to make, before we make them. We don’t ‘catch him out’ with our wickedness. We mustn’t take the chess game analogy too far; instead it is perhaps a helpful way for us to understand how the world appears sometimes (that there is no benevolent almighty God in ultimate control) with what the Bible insists is the case (the Lamb is on the throne).