Chance, Providence and Modern Israel

"It is only reasonable to call the Jews as the first witnesses and to enquire whether their history offers any justification of the claim that the end was declared from the beginning in a manner beyond the power of man (Isaiah 43:8-12)." Islip Collyer, Vox Dei, p. 31

If any of us were playing a game involving the throw of dice and we found that each time we rolled in succession, the dice landed with "one" on the upside face of the cube, we would quickly begin to suspect the dice throws were not entirely random. The chances of obtaining one, when throwing a six-sided cube, are one in six. The chances of obtaining one on two successive throws are the product of the chance of obtaining one on each individual throw, that is, one in thirty-six. The chance of obtaining "one" on three successive throws is one in 216, on four, one in 1296, and so on. The point is that the more non-random a series of events is, the more likely we are to suspect that something other than simply chance is involved in determining the outcome. If we rolled one on four successive throws, while acknowledging that it could happen randomly, we might begin to suspect the dice cube was weighted or devised in such a way as to make it more likely that "one" would be rolled than one of the other five faces of the cube - that the results of each throw were not random at all.

The great issue of life on which every one of us is required to make a personal decision is to determine whether the world into which we were born is a great theatre of random events, events that some suppose began with a gigantic explosion of matter in the Universe billions of years ago; or whether, on the other hand, there is pattern and order in events which indicate that they are not entirely random occurrences. Most of us would grant that some occurrences we observe in life are random. For example, which leaf, on a tree with thousands of leaves in a forest with thousands of trees will fall on a particular day, we would view as random. Where such randomness ends and superintending providence begins is an interesting study to which no definitive answer can be given.[1]

Which way we make this determination - and whether we make it explicitly as a matter of intellectual choice, or implicitly as a matter of practical choice - will have a profound bearing on the kind of life we lead, the kind of person we are, and the kind of person we will become. If the Universe is merely the product of a random chemical explosion, then life ultimately is also bereft of any higher purpose other than that which we make for ourselves. But on the other hand, if there is a superintending Wisdom behind the Universe, by whose will it was called into existence and by whose hand it is sustained, then the possibility of a greater purpose to life is conceivable, as long as that Wisdom has chosen to communicate to man the logos (a Greek word translated in 1 Peter 3:15 as [the] reason) for its existence.

Many have been persuaded by their observation and examination of nature that the Universe is too complex and too ordered to have been the product of mere randomness. But that conclusion, leading to a conviction in Intelligent Design, does not in itself sufficiently define one's own worldview unless it is accompanied by the parallel conviction that the Designer has revealed His purpose to those whom He has created. Our worldview is framed by the conviction that God's purpose has been revealed. It centers on two principal factors: the message and the medium. Many of those who have written against the evidence of design in the world have rested a large part of their case on their perception that there are many flaws in the design. That is, they have not so much disputed the evidence of design per se but have argued that their perception of flaws in the design reflects negatively on the designer. These arguments are often formulated and pressed home with great emotional force as ridicule of the designer and therefore, in the minds of those who make them, justifying their scorn towards the design.

The message concerns what the revelation of God calls the gospel, translated into English from the Greek word euaggelion which means the "good message." At the heart of this good message is the idea that God called the world as we observe it into existence for the sake of one man, a special man by whom and through whom He determined to accomplish great things for eternity. So central to this purpose is this man that he is called in Scripture the Logos. In English, we might regard that statement as expressing "the Reason" - the reason ultimately for everything that exists. The apostle Paul, in expounding these things, refers to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 3:11). The reality of this man's life, death, resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into the heavens to the right hand of his Father are the cornerstone facts which defy any view of the world as a purely random outcome. They also, when rightly considered, lay to rest the scorner's complaint. If there were not flaws in the work resulting from the design - if the pottery fashioned by the potter was not marred - then there would have been no need for a message about a plan to rescue humanity from its predicament. The message explains why this predicament has arisen, on account of man's doing and not God's. Any assessment of the fullness of God's design cannot be considered only on the basis of the created order He has brought into being, without also considering the plan for its redemption. Information about that plan can only be gained from consideration of divine revelation: it is not written in nature.

