Weekend Broadcast

Self Creation (Part 2)

A Message by R.C. Sproul

Many scientists use the word “chance” as if it is a magical talisman able to solve all questions about the origin of the universe. They explain that the universe is a product of time + chance + matter. But if this were the case, where did matter come from? In this lesson, Dr. Sproul debunks the myth that “chance” is enough to explain existence without God.

From the series: Defending Your Faith

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Not a Chance

  2. devotional

    God or Chance?

  3. devotional

    What is Chance?

Not a Chance

Modern Americans often find the biblical view of divine providence hard to swallow because we are accustomed to living in a republic in which no one can govern without the consent of the electorate. The right to vote is an external constraint on politicians; in other words, our elected officials know they can lose their seat in government if they act against the wishes of their constituents.

However, there is no external check on the reign of our Creator. There is no limit to His sovereignty. The extent of His control knows no bounds; everything that happens is ordained by the Lord. No person or force can thwart anything He has purposed to do.

This doctrine is taught throughout Scripture. In today’s passage, Paul tells us God works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11). The first part of the Westminster Confession’s section on providence helpfully restates the biblical position: “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass” (3.1).

“Whatsoever comes to pass” includes the predestination of His people to salvation (Rom. 9) and the rise and fall of human empires (Acts 17:26–27a). Even evil is not outside the scope of our Father’s control (Isa. 45:7), although God relates differently to wickedness than He does to righteousness. The difficult issue of providence and evil will be the subject of our study tomorrow.

Moreover, the Lord ordains the outcome of seemingly chance events. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:33). We speak of things happening “by chance,” but God knows with certainty all things that come to pass. We say there is a fifty-percent chance a tossed coin will turn up heads or tails only because we do not know fully the causal factors (number of rotations, force of the flip, density of the air, weight of the coin, and so on) that would enable us to make a perfect prediction. But there is no “chance” for the Lord. He knows beforehand with certainty whether the coin will land heads or tails. Indeed, He has already ordained the outcome of the toss.

God or Chance?

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.”

What is Chance?

Whether or not we are conscious of it, all of us are concerned with speaking logically. We want to make sure the people to whom we are speaking will understand clearly our logic and our perspective.

Whenever we make deductions, we make use of logic. While logic in itself gives no content, it can measure the rational relationship between propositions. The laws of logic are tools for all those who wish to speak intelligibly, not least for those who desire to increase wisdom and knowledge of the truth.

All people are involved in the science of taxonomy, which is the discipline of classification. Taxonomy was actually the first task of Adam when he was commanded to give names to the animals in the garden (Gen. 2:19). In doing so, he had to distinguish between the different animals God had made. Indeed, all science is ultimately taxonomy. As our knowledge advances, we make finer distinctions in order to understand the world around us.

In order to draw distinctions, we must make use of the laws of logic, namely, the law of noncontradiction. Many people remain unaware that if they believe the present universe is a result of chance, then they are committing the logical fallacy of equivocation.

In this fallacy, a term’s meaning subtly changes in the midst of dialogue. We can, for example, conclude that cats have nine tails. First we ask, “Do cats have eight tails?” thereby getting the answer, “No cat has eight tails.” We then take two boxes, one with a cat and one with no cat, asking, “How many more tails are in the box with a cat than the box with no cat?” The answer is, “One more tail.” Well, if no cat has eight tails and the box with a cat has one more tail in it than the box with no cat, then cats have nine tails. It is simply a matter of addition. The problem is that the term “no cat” has changed its meaning and thus we get a wrong conclusion. When causal power is attributed to chance, the meaning of what is an appropriate, mathematical term has subtly shifted. But since chance has no causal power, we are really using chance to describe a cause unknown to us. At such a time we are merely, and arrogantly, hiding our own ignorance.

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