Posted in theology

The Fickle Finger of Fate

By Elizabeth Prata

I was listening to Dr. RC Sproul explain the Doctrine of Concurrence in a 2004 sermon. He opened with an explanation of it, and after a short while of preaching, mentioned “The Fickle Finger of Fate”. The audience, ones of a certain age, lol, laughed.

I think he was referencing a famous skit during a 1960s variety comedy show called “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”. The whole title of the skit was the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate.

That dubious honor—which became a weekly staple of the series—was awarded to public figures, corporations, and government agencies, for their many questionable achievements” said one website. Laugh-In was a sort of a cross between Saturday Night Live and Monty Python, and was very popular for its time.

Of course, the fickle finger of fate phrase preceded that television show. People who don’t believe in God refer to seemingly random happenings as fate or chance.

There is no chance.

Literally, there is no such thing as chance, or fate, or randomness, in the events happening on earth. God is in control of ALL of it, down to the very last dust mote. As Sproul has famously said, “There is not one maverick molecule in the universe.”

John Murray has said,

1: There is a Providence
“Providence is an old fashioned word and has a strange ring to modern ears. Yet when we break it down into its parts the meaning becomes clear. It comes from the Latin video ‘to see’ and pro ‘before’, meaning ‘to see beforehand’. In our lives we plan beforehand but we do not see what is going to happen. God has planned everything for His creation and because He is the sovereign God everything will come to pass as He purposed. Providence is that marvelous working of God by which all the events and happenings in His universe accomplish the purpose He has in mind.” ~Source: Behind a Frowning Providence

Surely, rolling the dice or casting lots is chance…right?


Proverbs 16:33 says The lot is cast into the lap, But its every judgment is from Yahweh.

The casting of the lot is an extraordinary or unusual request made to God that He would reveal His will in an important controversy which cannot be resolved by either wisdom, skill, or strength. It pertains to an issue that must be resolved, as there would otherwise be danger or great disadvantage to the country, church, or individual. By Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service

Before I was saved I spent a lot of mental time pondering why things are the way they are…why things happen…the nature of ‘chance’. Far from being totally clueless about these concepts, non-believers do think of them. They know there is a God but they suppress that truth in unrighteousness, and continue on their way thinking it is all chance or fate.

We have will and moral agency. We decide to do things, either aligned with God’s holy standards, or not. Witness Joseph’s brothers, who hated Joseph and put him in a pit, plotted to murder him, and then sold him to the slave traders.

Yet Joseph said at the end of those long decades, they meant it for evil but God meant it for good. God meant it to happen. How do those two things work together to accomplish God’s plan? And what of tornadoes and hurricanes, i.e. ‘natural’ disasters?

Sproul explained that the doctrine of Concurrence (or confluence) can be seen in an analogy of the Three Rivers merging together in Pittsburgh.

The Monongahela River and the Allegheny River flow along in their individual riverbanks for hundreds of miles then merge to form the Ohio River.

The Allegheny River (left) and the Monongahela River (right) join to form the Ohio here.
The West End Bridge crosses the Ohio in the foreground. Source

Though each river does its own thing according to its own nature, they eventually and inexorably flow into the mighty Ohio. What man does, man does, but unknowingly he is being directed, even by use of his own nature, to the flow God wants to direct it. Man’s actions and God’s will create a confluence that is part of God’s perfect plan. This same thing happens with ‘natural disasters’ such as floods, hurricanes, lightning and so on. God is in control of it all.

Even the adversities and disasters come upon a person’s life.

When adversity comes into our lives we tend to react in one of two ways. We may say that it is from a source other than God and He has no power to stop it; or we may say it is an evidence of God’s anger against us. Either way we are guilty of casting aspersions on the character of our Father and consequently of perverting our attitude to Him. John Murray

There is no such thing as a problem-free Christianity. God ordains all that will occur, including all that will occur to me, before I was even born. Before the first person – Adam – was even created.

Sadly such teaching seems far removed from the outlook that prevails in large parts of the Church today. The impression is given that the purpose of the Christian life is enjoyment. Everything that stands in the way of that is to be eliminated. People are looking for a problem-free Christianity. Murray.

We can’t say “God did good to me” or “God did evil to me”. All that God does is good. All that God does is perfect. All that God does is to the good of those who love Him, even and especially, the ‘dark providences’. There is no fickle finger of fate. There is only the steady and assured hand of God, doing all that He sees fit.

The hurricane, the car crash, the Down’s syndrome, the ‘untimely’ death of a young one, a miscarriage, are all part of God’s plan. Also part of His plan is our prospering, our sanctification, the joys of a newborn, the uniting of two into one through marriage, His assurance of salvation and eternity with Him, and all the other blessings He gives.

Our sins and evil doings both pre-and-post salvation are also absorbed into His plan and used for the good of those who love Him. As an Allegheny River flowing along, we don’t know there is an Ohio River ahead into which we eventually flow, banked by His rod and staff, nurtured and cleansed, until we reach the purest fountain of all: Jesus in His heaven.


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

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