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Greg Brothers is an Adventist pastor in Oregon.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Fragment B of Archeteknos’s “Dialogue with Siderohippos”

Archeteknos: Could you explain what you mean when you say, “God does not play dice with the Universe?”

Siderohippos: God does not govern this Universe in a manner that is irrational or unpredictable; He does not subject His creatures to the whims of “chance” or “fortune.”

Archeteknos: An admirable sentiment – one that suggests God’s acts are always rational.

Siderohippos: Yes.

Archeteknos: And predictable?

Siderohippos: Subject to our own, limited understanding – yes.

Archeteknos: Without any hint of “chance”?

Siderohippos: Again, this would be subject to our own, limited understanding.

Archeteknos: Good – then you would have no objection to joining me in a simple game of dice?

Siderohippos: I do not play games of chance.

Archeteknos: Trust me – with these dice, “chance” has nothing to do with it!

Siderohippos: Then I would be a fool to play with you.

Archeteknos: We will leave aside the question of your foolishness for now . . . but I am puzzled, Siderohippos, for I have done exactly what you want me to do.

Siderohippos: I did not ask you to cheat.

Archeteknos: But you have said that “chance” should have no place in our world.

Siderohippos: No, I said that God does not . . . I mean . . . that is to say . . .

Archeteknos: Let me see if I can help – you admit that some things may appear to be the results of nothing more than pure chance?

Siderohippos: If your dice were honest, then that would be true.

Archeteknos: So there is such a thing as chance?

Siderohippos: It would appear so. Then again, we do not know if these things are truly a matter of chance, or if there is an underlying cause we cannot determine at this time. If I could know everything there is to know about the dice you threw – their weight, their size, the way they react to the ridges of your fingerprints or the incidental puff of air . . .

Archeteknos: To be sure, a sufficiently omniscient observer might be able to predict the outcome. But as for us?

Siderohippos: We could not possibly hope to do so.

Archeteknos: In short, a process that we perceive to be random, chaotic, and even “purposeless” may not be perceived as such by God. Consider the Great Flood, for instance. Was it subject to God’s control?

Siderohippos: Yes.

Archeteknos: And He knew the outcome of that particular event?

Siderohippos: God knew exactly what He hoped to achieve by it; otherwise, He never would have allowed the Great Flood to take place.

Archeteknos: Yet to a human observer . . .

Siderohippos: It was a chaotic event – one in which everything was mixed-up, scrambled, and truly “without form and void.”

Archeteknos: Could a human observer have predicted the outcome of the Great Flood?

Siderohippos: Such an observer may have been able to predict potential outcomes . . .

Archeteknos: Just as you or I might predict that rolling a pair of dice will give us a result somewhere between "Snake-eyes" and "Boxcars." What is more, we should be able to give odds on how often a given outcome may result.

Siderohippos: True, though I have never been able to master that art.

Archeteknos: I would be happy to give you lessons, though you may find them expensive! But for now, let us both agree that, to speak of an outcome as "random" does not mean that anything and everything could have taken place.

Siderohippos: No, it would appear there are limits, even to chaos.

Archeteknos: Thus, can we affirm that God is in control, even when it looks to us as though everything is out of control?

Siderohippos: Certainly that is true of the Great Flood.

Archeteknos: And God may be able to predict the outcome of an event, even when we are unable to do so?

Siderohippos: That is only reasonable. Are you saying, then, that there are times when it may appear as though God does play dice with the Universe?

Archeteknos: Perhaps – but if so, then I suspect the diced are "loaded" in a way that only He understands. And speaking of which, I believe it is time for your first lesson in probability . . .

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