Chance and the Sovereignty of God: A God-Centered Approach to Probability and Random Events (Poythress)

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What if all events—big and small, good and bad—are governed by more than just blind chance? What if they are governed by God?

In this theologically informed and philosophically nuanced introduction to the study of probability and chance, Vern Poythress argues that all events—including the seemingly random or accidental—fall under God’s watchful gaze as part of his eternal plan. Comprehensive in its scope, this book lays the theistic foundation for our scientific assumptions about the world while addressing personal questions about the meaning and significance of everyday events.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Experiences with Unpredictable Events
Part 1: The Sovereignty of God
1.  The Bible as a Source for Knowledge
2.  God’s Sovereignty
3.  Unpredictable Events
4.  Disasters and Suffering
5.  Human Choice
6.  Small Random Events
7.  Reflecting on Creation and Providence
8.  God’s Sovereignty and Modern Physics
9.  What Is Chance?
Part 2: God as the Foundation for Chance
10. Regularities and Unpredictabilities
11. Trinitarian Foundations for Chance
12. Responding to Chance
13. Chance in Evolutionary Naturalism
14. Chance and Idolatry
Part 3: Probability
15. What is Probability?
16. Predictions and Outcomes
17. Theistic Foundations for Probability
18. Views of Probability
19. Subjectivity and Probability
20. Entanglement of Probabilities
21. Probabilistic Independence
22. Independence and Human Nature
23. Is God Probable?
Part 4: Probability and Mathematics
24. Pictures of Probability
25. Mathematical Postulates for Probability
26. Theistic Foundations for Some Properties of Probability
27. Limitations in Human Thinking about Events and Probabilities
28. Conclusion
Appendix A: Why Gambling Systems Fail
Appendix B: The Real Problem with Gambling
Appendix C: A Puzzle in Probability
Appendix D: Interacting with Secular Philosophical Views of Probability
Appendix E: Permutations and Combinations
Appendix F: The Birthday Problem
Appendix G: Diseases and Other Causes
Appendix H: Proofs for Probability
Appendix I: Statistics
Appendix J: The Law of Large Numbers versus Gamblers



Vern S. Poythress is professor of New Testament interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he has taught for over three decades. He has six earned degrees, including a PhD from Harvard University and a ThD from the University of Stellenbosch. He is the author of numerous books on a variety of topics, including biblical interpretation, language, and science.



“The prolific Dr. Poythress has gifted us with a unique and uniquely needed work that is both mathematically adept and theologically deep. I know of no other work that so thoroughly addresses the modern sense of chance in a deeply Reformed and philosophically oriented way.” — Douglas Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Apologetics and Ethics Master's Degree, Denver Seminary

“Is this the go-to book for a biblical theological perspective on chance, coincidence, randomness, risk, probability, prediction, and gambling? You bet it is! Dr. Poythress has hit another one out of the park. This book will transform the way you think about everything from quantum physics and weather forecasts to life insurance and card games." — James N. Anderson, Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte; author, Paradox in Christian Theology

“Back when I was a researcher in Systems Engineering and Operations Research, probability was my daily breath, so I was delighted to see this work. Not only was this a fun read for me, but I find in Vern Poythress a firm grasp of the mathematical, philosophical, theological, and apologetic issues necessary to guide those who want to think clearly on this topic—a topic which, because of its technicality, many will be daunted by. And Poythress always has an eye for the helpful illustration!” — C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary; author, The God of Miracles, Science, and Faith: Friends or Foes? 

“Many think Calvinists simply reject the idea of chance, random events, and probability. But that is not entirely true. My friend Vern Poythress shows in this book that the God of the Bible—and of Calvin—is in fact the foundation, both of causation and of randomness in the world. Poythress is well-suited to develop this argument, with doctorates in both New Testament and mathematics, and as the author of important recent books on logic and science. I do not fully understand the mathematics of this book, but the theology is entirely biblical, and I can’t imagine a better place to start for readers interested in this subject matter.” — John M. Frame, J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando