Updated: Nov 26, 2019
When we discuss God’s relationship to creation, or the definition of it, we face 2 principle
schools of thought. The first is the rather more extreme of the two, purporting that the
relationship is one of a direct link; that is, every raindrop, particle and atom is superintended
by God himself. A main exponent of this view point was John Calvin, who’s perspective on
sola Scriptura implies that God is not only omniscient, but also unconditionally and
absolutely in control. More recent proponents of the prospect of Calvinism are Sproul, in his
book ‘Not a Chance’, and in the writings Helm and Byl.
According to John Calvin, free will, for example, is “a faculty of the reason to distinguish
between good and evil, and a faculty of the will to choose one or the other.” Perhaps it
doesn’t always come down to choosing between good and evil, but the great question of free
will has long been a popular topic of debate between theologists and atheists alike. In
particular, a conservative view on God’s sovereignty might find this question especially
vexing. Of course, the idea of a heavenly Father then becomes contentious. In a world of
hellish misfortunes and unequivocal evil, this concept becomes the ground on which many
people, young people in particular, establish their religious, or rather unreligious, bias.
Plainly, God in His sovereignty would have to be held accountable as guide and counsel (J.E.
Eubanks, JR, By Faith)
Instead, we seek to explore the latter of the two theories. Essentially, it is a less-
conservative Christian tenet that, instead, God subcontracts his ‘control’ to a series of laws on
which every raindrop, particle, atom and indeed persons rely. If we apply this to free will, our
subcontracted control allows us to make moral choices. Perhaps, them, the last judgment
might ultimately be realised by a self-examination of conscience.
However, many Christians find this line of thinking hard to reconcile with the concept of
God’s divine plan. Ultimately, however, the answer is not quite as complicated as it might at
first seem. When offering our heart and soul to the Lord, while we might not be fully under
His control, He is able to whisper irresistible truths into the choices and paths we take. The
Lord speaks through us, beside us and within us but He does not speak for us.
Additionally, there are the scientific laws that nature does, in fact, obey. If we look at the
raindrop, for example, Science explains that vapour rises from the sea and cools into water
droplets, which forms a cloud. When the cloud gets too heavy, the droplets fall as rain. Of
course, this huge over-simplification does not very well demonstrate the complexity of the
laws that dictate weather, but it does give us a basic understanding of how these laws are well established. As a result, weather is, on the whole, a predictable thing. A similar example in programming terms might be the millions of programs currently working on particles in the
atmosphere which might become steel, or another element. The fact of the matter is that we
have hundreds of thousands of years’ worth of scientific discoveries that help us understand
the world we live in.
We have a huge wealth of knowledge and skill based around this fact
and these examples are within our ability to master. That does not, however, mean that God
does not count as part of the equation. It is, in fact, the opposite. When we look at Genesis,
we see God as giving humanity the ability as master of the universe. The underlying theses
behind this book relies on this actuality; God has specifically allowed man to master.
Evolutionary Theory vs. ‘Randomness’ and Chance
The laws that we have discussed also heavily rely on chance; for example, chance plays a
central role in quantum theory, which underpins modern physics. So, we must ask ourselves,
to what extent does God have a role in chance? Perhaps the most debated topic in this area is
within discussions of biological evolution. The process itself is inconceivably complex as
evolutionary theory relies heavily on the concept of chance; in essence, random variations
depend on non-random retention. For some, this a way of discounting God as a creator.
Perhaps, if we look back in time to some 600 million years ago, we could hardly imagine, or
rather the ‘chance’ would be almost nil, that we would arrive at the current state of the world
of today. Although, some scientists such as Simon Morris (2003) have argued that similar
species would still evolve under different conditions. However, it is widely understood that it
is virtually certain the same path could not be repeated. Gould discussed evolutionary process as a tree structure; at every joint, there would be a multitude of paths the process might take (Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History ,1989). The sheer size and complexity implies of such a tree implies that it is hardly possible any of the particular tips would have been reached (Bartholomew, God and Chance: Christian Perspectives 2016).
The ‘randomness’ of evolutionary process can be compared to the random processes that
generate meaningful mechanisms, say, in DNA. Biochemical reactions can be “chaotic” at a
molecular level and almost impossible to predict. However, the randomness of biochemical
processes can, in fact, be very useful. Let’s look at DNA mutations. Indeed, while some
cause disease, others provide opportunity for new properties (Biologos). DNA itself has
enough instability to allow “two strands to be separated by the cell’s molecular machinery for
various purposes”. This seems to complement the idea of a purposeful God.
We move to argue that randomness is a genuine feature of design; God has always guided the course of evolutionary history and design. Although some struggle to see this as compatible with Divine Intervention or Divine Action, this should not be the case. The true causal powers that God has blessed us with come in all forms, from the random occurrences that allow the subatomic world to function as it does in the present day, to the human forms we can see in our many capacities of free will. As Miller stated, such freedom is best supplied by the open contingency of evolution, and not by strings of divine direction attached to every living creature (1999/2007).
Overall, we understand that while God subcontracts his control to the laws of the universe, the results are not always predictable. While many atheists somewhat rely on ‘chance’ as an argument in their favour, we hope to dispel the negative role it often plays in current theology (Bartholomew, God and Chance: Christian Perspectives 2016). Instead, chance in creation makes for purposeful and intelligent design.