The world-view of Kepler and Newton saw a mechanistic, law-abiding universe as the product of a sovereign law-giving God. Order and the laws of Nature seemed to imply something about the nature of God. Chance, however, lies at the heart of modern sciences such as quantum physics, cosmology, meteorology and biology. What could a world-view, in which chance plays such a key role, suggest about the nature of God? Empiricists have questioned the notion of universal laws, nature may not, after all, be governed by law. I will examine some of the theological issues implied by order and chance in nature and argue that Christians are not committed to a particular philosophy of science that excludes either order or chance. Specifically I suggest that, in a world governed by natural law, where creatures have free-will, chance could be necessary to preserve God's sovereign control. Furthermore, chance is not only within the providence of God but leads to a more dynamic interaction between God and his creation. Chance creates a world consistent with an 'open' rather than classical theism where faith is encouraged in the face of uncertainty and where we relate to God as a Person.
Professor Paul Ewart is Head of the Department of Atomic and Laser Physics, Oxford University.