According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Friday, April 18, 2014

Thomas Jay Oord - Random Events in a God-Created World

Random Events in a God-Created World

by Thomas Jay Oord
April 16, 2014

We live in a world characterized by a degree of randomness. Scientists speculate that randomness occurs at the quantum, genetic, and environmental levels of existence. But I’ve been wondering lately, What does this mean for theology?


If contemporary science is to be believed, randomness seems at play, at least to some degree, from the bottom to the top of existence. Not only is the quantum level and simple organisms affected by randomness. Complex creatures like humans live lives characterized by at least some measure of randomness.

On its own, of course, science cannot judge whether chance is merely a matter of our lack of knowledge or actually real. Scientists rely upon philosophical assumptions.

But a good number of contemporary philosophers also argue that chance occurs in our lives. These philosophers explore the issues of chance in relation to probability theory and induction.


A century ago, C. S. Peirce proved one of the most insightful among philosophers when it comes to explaining the role of chance. The advantage Peirce had for thinking carefully about chance was that his job required him to make careful measurements. Although a world-class philosopher, he worked for the government as a type of technician. His assignment was to measure things and to improve measuring devices. In this capacity – especially as Peirce found errors in observation – he realized the pervasiveness of chance.

Peirce’s inability to measure reality with absolute precision led him to conclude that a measure of spontaneity exists in the world. The world is not a determined machine, and chance emerging from spontaneity is inevitable. In fact, chance is irreducible, because randomness is a fundamental fact of life. Chance is genuine.

Peirce’s conclusions about the role of randomness rings true today. A number of philosophers accept that chance, randomness, unpredictability, and imprecision characterize existence, although specialists debate how best to speak of each. In this debate, philosophers sometimes use “random” to describe the product of a series of events and “chance” to describe the process of a single instance. There is no consensus on how best to conceptualize them in relation to each other. But the consensus among contemporary philosophers seems to be that randomness and chance is real.


Contemporary views about chance are at odds with the theological perspectives of Augustine and John Calvin.

“Nothing in our lives happens haphazardly,” said Augustine. “Everything that takes place against our will can only come from God's will, his Providence, the order he has created, the permission he gives, and the laws he has established."

John Calvin argues the same: “We must know that God’s providence, as it is taught in scripture, is opposed to fortune and fortuitous happenings.” [fate v.destiny]

Even one of my theological heroes, John Wesley, approved of cleromancy, which is the practice of casting lots (chance) to find God's will. Apparently, Wesley thought that chance events were determined by God in a hidden way.

I believe we cannot make significant progress in understanding our world if we ignore the role of genuine randomness. Theologies in conversation with science, philosophy, and other disciplines that accept randomness and chance must propose different ways for understanding how God acts providentially.


For my own part, I think open and relational theologies offer the best theological vision for affirming God’s providence and a world characterized by randomness. Open and relational theologies do not see God controlling all things. Out of love, God gives freedom and agency to creation. And this means random events can and do occur, events that even God may not have known with certainty. [sic, goes to the nature of the event: "open" and "relational"]

I’m currently about half done writing a book on this subject. I’d love to have feedback that may help. If you have questions or issues that you think I should address, please contact me.


* * * * * * * * * * * *

* For further discussion see sidebars re "Theism - Open" and here under "Theism - Relational" along with additional discussions under God's Sovereignty.

- R.E. Slater

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