Thursday 16 March 2023

Against luck and chance as explanations for life

It is necessary for Christians to eschew the common practice of attributing the ups and (especially) downs of life to the luck (good or bad) and chance (favourable or adverse). 

To believe in luck or chance as explanations, is to deny God's shaping of this world and our lives by creation - it is therefore, indirectly, a denial of faith. 

Yet this eschewal of luck itself requires some explanation; because this reality in which we dwell originated in purposeless, meaningless chaos; and this mortal life is 'ruled by entropy' such that change, degeneration, corruption and death are unavoidable - and it is from-this entropic-chaos that Jesus delivered us by resurrection to eternal life. 

Therefore, in this mortal world 'stuff happens', and much of this is out-with God's creative intent... 

But that which happens from entropy, does so without meaning, and is not knowable. All that we know - all 'events' - are known because this is God's creation

By the time we recognize any-thing (as an entity, as a phenomenon) it 'already' has meaning, and that meaning has-been shaped by God's creating. 

In other words, we cannot know chaos - but can only know only creation; and therefore chance is never the explanation for whatever we know, whatever we have noticed. 

What this means is that we should suppose that whatever happens in our lives has-been shaped by God - and therefore is a part-of God's overall plan of salvation and theosis. 

This does not mean that every-thing has specific, definable, meaning or purpose when considered in isolation and detached from the stream or arc of our lives; but instead that we should eschew the false and lazy attribution of events to 'randomness' - and realize that what we, personally, need to seek is to learn from 'whatever happens'. 

Such learning is, indeed, our primary duty in confronting the life of this world. Learning from all aspects: up or down, good or bad, favourable or adverse... 

This 'learning' is always our duty (as Christians); whereas, by contrast, 'doing something useful about the world' - i.e. ameliorating the evils of the human condition, is a contingent matter; variably dependent upon many and diverse factors - and seldom possible in practice.  

In sum: we are here to learn, always; but the business of actually, genuinely, positively-re-shaping and improving the situation of this mortal world - whether of our own well-being, or that of fellow men...

Well, this is a rare bonus in our mortal lives - and inevitably very secondary to our duty.

(In Heaven, of course, things will be very different! And actually, genuinely, positively-re-shaping and improving the situation of our lives and the lives of all Beings, by participation in divine creation, becomes our inwardly-desired and joyfully-embraced main-work!)


Mia said...

I work in risk, and partly it was truly thinking about the genuine odds of my survival in a fully random universe that led me to reject materialist models of reality. I don't have some crazy backstory or anything, but if life were truly random a lot more tragedy would occur and what occurred would nearly always be devoid of meaning or long-term benefit. But at the same time there is randomness and enough of it for us to learn from *that*. So that is difficult to explain without a benevolent creator-God!

WJT said...

Well, chance is by its nature not an explanation for anything. To say that you got a particular poker hand “by chance” is to say that it was the result of various incoherent and unpredictable (“chaotic”) factors, such that no useful “theory” could be constructed to explain why you got that particular hand. So yes, chaos is unknowable, and attributing some things to “chance” (not an explanation but a claim that no meaningful explanation is possible) is an acknowledgment of that.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WJT - Agreed. Yet chance/ randomess/ luck, Are used as-if an explanation - an hypothesis (as with "the null hypothesis").

Worse - they are used to drain significance from events in life; and from life itself.