Chaos and Order-Are Both Needed in Creation?

I was reading an article about how chaos and order balance one another, and in fact are necessary, and it reminded me of Genesis ! . God, or course, created everything, including the chaos that he then ordered, and perhaps calls us to continue his work in that realm. Random variation is the driver of many processes, including evolution of life. It seems to be no coincidence. While certainly chaos or randomness as written in Genesis and symbolised by the sea and its beasts is not talking about evolution, perhaps it is related both philosophically and physically. When some speak of how they cannot accept how God would create from a random process, would it not be proper to point out that he did so from the beginning, and that randomness or chaos is not only a part of this world, but perhaps is both Biblically and scientifically a necessary factor in the plan of creation? A surprise new "theory of everything" involves symmetry - Big Think

  • By coincidence, three days ago I had reason to research the word “chaotically” on-line and got the following:

    • What does the adverb “chaotically” entail in scientific parlance?
      • “In scientific parlance, the adverb “chaotically” is used to describe a system that is sensitive to initial conditions. This means that small changes in the initial conditions can lead to large changes in the system’s behavior over time. Chaotic systems are often unpredictable and difficult to control.”
      • “One example of a chaotic system is the weather. The weather is influenced by a large number of factors, such as the temperature, humidity, and wind. Even a small change in one of these factors can lead to a large change in the weather over time. This is why it is so difficult to predict the weather accurately more than a few days in advance.”
      • “Another example of a chaotic system is the stock market. The stock market is influenced by a large number of factors, such as the economy, interest rates, and investor sentiment. Even a small change in one of these factors can lead to a large change in the stock market over time. This is why it is so difficult to predict the stock market accurately.”
      • “Chaotic systems are important because they can be found in many different areas of science and engineering. For example, chaotic systems are used to model the weather, the stock market, and the spread of disease. Chaotic systems can also be used to design new technologies, such as self-driving cars and artificial intelligence.”
    • Could a point-mass, or a cloud of point-masses–where “a cloud” may be two or more point-masses–theoretically pulsate in some harmonic motion, and propel itself through space?
      • “Yes, a point-mass or a cloud of point-masses could theoretically pulsate in some harmonic motion and propel itself through space. In fact, this is how some stars and planets are thought to have formed.”
      • “When a cloud of gas and dust collapses under its own gravity, it begins to rotate. This rotation causes the cloud to flatten into a disk. As the cloud continues to collapse, the disk heats up and eventually forms a star. The star’s gravity then pulls on the disk, causing it to wobble. This wobbling motion causes the disk to emit waves of energy, which can propel the star and the disk through space.”
      • “A similar process can also occur with planets. When a planet forms from a disk of gas and dust, it can also wobble and emit waves of energy. This energy can propel the planet through space, either away from its star or towards it.”
      • “The amount of energy that a point-mass or cloud of point-masses emits depends on its mass and its rotation rate. The more massive the object and the faster it rotates, the more energy it will emit. This energy can then be used to propel the object through space.”
  • Bottom line: Things popping into and out of space and time are commonly said to be “random” events. But so are events that depend on a multitude of factors, none or few of which are known or measureable. The latter are also sensitive to small–as in imperceptible–changes. IMO, the former are mystifying unexplained “miracles”; the latter are reasonable, and very plausible, physical causes.

I like how Longman recognized chaos does not characterize the new heavens and earth. While the chaos is undoubtedly a part of this world, to which the Lord literally walked upon, and showed that he is not subject to it, I do not believe it was physically necessary for a world to exist. For this world it may have been necessary, but not for it to be a physical world.

In the new creation, perhaps things will all be ordered, but it seems that in this present day one, chaos is not a bug, it is a feature. The state of God’s creation from the beginning.


I think it may be a mistake to necessarily equate the modern scientific conception of chaos (which Terry described in wonderful detail above) with the ancient biblical view that was assigned that same English descriptor.

Translators must have had great reason to prefer that word, of course, and I respect that. So there must be a lot of shared concepts involved.

But I also think the ancients would be confused by our thinking of entropy and uniform mixtures of air molecules and such as being examples of “chaos”.

For them, it seems chaos (associated with frightening waters or raging, stormy seas) had a spiritual significance as an inhospitable or threatening thing. Even today we’ll use it that way too, since it is typically not a compliment to note that somebody’s desk or shop or classroom or workspace is chaotic. We mean that it is in want of order, and would be vastly improved if it had some.

