Do some things happen by “chance?”


by Shawn Brasseaux

Calvinists will tell us that before God created anything, He preordained every last event in every person’s life. This obviously precludes free will. If that were true, then we could say that people do not sin because they chose to sin but rather because God chose them to sin! Calvinists believe that, because God is God, He is “sovereign,” and He is not God unless He controls every last detail. However, that is not true according to the Bible. Does God direct everything to happen? Maybe according to theology, but not according to Scripture!


Ruth chapter 2 begins: “[1] And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz. [2] And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. [3] And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.”

Did God direct Ruth to enter Boaz’s field? No, the Bible did not say that. God’s “providence” was not involved here. Now, if you want to say God’s providence was involved, that He did guide Ruth to Boaz’s field, then just throw away Ruth 2:3 and believe your theology. If you are a Bible believer, however, you will simply admit that Ruth decided to choose the field of a certain man, and that man just so happened to be the very man who was her husband’s relative (and thus able to help her and her mother-in-law).


King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 9:11: “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” If we believe God controls all events, we need to throw out Ecclesiastes 9:11 as well.


We read in Luke chapter 10: “[29] But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? [30] And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. [31] And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. [32] And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. [33] But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, [34] And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.”

According to the Lord Jesus, the priest passed “by chance.” He chose a certain path, and that path just so happened to be the one on which the downtrodden man was lying. I did not tell this story; do not get angry with me. Jesus Christ told the story, so if you disagree with it please go argue with Him. What do I believe? Friend, I will believe Him over you and your theology any day!


The Bible says that Ruth’s “hap” was to glean in Boaz’s field (Ruth 2:3). Scripture says, “time and chance happeneth to all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). The Bible says that, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest “by chance” happened to pass by (Luke 10:31). Evidently, Jesus Himself thought God had not pre-arranged this or orchestrated it in any way. There are certain things that God has simply decided not to control. This in no way limits or diminishes God’s power. God has just as much power to permit other people to do things (free will) as He does to do those things Himself. It is amazing that God has let certain things fall out, without intervening, knowing that they by themselves can bring about a good result. Again, look at the case of Ruth.

If we are going to go by the Bible, then we have to admit that—according to God the Holy Spirit anyway—there are some things that God never planned and never guided. They resulted simply because of chance. Jesus Himself said that in Luke 10:31—God did not guide that priest (as Calvinism teaches) but rather it happened “by chance.” We either believe the Bible, or we do not. We either believe our Calvinistic theology, or we believe the Bible. There is no middle ground.


We find an interesting account in 1 Samuel chapter 23, when (unbelieving) King Saul purposed to kill (believing) David:

“[1] Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshingfloors. [2] Therefore David enquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the LORD said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah. [3] And David’s men said unto him, Behold, we be afraid here in Judah: how much more then if we come to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines? [4] Then David enquired of the LORD yet again. And the LORD answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah; for I will deliver the Philistines into thine hand. [5] So David and his men went to Keilah, and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. [6] And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, that he came down with an ephod in his hand.”

“[7] And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars. [8] And Saul called all the people together to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men.”

“[9] And David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod. [10] Then said David, O LORD God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake. [11] Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O LORD God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And the LORD said, He will come down. [12] Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the LORD said, They will deliver thee up. [13] Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth.”

In verse 10, we read that David asked God’s counsel as to whether or not Saul would come to Keilah and destroy it for David’s sake. In verse 11, God said Saul would come down. In verse 12, God said that Keilah’s men would deliver David up to Saul so Saul could kill David. Upon learning that information, David and men left Keilah. Saul heard that David escaped Keilah, so Saul decided not to go to Keilah.

Notice, God never actually forced one outcome to happen. He knew the contingencies, the various outcomes, but He let David and Saul make decisions. God told David what Saul would do had David stayed. Thus, David left. Consequently, Saul did not do what he would have done had David stayed. This is free will. God did not tell David to stay or leave. God did not tell Saul to stay or go. JEHOVAH God, even as powerful as He was, let Saul and David be the free moral agents He created them to be! Strange to hear, I know, but, friend, it is better to trust the LORD than to put confidence in men and theology (Psalm 118:8)!

Also see:
» How do God’s foreknowledge and our free will work together?
» Does Romans 9:14-18 support Calvinism?
» Does God give us faith?