Good Luck With That

Photo by Gretchen E.K. Engel

I don’t believe in luck as a random phenomenon outside of God’s control, but I do believe in mathematical randomness. The idea for this post came up during St. Patrick’s Day when a handful of friends posted memes based around the phrase “we don’t do luck”. That phrase bothers me. I think it comes off a bit sanctimonious. I totally understand the concept. God is the Creator of the Universe and leaves nothing to chance. I’m not criticizing the belief as much as the attitude it conveys.

The irony is the the same people who “don’t do luck” insist on saying, “God bless you” when someone sneezes even though it’s origins are in superstition*. The point is “good luck” is idiomatic as is “God bless you”. You’re not necessarily wishing random luck or “good vibes”. By the way, the phrase “sending good vibes” makes me want to climb walls too.

I didn’t write this post to pick on my fellow brothers and sisters. That’s so not cool. I chose that example because I was reading the chapter on Providence in Wayne Grudem’s Bible Doctrine. It’s a book based on Reformed theology, and this particular chapter touched on the somewhat opposing theological position, Arminianism. I won’t go into the differences, etc. except that the chapter really challenged me on what I believe about God and His Providence. Does He know everything in our lives down to the roll of the dice when we play Settlers of Cattan? Grudem indicates “yes” while as I understand it, Arminian beliefs would lean toward “no” although I suspect that’s an over-simplification.

So here’s where I stand. God knows infinitely everything (past, present, and future) about every person. He has established set laws of mathematics, science, etc. So when I roll the dice, God knows if it’s going to be two, six, or seven. The question is did He interfere and allow me to roll a much wanted six instead of a dreaded seven? Maybe, maybe not. I like to think God obeys probability as much as He obeys gravity. When I say, “come on lucky six. I need wheat” I’m not denying my belief in God or the slightly lower probability of six instead of seven (the dreaded robber). I’m merely hoping the dice will land in my favor, whether by all of the forces of gravity and Newton’s laws of physics, or the Creator of those rules.

There’s one place where I wonder if God, well plays, God. I run to Christian music (mid 90’s alternative, in case you’re curious). I set my mix to random but more often than not, I feel like God has nudged me with “Altar of Ego” or some other song with a message I needed to hear. Maybe He does or maybe probability does its job, and I only notice when a particular song inspires me.

That’s what I love about God. He is beyond my comprehension. Whether it’s contemplating the “luck” of finding a four-leaf clover or trying to figure out how God is like a three-leaf clover, I am forever thankful for the One who created me. All I have to do is stand in awe.

*As a theatre geek, I’m all about telling a fellow thespian to, “break a leg” (and praying they don’t). Not so much because I fear disaster as much as in the voice of Tevye, “Tradition.”

What do you think? Weigh in on what you think about the phrase “good luck”, how much God interferes when you roll the dice, or the fact that we cannot fully comprehend the Creator of the universe.


About Gretchen E K Engel

Chemical engineer by day, spec fiction writer by night

4 comments on “Good Luck With That

  1. You have raising questions that rage throughout the centuries…. 🙂

    Okay, I’m weighing in….

    An Arminian would not say God doesn’t know how the dice will come out, for God knows all things, even the end from the beginning. Reformed writers love to attack the Arminian point of view and sometimes misrepresent it. I’m qualified to say that because I have attended both Arminian and Calvinist institutions of higher learning 🙂 and witnessed this myself firsthand.

    I do not use nor approve of the phrase “good luck” because it implies all is random. God rules, God reigns, it is not random. God orders all things after the counsel of His will — this does not necessarily mean He causes all things, but he certainly controls them. The lot is cast into the lap but how it rolls is of the Lord. I could quote many scriptures here but I encourage all reading this to look up these concepts for themselves. It is far more biblical to say “The Lord be with you,” than “good luck.” I personally believe the words “good luck” dishonor God and call His existence into question, but that’s just my personal feeling. When a fellow Christian says to me “Good luck!” I inwardly cringe but exhibit a strained smile. Like this one. 🙂

    As far as the incomprehensibility of God goes, we “evangelical” Christians of American extraction have totally lost what Karl Barth taught us, that God is Wholly Other. His ways are not our ways, or His thoughts ours. Apart from his revelation of Himself through nature and through the scriptures, we’re clueless. I also believe that both Calvinism and Arminianism as SYSTEMS are attempts — failed ones — to make God comprehensible and comfortable to our fallen mortal minds. When approaching God, we need to read the scripture and see where it applies without insisting upon logical coherency as we understand it. The same Jesus who said “No one can come to me unless it has been given to him by my Father” also said “O Jerusalem, you who stone the prophets and kill those sent to you, how I have longed to gather you…but you were unwilling. Behold, your house is left to you desolate!” One’s Reformed (sovereign grace) and the other’s as Arminian as it gets (God is not so sovereign that my choices mean nothing). Yet it’s the same Bible, the same Jesus, the same truth. How can they both be true at the same time? I dunno, But they are.

    Sooooooo let’s read the scripture and see where it applies, make obeisance in awe before our great God and Savior, and stop saying “good luck.” 🙂

    Thanks for stirring this pot, it keeps us all thinking!

    • Great thoughts. After reading Grudem’s chapter, I sought out friends of various Ariminian denominations for theology books. I agree about God being Other and that ant theology is going to be incomplete.

  2. […] other week I wrote about how I believe in “luck” under the mathematical terms of random numbers and probability. The example I gave was how I […]

  3. […] few weeks ago a pair of posts about random versus God-controlled. Once again God proved He can override (or at least work with) the random […]

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