Chance: The Great Myth

Some of the best-known stories in the world are the colorful stories of Zeus, Athena, Ares, and the other gods and goddesses of ancient Greece. Even though they have long been discred-ited as accounts of factual history, these myths continue to wield a powerful influence. Western art, vocabulary, education, and even popular entertainment abound with references to the deities who were once worshiped by the Greeks and Romans.

Ancient Greeks told these stories to explain the mysteries of their world—the reasons for the four seasons, the origin of fire, and others. Human beings have a seemingly ineradicable drive to understand the world and find explanations for why things happen as they do, and for the Greeks, this drive was once satisfied by the ancient myths. However, as time went on, people discovered that there were, in fact, no gods residing on Mount Olympus, that Zeus and his pantheon did not actually exist. Though the legacy of these myths lives on in litera-ture, art, and other disciplines, the myths are no longer used to explain reality because, in fact, they obscure the truth instead of revealing it.

In the modern West, many people believe that we have escaped the era of mythology, never to return. Science and the scientific method, we are told, are the great means of explanation, things that tell us the way things really are. Yet for the past few decades at least, one myth has been assumed as true by many scientists. We are speaking of the myth of chance, which is routinely invoked as an explanation of reality.

In referring to the myth of chance, we are talking about the idea that chance has causative power, that it can actually make things happen and produce effects. Chance as a mathematical concept can be a useful and appropriate way of speaking of probabilities. Statistically, there is a fifty-fifty chance that a coin toss will result in heads. But chance cannot cause the coin to come up heads. At-mospheric pressure, the force with which the coin is flipped, and other factors all contribute to causing the final outcome, but chance does not do anything. It merely tells us the relative likelihood of a particular result.

Seeking to avoid God as an explanation for the world, many mod-ern scientists speak as if chance caused the universe to come into being. But since chance cannot do anything, we have a violation of a basic law of existence: ex nihilo, nihil fit (out of nothing, nothing comes). For anything to exist, there must be a true original or first cause.

Coram Deo

hance has no power to cause anything; it can only measure the likelihood of a future result based on known conditions. When we speak of chance at all, we must always speak of it under the assumption and recognition that everything is foreordained according to God’s sovereign plan (Eph. 1:11). We do not live in a universe governed by blind fate but by the wisdom and goodness of our Creator.

Passages for Further Study

1 Kings 22:19–23, 29–38
Esther 2
Esther 4
Proverbs 16:33

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.