Do we serve a random God?

I was recently confronted once again with the contrasts and similarities of scientific evidence of biological evolution and Judeo-Christian teachings about the origin of life and matter. There has been much progress in the 20 years since I was last a student. Biologists can demonstrate very clearly the evidence of evolution in the world around us, and offer well-reasoned explanations for many things which were mere conjecture not too long ago. What I have not seen yet is any one of them who is able or willing to make absolutist statements about how and why life came to be in its very early stages. Much is attributed to the effects of random events and very large numbers. That is, if you observe a large number of events, over a very long period of time there is almost a statistical certainty that a given event will occur. And the one event of interest, of course, is the crucial combination of factors which lead to the first life.

Perhaps I think about this too much, and ought to do something important with my time. It seems that scientists rely nearly as much on this randomness to explain the unexplainable as Christians rely on the explanation that God willed it and it must therefore be. Are we serving a random God?

In my attempts to understand the evidence of the world around us and reconcile it with the truth revealed in the Bible I have developed my own set of "understandings". One person's guidelines for interpreting the scriptures is stated something like this: If the plain sense of the text makes common sense, seek no other sense; but accept each word at its primary, literal meaning. Applying that to the Genesis account of creation leads some to insist that the "days" of creation must indeed be literal 24-hour periods of time. Others suggest, and the physical evidence supports, the idea that the processes described almost certainly took much longer and the "days" must be figurative references to the beginning times. I have long accepted that position, recognizing that the Bible's purpose was not to serve as a science textbook.

Now, I am beginning to think that much of the randomness offered as explanations of the inexplicable must certainly have been the hand of God directing the processes of His creation at critical steps in the processes He designed. It as if He set the universe spinning like a top and sat back to enjoy watching it spin. I have not seen any recently, but surely someone still makes children's tops which operate by extending a helical plunger from the top of the top and pressing it down to set the top spinning. As the tops spins and loses speed it is possible to "recharge it" by operating the plunger again. In this way the top can be kept spinning for a very long time, and the periodic "recharging" also allows the operator to provide some direction to the top's course as it spins. In a similar manner, God might from time to time intervene in the processes of the universe to provide direction. It is clear that He has and does intervene in our physical universe and in the course of human events.

This does not require that God created each species of life directly and specifically or that the process was completed in six literal 24-hours days. Additionally, this does not state that there is no true randomness -- certainly there is room to allow both randomness and supernatural guidance of critical events which might otherwise depend solely upon random occurrence.

There is also an interesting theological sidelight here. A common assertion is that God is not the author of confusion (or chaos, or randomness). It is clear that God used confusion as a tool against His enemies, but if He is not the author or source of confusion then there must be some other source. To keep the argument simple, let us just say that the battle between order and confusion (or life and death, or good and evil) is an extension of the futile struggle of Satan against God. God is the author of life and order, Satan the promoter of death and chaos. It is an interesting parallel, and deserving of more study and development.

So, if the scientific explanation of origins is dependent upon the eventual occurrence of any given event in a random system given a long enough period of time, does that make randomness the god of science? Do scientists serve a random god? Does a God of order rely solely on chance events to accomplish His purposes, or does He intervene in perhaps the smallest ways during critical stages of the processes of life He has designed. There is an oft-repeated story that even the disturbances in air created by a butterfly's flight has an effect on the environment around it. Perhaps our God is even greater if He tracks the minute details of the placement of specific electrons and ions, giving them a slight nudge at just the right time to create the organic molecules of early life; and repeating this minute process countless times to keep the top spinning in the right direction. And it all looks like the chance events of an impersonal concept called random!


What do you think?

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