The universe is random.  Despite the more fatalistic branches of some religions, the biblical picture—I believe—is not at odds with this sense of our experience of the world.  The story of Adam and Eve in the opening chapters of Genesis presents an important lesson in that regard, I think.  In the story, it seems clear that God has granted humanity freedom, and that freedom is prized greatly by God—so greatly that he was willing to let Adam and Eve have the freedom to choose badly: all of history that has followed that original bad choice on the part of the founders of humanity was worth it from God’s perspective.  Otherwise, if goodness, for instance, and behaving well, were what mattered most to God, he would not have granted such freedom to our ancestor and ancestress.  It appears that freedom is more important to God than us being good or always making the right choice.



 

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I think likewise, that happenstance is a part of life as well.  Stuff just happens.  That’s why bad stuff occurs sometimes.



 

Consider the words of God in relation to accidentally killing someone:

 

However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate. (Exodus 21:13)

 

Or:

 

 For instance, a man may go into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and as he swings his ax to fell a tree, the head may fly off and hit his neighbor and kill him. That man may flee to one of these cities and save his life. (Deuteronomy 19:5)

 

Or consider the time when a king was killed by happenstance:

 

 But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.” All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died. (1 Kings 22:34-35)

 

It just happened at “random.”

 

The picture that we get of the world in the Bible is not one of determinism.  Instead, people make choices and they are held accountable for those choices.  Things may turn out well, or not.  For instance, investing is unpredictable. How will things turn out for you when you buy that stock?  Who knows?:

 

Ship your grain across the sea;

after many days you may receive a return.

 Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;

you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.

If clouds are full of water,

they pour rain on the earth.

Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,

in the place where it falls, there it will lie.

 Whoever watches the wind will not plant;

whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.

As you do not know the path of the wind,

or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,

so you cannot understand the work of God,

the Maker of all things.

6Sow your seed in the morning,

and at evening let your hands not be idle,

for you do not know which will succeed,

whether this or that,

or whether both will do equally well. (Ecclesiastes 11:1-6)

 

Another passage seems rather explicit about the randomness of existence:

I have seen something else under the sun:

The race is not to the swift

or the battle to the strong,

nor does food come to the wise

or wealth to the brilliant

or favor to the learned;

but time and chance happen to them all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

 

We are free to make our choices.  Our lives, our futures, are not determined. We are free.


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