Re: Seeking God's will in physical phenomena

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Date: Mon Dec 05 2005 - 17:48:55 EST

-----Original Message-----
From: Mervin Bitikofer <>
Sent: Sat, 03 Dec 2005 06:27:57 -0600
Subject: Seeking God's will in physical phenomena

A second send under a new subject heading ... I don't think the first one got through.
This is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but also posing a serious theological question in which the 'small probability' thread meets the 'God's will' thread.
Why not divine God's will by using 'chance'? In Acts 1:26 the lot was cast (after prayer to know God's will) to determine the twelfth disciple. And there is a good bit of Old Testament precedence to determine God's will in the (what I assume to be random) process of casting lots. Why do we not take this option seriously in our 'enlightened' times? How many churches today choose their leadership in such a way -- (there probably are exceptions that actually do). But obviously the Bible times crowd took quite seriously that God would intervene to make his will known in this direct fashion. Of course, one could point out that the Spirit had not yet made its debut in the tongues of flame -- maybe no lot casting was needed after that. On the other hand Peter & Paul (both Spirit-filled men) might have resorted to this in their disagreement over John Mark or their other disagreements. But they didn't.
Maybe today we're more inclined to line up our thinking with Solomon's Ecclesiastes 9:11 (911? I can just see conspiracy enthusiasts scooting to the edge of their seats) "...the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all." More likely -- we are more comfortable with God's will showing up in a revelatory way that is brought to the surface as we dicker with each other over scripture and in prayer.
Could it be that we don't really trust God to intervene in this physical way any more? I'm not advocating that we start -- but I think it interesting to pose the question 'why not?' One of the profound lines in the Lord of the Rings series is when Gandalf is ruminating over the 'chance' of the ring falling into Bilbo's hands '...chance,/ if chance you call it/'. There is some Christian profundity in that I believe. I would love to see a theological study on the mathematically analyzed thing now called 'random'.
Karl replies:
This is what a number of Reformation churches did. It was most common among anabaptist traditions, although Zinzendorf claimed it derived from Luther's commentary on Jonah. The lot (or similar substitute) was considered the best (only?) way to be assured of determining God's will. To apply it to our current obsession with ID, they might say that the only way to be sure that God is the Creator is if He incorporated chance into the process of creation and did not leave his "fingerprints" anywhere! :-)
After all, the House always wins!
For a nice discussion, which also points out some of the practical pitfalls, see Elisabeth Sommer, 1998, Gambling with God: The use of the lot by the Moravian Brethren in the eighteenth century: Journal of the History of Ideas, v. 59, p. 267-286.
Karl V. Evans

Received on Mon Dec 5 17:50:26 2005

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