The living medium by which God chose to communicate this message to mankind is a particular race or people with a national identity: Israel. That medium has served, not only as a means to bear the message, but also as a witness to its truth. One way in which the message and the medium are connected is by the fact that the man for whom God wrought the world is a member of that nation, one of the people of Israel. God's plan required the dispersion of Israel throughout all the countries of the earth that, in so doing, they might bear His message across both time and inhabited space. It is on account of that dispersion, for example, that in virtually every city of the Roman Empire to which the apostles carried the message, there were Jewish synagogues established where the scriptures of the law and the prophets were available and reverently studied.

The message was predicated on the principle that there was a definite purpose, appointed in advance for realization at a specific time, for bringing an end to human toil under the law of sin and death. One of the key steps in the accomplishment of that consummation, in turn, required that the scattered remnant of Israel be brought back from the Gentile lands where they dwelt to form an independent, sovereign Jewish nation again. That re-gathering process has thus far spanned over 110 years, beginning with the birth of modern Zionism in the late nineteenth century and continuing to the present.

As we consider the torturous history of the Jewish people through the long centuries of their dispersion up to their emergence as an independent state, sanctioned by a resolution of the UN General Assembly, it is necessary to render a decision. Is this history purely happenstance - the result of chance, or is there a superintending Providence at work, that first occasioned the dispersion of Israel and then acted to bring it, in measure, to an end? The more familiar we are with the history of Israel, the more likely we are to confess the role of a divine hand in Israel's survival and re-gathering.

For example, in the twentieth century, the world was involved in two great conflicts so vast in their extent and duration that they are known to history as the first and second "world" wars. While Israel was not the ostensible cause or reason for either conflict, its destiny was markedly affected by both. In the First World War, the decision of Turkey to align itself with Germany resulted in Turkey's coming into conflict with Britain, and losing its Middle Eastern territory, including Palestine and Jerusalem, to the British army. This territory's coming under the British flag opened the door for the League of Nations to confer the mandate for governing Palestine to Britain, by which development it was placed in a position to enable Jewish immigration to Palestine and the flourishing of Zionist enterprise there. In the Second World War, Hitler's Germany was consumed with hatred against the Jews so intensely that the Nazi regime was determined to exterminate the Jewish race in Europe. Hitler's diabolical "final solution," which bolstered the effectiveness of the organized killing squads that operated behind the advance of German lines in the east with the construction of gas chambers and crematoria for mass slaughter in Poland, to which Jews from all over occupied Europe were rounded up and shipped by train, decimated European Jewry. Only one-third were left in Europe at war's end, two-thirds having been killed by the Nazis. When these atrocities became widely known to the world, there was sufficient sympathy in the United Nations for the Jewish plight to muster the political support for the emergence of the Jewish state in partitioned Palestine. Like the roll of the dice, each student of history needs to decide if these events were purely random or whether they testify to deliberate pattern and design that bears witness to the hand of a Higher Power at work.

From our standpoint, the issue of design and pattern in the things concerning Israel is beyond all doubt attributable to God's hand and confirms the message He set on record many centuries beforehand in the pages of Scripture. It is a paradigm that makes sense of history and of present events in the world and gives us hope for the future. The oracles of God reveal the message; the nation of Israel is the medium given to be their custodians (Romans 3:1); the Logos came in the flesh, seen and handled of witnesses (John 1:14, 1 John 1:1), history bearing witness to the truth revealed; and the future will show that, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

James Farrar, Grimsby, ON

[1]The words of the Lord Jesus would lead us to infer that the degree of randomness is much less and the role of superintending providence much greater than casual observation may suggest: Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered (Matthew 10:29,30).