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Why "Luck" is Not a 4-Letter Word

February 26, 2009

Ever feel pangs of conscience–or pangs of the fear of “what will so-and-so think of me”–for calling something “Lucky” (like a winning basketball shot thrown from the far end of the court)?

Here’s why John Calvin (this is the 6th installment from his teaching on providence) would say luck doesn’t fit the 4-letter-word category, nor fortune the f-word category.

I shall put it this way: however all things may be ordained by God’s plan, according to a sure dispensing, for us they are fortuitous. Not that we think that fortune rules the world and men, tumbling all things at random up and down, for it is fitting that this folly be absent from the Christian’s breast! But since the order, reason, end, and necessity of those things which happen for the most part lie hidden in God’s purpose, and are not apprehended by human opinion, those things, which it is certain take place by God’s will, are in a sense fortuitous . . .
[Imagine a good merchant walking in the woods who] unwisely wanders away from his companions, and in his wandering comes upon a robber’s den, falls among thieves and is slain. His death was not only foreseen by God’s eye, but also determined by his decree (Job 14:5) . . . Whatever happened in a death by this sort the Christian will regard as fortuitous by nature, as it is; yet he will not doubt that God’s providence exercised authority over fortune in directing its end. The same reckoning applies to the contingency of future events. As all future events are uncertain to us, so we hold them in suspense, as if they might incline to one side or the other. Yet in our hearts it nonetheless remains fixed that nothing will take place that the Lord has not previously foreseen.

So maybe I’ll still be wary of wishing someone “Good Luck!”, but maybe when I sink a hole-in-one in my next round of golf, I won’t be afraid to call it such!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2009 5:43 pm

    Since when do you golf? 🙂

  2. February 26, 2009 5:46 pm

    Ha, Ha! During the last 8 years, I think I average 1 round / year (which is why it would killer luck for me to land a hole-in-one!).

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