While we can now see a conceptual connection between randomness of air molecules, and clutter on my desk, I doubt that the ancients had anything in mind that we now mathematically describe as entropy. To them, in fact, it would probably just register as yet one more example of God’s order. Air being just in its properly assigned place right where it needs to be so we can breathe it.


This reminds me of one very special evening at church when John Polkinghorne came and delivered a theology lecture. He talked about how the universe was both “clocks and clouds.”

Interesting article, @jpm!
“Symmetry” sounds like bifurcation, and I like to think of it in more of a circle of life way. I think that this has been seen culturally is aptly described in Native American medicine wheels, and scientifically described in life cycles (for living and no living things, and distinct wheels for different cultures). Medicine wheels generally describe the “first” stage as youthful, emotional, and a time of growth. It balances out at the end of the lifetime with wisdom and death, and inevitably new growth. Star formation is similar. It’s the momentum that keeps life and the universe going.
I think this is a necessary and healthy perspective because what disrupts the process with unnecessary chaos is unrealistic expectations and selfishness.

Right now, my home is chaotic with four kids, especially one that is teething, learning to communicate, and trying to find his boundaries. If he tries to bite me, throws a bottle across the room, or climbing the counter and digging in the butter dish, he’s trying to learn to navigate the world and not trying to sin against me. From what I’ve learned, it’s my responsibility to demonstrate how to do those things while being present with him, giving him the space to practice and fail and try again. I would create more chaos if I expected him to act beyond his developmental stage.
Unfortunately, our community structures are fractured somewhat so not every age is represented with what we have to offer for each other.
This medicine wheel describes that all parts, accepted and working together, is what creates harmony.

Some former Christian apologists undermined their efforts by claiming that if the universe worked like a clock there must be a clockmaker running the universe.

  • I’ve never seen a clock that needs a clockmaker to keep it running; but I have seen clocks made, fixed, and maintenanced by clockmakers. Like the Cosmos, they pretty much run themselves.They’re kinda useless if they don’t or are very high maintenance
  • @mtp1032 Michael, I’ve copied and pasted the following here, in this thread, because I’m intrigued by your “spin”, as it were, on the Biblical Hebrew word ra. My understanding of your “spin” goes like this: tov and ra are not so much ‘sharp polar opposites’ but two different portions of a range of possibilities with tov toward one end of the range and ra toward the other end.
    • From your first post in the “Good and Evil, Towb and Ra” thread: “… the translation of words and phrases in biblical Hebrew are very, very context dependent. The meaning of tov is often translated as compatible, functional, wonderful, good (morally), good (tasting), and so forth. Similarly, the meaning of ra is usually translated as evil, wicked, or bad. However, in an economic context (exchanging goods and services) it can mean “not profitable”. In Genesis II, I think most Hebrew-Old Testament scholars would argue that the context of the Adam and Eve story suggests that ra means “bad”, not evil. By way of explanation, Wenham, Westermann, and others argue that the phrase “tov vara” (good and evil/bad) does not occur in a moral context and so the translation of ra as evil is not supported.”
  • BTW, I’m retired and sedentary; you’re not. So if I make more of this subject than you have time or interest for, you’re not going to hurt my feelings if you don’t respond for lack of time or interest.
  • So, I see a continuum: Good to Bad, with context determining where something is on the continuum.
  • I read a second pair of “opposites” in Proverbs 10:25: " When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation." Here, riighteous and wicked are at opposite ends of the continuum, aren’t they?
  • I see a third and fourth pair in Jeremiah 17-8:
    • This is what the LORD says:
      “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
      And makes flesh his strength,
      And whose heart turns away from the LORD.
      “For he will be like a bush in the desert,
      And will not see when prosperity comes,
      But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
      A land of salt that is not inhabited.
      “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
      And whose trust is the LORD.
      “For he will be like a tree planted by the water
      That extends its roots by a stream,
      And does not fear when the heat comes;
      But its leaves will be green,
      And it will not be anxious in a year of drought,
      Nor cease to yield fruit.
    • Here, the pairs are:
      • Cursed and Blessed,
      • “trust in Adam” and “trust in Yhwh”.
  • My questions:
    1. What’s the opposite of “sin”?
    2. Does sin make the sinner or does a sinner sin?
    3. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick;
      Who can understand it?" Although the answer may seem obvious, I’ll ask anyway: What’s the opposite of “deceitful”?
    4. I suspect I could go on, but won’t. Instead, I’ll ask: Have you ever come across a “A complete collection of opposites in Biblical Hebrew?” [It is 2023 afterall, one would think somebody has put one together. Or is that expecting or hoping for too much?]

