our universe is intrinsically chaotic in the sense that its development from moment to moment is sometimes a matter of chance. In other words, the world does not know in full detail where it is going next. (p170-1).
It is an unpredictable world and is to some extent uncontrollable and purposeless. Chance limits our capacity to steward nature. It also challenges the sovereignty of God.
God’s providence means that:
(i) every event and every aspect of every event is directed by God (p 173) – no event would happen if it weren’t for God
(ii) God is a sufficient cause of every event and every aspect of every event
(iii) God provides the complete reason – God has a special purpose for everything.
Dowe outlines three models of absolute providence: occasionalism, concurrence and Leibnizian.
In Nicholas Malabranche’s occasionalism God does everything directly. When a billiard ball hits another it is God making it happen – everything is due to God. Causes are the occasions of God’s action.
Concurrence – associated with the Scholastics and more recently with Louis Berkhof – is the position that every event has two concurrent direct causes: God and a natural cause.
In Leibniz’s view God created the world complete with all its causal powers and laws of nature. The world has its own power given and sustained by God, although God doesn’t directly make event happen. God is the indirect rather than the direct cause of all that happens. Before the creation God considered all that could happen and created the world so that it would be the best of all possible worlds.
Chance and determinism are linked. If determinism is true then there can be no chance; conversely if there is chance then there determinism cannot be true.
What then are the implications for providence? (R C Sproul in his Not a Chance maintains that quantum mechanics (QM) itself is not correct.)
Could God bring about quantum effects that QM regards as chance events? If a chance event is uncaused by God, then the no hidden variables proof refutes God’s providence. However, it could be that God produces what we think of as chance events.
Polkinghorne maintains that chance is ‘God’s steering wheel’ – God acts creatively in the quantum gaps (information but no energy is transferred). If God controls chance then there is no problem with providence.
If there is no divine cause to chance what are the theological implications? According to Peter van Inwagen God could control his purposes by controlling less than everything. God sets up the world to ensure that certain things will happen; this is a limited rather than an absolute providence.
Should the theist be bothered by the chance worldview? Does chance refute providence? No. If chance exists then either it is caused by god (and that is allowed by Bell’s theorem) and this is no problem for providence and there’s no conflict with science; or chance is not caused by God, in which case it’s compatible with strong Calvinist providence providing it doesn’t lead to meaningful consequences. Insofar as chance does lead to meaningful consequences, strong providence entails that God causes that chance. (pp. 189-90)