God or Chance?

I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord do all these things” (v. 7).

- Isaiah 45

People who deny the existence of God give chance the credit for creating and ordering the universe. Even Christians are guilty of this blunder when they try to explain why bad things happen. They give God the credit for causing good things, but they give chance the credit for causing inconsequential or bad things. While God is certainly not the author of sin, we must not abdicate His sovereignty by removing Him from the causal chain of events—especially when the Scriptures so clearly state that God does cause “bad things” to happen. Lamentations 3:37–39 (niv) is an excellent example: “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins?” We have certainly learned from our study of the Psalms that David understood the hand of providence in everything that happened to Him. He did not attribute anything to chance, but turned to God in times of difficulty and joy.

People who talk of chance as a causal agent reveal their atheism by rejecting God as sovereign. It is impossible for chance to cause anything because it is only a mathematical concept of probability. Chance is not an entity, and it is incapable of doing anything. Therefore, something must cause things to happen—the answer is God. Because God is eternal, infinite, and self-existent, He is not an effect—nothing caused Him to come into being.

The universe, however, is not self-existent, it is not eternal, and it is not infinite. It is an effect; therefore, something caused it—once again, the answer is God. The Lord of all is the primary cause of everything that happens. To attribute the ultimate cause of events to anything other than God alone is blasphemous and atheistic. Many Christians err when they unwittingly attribute some calamity to chance instead of Divine Providence. We must, therefore, not only counter the atheism in our culture by exposing the error of “chance causality,” but we must also sweep the church clean of the notion that God is not involved in the afflictions, calamities, and trials we face. It is much more comforting to know that a holy God controls these events rather than unexplainable “chance.”

Coram Deo

Read Amos 4:6–10; Hebrews 12:5–11; and 1 Peter 1:6–7. From these passages why might God cause “bad things” to happen? What should our response be when we are confronted with difficult circumstances? Work to recognize God’s hand in your affairs and praise Him that nothing is beyond His control.

Passages for Further Study

1 Samuel 5
2 Chronicles 20:6–9
Lamentations 3

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343