Words on the Word

Randomness & Order

Amos 3.1-12: Does the lion roar if no pray has been found?
Matthew 8.22-27: Even the winds and the sea obey him.

The prophet Amos presents a tidy vision of the world in terms of causes and effects. The lion finds its prey, so roars; a trap is set, so birds get caught. His concern is to show that everything happens for a reason, even frightful things. He asks: ‘Does misfortune come to a city if the Lord has not sent it?’ The answer he expects is ‘Of course not!’

Yet one hesitates. This sort of reasoning is a little too like that of Job’s friends; and the thrust of Job, that wondrous book, is to show its inadequacy.

Of this inadequacy we, citizens of the 21st century, are still more conscious than people were back then, in ancient Uz. Living in a world of balances upset ecologically, anthropologically, culturally, we are exposed to much randomness, haunted by the inconstant spectre of Artificial (or Inhuman) Intelligence. Who knows what it will lead to?

It is important, then, that we complement Amos’s vision with that of the Gospel. The incident of Christ’s rebuking the sea conveys a crucial message. It tells us that there is a supremely reasonable Power surpassing and commanding the elements even when these run out of control; and that this chaos-ordering Power is well-disposed to us, alert to our fears.

Do I place all my trust in Christ’s Lordship? Do I fully believe that he has not only my own little life but that of the whole world in his hand, directing all things through present perils towards a blessed goal?

The coherence of our Christian witness depends on our answers to these questions, and that holds whether we live in the cloister or out in the world.