Wouldn’t maintenance count as keeping it running?

  • There’s 24/7 maintenance, 12/6 maintenance, 8/5 maintenance, part-time 4/5 maintenance. There are all kinds of maintenance.
  • Salary, worship, and health & retirement benefits are contingent on the hours put in.
  • In answer to your question, how much would you pay God for “running” the universe?

All he has to do is speak.

…and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
Hebrews 1:3

You know, metaphors can only go so far. For example, we are rightly called the sheep of God’s pasture, but we don’t belch and fart methane.

Terry, what follows is my opinion. Thought of quoting a couple of good Hebrew lexicons, but I’m not sure they answer your questions… as you’ll see

Are righteous and wicked opposite of each other?
Grammatically, they are unrelated though it’s hard to imagine a sinner who is righteous. If you’re a Lutheran, you believe that when God forgives you, your sins are “covered” and not removed. According to this theology you can be sinful and justified. I believe Catholics hold to an opposite view.

On the question of opposites?
In the Bible opposites ofetn occur in a literary figure called a merism. For example two of the most famous merisms in all of literature occur in Genesis I and Genesis II:
In the former, the merism is “the heavens and the earth,” meaning all that one can see. In Genesis II the merism is “good and evil/bad” and carries no moral connotation. Instead, this particular kind of knowledge is the knowledge that adolescents gain upon attaining puberty.

What is the opposite of sin?
Great question because it’s a bit complex. In Hebrew sin is a state. Your question is like asking, “What is the opposite of cancer?” A first attempt to answer such a question might to say, cancer-free is the opposite of cancer. Bit it’s not. Cancer-free is opposite of cancer-ridden.

Does sin make the sinner or does a sinner sin?
First think about this from the Talmud: All wickeness is sinful but not all sin is wicked. There are lots of examples from the Bible, e.g., the two women who disobey pharoah and do not kill the Israeli babies. To top it off, they then lie to pharoah. Does God punish these two liars? No. He gives them land. He gives land to women!!! In biblical days this would have been shocking. Here’s another one: God encourages David to deceive Saul and pretend to be insane.

What is the the opposite of deceitful?
Truthful, honest.

In Hebrew, sin is any deed or word that cause estrangement from your neighbor or from God. Borrowing money from a close friend can (or usually does) cause a strain in the relationship. There is nothing wicked about borrowing money. Nevertheless, it can do real harm to a relationship.

1 Like
  • So are you saying that the clockmaker metaphor is a metaphor carried too far" no matter who uses it or just when others use it?

I think confusion enters discussions on chaotic systems (treated as stochastic systems by science) when these are equated with things without purpose. Thus, weather cannot be modelled exactly, but we should not declare weather as pointless or ‘without purpose’. :grin:

If we talk about chaos, there is a need to define what we mean by chaos. As commented above, the scientific term ‘chaos’ is very different from how the word ‘chaos’ is used in everyday life or ancient belief systems. Chaos in the scientific sense is probably needed for the dynamic development of the universe. Chaos in the sense of being ‘bad’ lack of order, caused by uncontrollable forces, is another matter, especially when it is associated with the concept of fight between (equally strong) good and evil.

Chaos, fight between good and evil, and the order that follows the fight seems to be a theme that can be found from many belief systems and many spefi-books (spefi = speculative fiction, including scifi and fiction happening in alternative realities or worlds). At least some ancient stories about the birth of gods or rulers started from chaos.

It is possible that Genesis 1 intentionally used somewhat similar kind of structure than other religious stories about how order or gods were formed from chaos. Genesis 1 gave another explanation about how everything we know was created, not from an initial chaos but by the word of the Creator - even the chaotic waters and the monsters of the chaotic environment were created by God. In that sense, chaos was not necessarily needed. Chaos was just the perception of people about the environments and forces they could not control or understand.

1 Like

No, I didn’t say that at all. You can read what I wrote.

Good clarification. As you point out the “chaos” is also a creation of God, with God hovering over the waters symbolizing that chaos, and the chaos monster Leviathan spoke of in Job 41 and Psalm 104.
While not a concordist, I find it interesting to see how that chaos of creation is necessary to have before order can be made, and can be seen as an integral part of life in this creation, and thus the argument falls flat to say that God would not create by a random process.