A Question for Neo-Traditionalists: Are the Destinies of Men Left to Chance?

Each one of us is affected by the decisions of other people, too numerous and far-reaching to comprehend. If we were raised in a country where the preaching of the gospel is prevalent, we have a myriad of people in the past to thank for that. Conversely, those who are born in countries without the gospel are there as a result of just as many people in the past. And that’s just the bigger picture. In my own family, the faith of one man, my mother’s grandfather, quickly resulted in the conversion of his son-in-law and daughter (my grandparents), with at least seven of their thirteen children to follow in the faith. This included my mother, in whose footsteps of faith I followed as well. So I thank God for that great-grandfather whom I cannot remember meeting.

Much is made of free will in the salvation decision; but rarely does anyone do the hard task of grappling with the difficult ramifications of such an easily made claim. One of the most difficult of those ramifications is the fact that human beings cannot help but affect one another with their decisions. We do not decide anything in a vacuum (or as an “island”). And whether we like it or not, we are often “hemmed in” by the choices of others, for better or for worse. Often, we are in control of very little.

So then, who is really in control? If we deny that God is in control of events, then that puts the control of events into the combined but independent wills of innumerable mankind — billions of independent wills bearing on the events of every individual (not to mention the practical randomness of natural factors, such as weather, earthquakes, etc.). With such a myriad of uncontrolled factors, random chance is the virtual result, and we are chained by each other’s freedom. If all men are “free” to determine their own destiny, then no man is really free. When the free wills of billions of people interact and collide, chance circumstance will decide what opportunities and influences come your way, as it all depends upon the myriad of decisions of others, both present and past. Men may appear to be masters of their own destinies, but they are no more free in the decision than they would be under Calvinism. Disparities of influence and opportunity are rampant; and such disparities are selective by nature, having a direct bearing on the salvation decision of men. Either these disparities are purposely controlled by God or random chance is the result.

Falling back to the claim of a minimally adequate revelation (Rom. 1:18-20), such that all men are left without excuse, would simply show an unwillingness to squarely face the difficult question. If greater influences and opportunities (such as those that would come to a land if the gospel was introduced) empirically result in conversions that would not otherwise result, then who is in control of these selective factors? And on a smaller scale, who was in control of whether or not my great-grandfather would believe and bring many family members to faith? If he had decided against Christ, the family would not have benefited from his influence toward God. Was this just our good fortune? Is it also our good fortune to be raised in America instead of some place devoid of the gospel?

Are you prepared to acknowledge that God has left the destinies of men to mere chance? If so, then you might just as well bid people good luck as to pray for them to be blessed. Those who are now in hell and never heard of Christ are there due to having the worst of luck. Or… Are you able to recognize that God is ultimately in control of the destinies of men, and nothing is left to chance — not even the virtual chance that results from how the decisions of others bear upon your life?

Ken Hamrick

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6 comments

  1. Pingback: A Question for Neo-Traditionalists: Are the Destinies of Men Left to Chance? « Between Two Ditches
  2. clarkd52

    I don’t pretend to know how our prayers affect the will of God, I just know we are commanded to pray and that God says prayers can avail much. But I know this, if God does not affect the salvation of souls, prayer for them is futile. Having believed, at one time, that salvation was totally left up to people’s free will, I knew it was senseless to pray that someone be saved. Because as I was taught and believed, “Thats up to them.” Might as well say a poem for them as a prayer.
    As a quote I recently saw, attributed to Doug Wilson, says: If you ask me why I pray if I believe in a Sovereign God, I would ask, why do you pray if He’s not.

    • Ken Hamrick

      Welcome, Clark!

      Good points. The Sovereign God can be glorified in answering prayer, at His time and according to His plan, and that would explain why He would include His answering of our prayer in His eternal plan.

      Ken Hamrick

  3. willfrankcar

    Ken,
    First off thanks for the invite. I look forward to the results of this forum. Hopefully it will lead thought provoking discussion.

    Concerning this post. I would say this question is what started the journey to my current position on soteriology. I always tell folks that I lean Calvinist. To what degree I am unsure. To the point of the post, though, when I was in high school some youth from a neighboring church were being challenged by their youth minister on various beliefs of others such as speaking in tongues, loss of salvation, and predestination. Many times they would come to school and ask my opinion on it. The day they came asking on predestination, I had no answer. I went home and poured over scriptures such as Ephesians 1, Romans 8, John 10. I pulled out a concordance and looked up “elect,” “predestined,” and other key words and used cross-references to look at as many passages as I could on the matter. Late at night I finally lay down and prayed over this, that the Lord would help me to understand this matter. While doing so the question came to me, “Was it an accident you were saved?” Immediately I knew the answer. No! God desired me to be saved and ordered events to lead me to salvation. It was no accident I was born in the time and place I was born. It was no accident I had the parents I had, went to the church I went, had the teachers and pastors I had. It was no accident that I went to a camp in 1990 where I gave my life to the Lord. God wanted me to be saved, and he didn’t leave it to chance whether I would.

    Based on that I would begin to see myself as leaning Calvinist. I do not have the answers to all the many questions on the proper order of salvation, or how God’s sovereignty intersects with man’s free will. But based on that night, I have been made confident that it was not an accident (or left to chance) that I would be saved.

    • Ken Hamrick

      Welcome to the Forum, William!

      Thank you for that personal testimony. It goes to show that truth must be revealed, and only God can convince. I wish many more could be blessed in that way. I don’t remember when I began to understand that God was ultimately in control, but it must have been at a young age. I was saved at 16. But the fact of God’s control is as certain to me as His existence. Like you said, I don’t have all the answers, but we don’t need all the answers.

      And there are no accidents in God’s salvation—amen to that!

      Be blessed,
      Ken Hamrick

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