Christ, Meteors, and Chance in His Creation
by Jack Hoehn
You get a double header this week! These comments are on the ORIGINS Sabbath School lesson 8 for February 22. The following quote from Ellen White introduces that week’s lesson.
“The hand that sustains the worlds in space, the hand that holds in their orderly arrangement and tireless activity all things throughout the universe of God, is the hand that was nailed to the cross for us.”
–Ellen G. White, Education,p. 132.
The “orderly arrangement and tireless activity of all things throughout the universe” was revealed in dramatic fashion on Friday February 15, 2013 as a 55 foot, 10,000 ton piece of the universe shot through our atmosphere starting in Alaska and ending over the Urals in Russia.(1.) Recorded by multiple video cameras is the contrail of the meteor and the sonic boom as water or other gasses inside the meteor superheated and exploded in the air miles over the city of Chelyabinsk. The hundreds of Russian people cut by flying glass shards as their windows imploded will have information for us about the “orderly arrangement” of the universe, or in this case perhaps the “tireless activity” sustained by the hand of Christ.
Hours later on the same day an asteroid of 150 feet size and 143,000 tons weight was watched from Australia passing overhead on the other side of the world 17,000 miles above, close enough to leave a faint but visible trail through the thin remnants of the firmament out there.
One astronomer described the day as earth being in a shooting gallery!
Is the hand of Christ sending bullets at earth? Did God intend to punish those hundreds of wounded Russians with his meteor? Was Russia targeted because of their recent history of official atheism, and Australia spared because Ellen White labored there for 10 years and left behind Avondale and Sanitarium breakfast cereals?
Please understand that I do not disagree that the universe is sustained by the hand of Christ.
Please understand that I do not disagree that meteors and asteroids are orderly. The Australian asteroid was identified a year ago and was tracked and predicted. The smaller Russian meteor (although not a lot smaller!) was more of a surprise showing the limits of our technology. But chunks of the universe impinging on our protective atmosphere are orderly, often predictable, and certainly tireless.
The orderly and predictable Leonid shower of 1833 was a powerful stimulus to our New England spiritual ancestors launching the Great Advent Movement (our Movement now seems to be at risk of grinding to a halt in rigid creedalism). Those meteors were orderly, tireless, and prophetically predictable.
But this does not mean that the universe Christ created and still sustains with his nail-pierced hands is either personal or safe for us. Why must this be so?
There is no choice without chance.
Freedom of choice is meaningless in a world without chance. Without chance there is no choice. As Gerald Schroeder writes,
“The infinite Creator imposes less than infinite control over the products of creation… The laws of nature provide direction, but within that direction there is leeway, meanderings contingent upon the immediate environment, just as a river’s meanderings are contingent on the local terrain. (In nature this is called chance.) In humans, these meanderings are called free will.” (3.)
“We humans choose within the constraints contingent upon our surroundings. The meanderings of nature and of society produce challenges to each person contingent upon her or his locale. How we react to those challenges provides them with spiritual significance.” (4.)
The Bible teaches chance, and the Bible teaches choice.
King Ahab was killed by chance with an arrow shot randomly. 1 Kings 22:34.
God does not prevent mutations and deformities even in believers. Leviticus 21:17-23.
Time and chance happen to all. Ecclesiastes 9:11.
Jesus taught chance and calamity as natural.
Luke 13:1-3. Soldiers go berserk and attack a group of religious zealots. This is random and impersonal, Jesus said; human-caused catastrophe is not superintended by God and his angels, and individuals are not protected from each other by heaven. Rape, murder, abuse happens; the hand of Christ sustaining the universe does not stop it.
John 9:1-7. Something goes wrong during fetal development, and a baby is born blind. This is random and impersonal; Jesus said, mutations causing disease or harm are not superintended by God and his angels, and individuals are not being punished by disease or deformity. The issues confronting your autistic child, your Down’s syndrome baby, your deaf, lame, blind are not being caused by God, nor is he protecting them or you from randomness and mutations.
Ellen White agrees with freedom of CHOICE and chance.
“God might have created man without the power to transgress His law; He might have withheld the hand of Adam from touching the forbidden fruit; but in that case man would have been, not a free moral agent, but a mere automaton. Without freedom of choice, his obedience would not have been voluntary, but forced… It would have been unworthy of man as an intelligent being, and would have sustained Satan's charge of God's arbitrary rule.” (6.)
"The Lord permits suffering and calamity to come upon men and women, to call us out of our selfishness, to awaken in us the attributes of His character." (7.)
Because there is no choice without chance. So the infinite God permits chance in His creation and choice in His creatures, and applies unfailing love through all chances and to all choices.
2. Gerald L Schroeder, “The Science of God,” p. 170.
3. Ibid, p. 15.
4. Ibid, p. 17.
5. Ellen G. White, “Spirit of Prophecy Volume 2,” p. 241.
6. Ellen G. White, “Patriarchs and Prophets,” p. 19.
7. Ellen G. White, “MS 109, 1906.”