Another favorite illustration is the weather. While it may not be purely random (certain known processes are involved, such as temperature, pressure, humidity, etc.), actual weather events can be seen to encompass a good deal of randomness when we look at the detail level, even with modern instruments and observations. Chaos theory is now invoked to describe these random processes.
Is God involved in the weather? Does God jiggle every particle of dust through the atmosphere to create a rain drop to be flung to the ground at His will, or does move every electron in a spark of lightning? Common sense tells me no, these are natural processes that God doesn’t need to directly manipulate. Yet, does God occasionally bring hail storms as judgment against sin? Does he bring famine and drought, as predicted by the prophets, to humble his people and bring them to repentance? Is he able to bring the rain again after the people repent, due to the ministry of an Elijah?
I suspect if questioned, [some] would respond that these specific examples of God “directing” the otherwise natural and random processes of weather, are evidence of the NON-randomness of those particular events. But this is an ad hoc distinction. Looking from a neutral, scientific perspective, the events in question, though perhaps unlikely, would be part of the random distribution of possible weather patterns and indistinguishable from “non-directed” events. It is only by looking at those events with a theological perspective, knowing that in some cases there is a revealed “purpose” and intention behind them, that one can say they are non-random or directed. (And even then there is the question in many cases, did God cause the event, or did he simply infuse it with meaning through the message of the prophets or by the action of His Spirit working on human hearts, bringing them to repent of their ways?) In so doing, there has been introduced a completely different level of observation, and I suspect even a different definition of randomness when viewing the event from the perspective of “theological purpose” versus “physical process.”
So from this, I guess the biologist could look at the scientific evidence of evolution and observe many features resembling randomness, but the theologian looking at the same process could claim directedness and purposefulness in God’s action from a Theistic Evolutionary perspective. Is this a case, somewhat like in Special Relativity, where two different observers can both be correct from their own frame of reference, even though their observations differ from one another?
This is a valid question for Theistic Evolutionists—for those who defend “undirected” evolution as the mechanism of evolution, do you also hold the idea of purposefulness at a higher level? Is there any Theistic Evolutionist who doesn’t confess directedness and purposefulness behind evolution, when viewing it above the level of scientific and biological fact? Isn’t this the very meaning of the term “Theistic” Evolution? Evolution is the mechanism of the biological level, theism is the mechanism of a higher order.
I also like the illustration that has been given before, of the words “God is love” written on a blackboard. At one level, they are simply solid bits of chalk adhering to the board. At a lower level, they are not solid at all, but are mostly empty space consisting of random motions of electrons, protons and neutrons. At a higher level, it can be seen that there is a non-random design and intentionality in the pattern of chalk, provided one recognizes the language of English in which they are written. And at a yet higher level of cognitive and emotional awareness, the words “God is love” mean something more than the pattern of the letters reveals, and on the highest level is God’s love itself which incapable of being fully understood. Which one of these levels of perception is the “true” one—the random motion of electrons, the designed pattern of bits of chalk created by human hand, or the divine reality of God’s love that transcends mortal ability to comprehend? They are all true from different frames of reference.