In light of the teachings of the Catholic Church, which acknowledges that God created the universe according to a plan, and that everything that exists has purpose, can we understand why life, despite deliberate decisions and avoidance of bad choices, often turns out to be an unordered set of random events? Can this disorder be considered a consequence of sin, even in the case of the innocent, such as children below the age of 5, who do not yet have the full capacity for moral choice?

Is the teaching of the Catholic Church, in this regard, conflicting or converging with other fields such as philosophy, ethics, and others?

  • 1
    Since you've essentially scoped this to Catholics I won't make this an answer, but the short version is A: Life only ever appears to be random, nothing happens without God's foreknowledge and planning; B: Yes, sin and our free choices have consequences, which can and do affect the innocent. Jun 19, 2023 at 15:35
  • The question speaks of the teaching that everything that exists has purpose, then questions that teaching on the basis that 'life ... seems to be unordered'. Thus the question is based upon opinion, not evidence.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 19, 2023 at 17:54
  • However, I'm looking for hard scientific evidence that life is ordered.
    – bujals
    Jun 19, 2023 at 19:01
  • I understand your position that my question is based on my opinion, not evidence. Indeed, my perspective might be subjective. But isn't that the nature of most questions concerning faith and religion? If so, how could we better understand these seemingly chaotic aspects of our lives in the context of the teachings of the Catholic Church?
    – bujals
    Jun 19, 2023 at 20:43
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    (Not necessarily Catholic, hence a comment, not an answer.) Chaos on the small scale doesn't preclude order on the large. — A container of gas contains billions of molecules bouncing in all directions at various speeds and every one is unpredictable; yet together and considered as a single system that gas is extremely predictable (Boyle's Law). — In a cattle drive, up to 10,000 head of cattle are herded up to 500 miles. The route and the behaviour of the herd along the trail are very predictable, but the individual cattle have chaotic behaviour. — Why can't God's plan work that way too? Jun 20, 2023 at 1:56

2 Answers 2


distinguo Randomness vs Disorder.

As all computer programmers know, randomness is a fallacy, there can't be anything random or God is not God. The Catholic Church teaches that the entire universe is held in the thought of God and if He stopped thinking of us, we would simply cease to be.

This is how Church documents appear to interpret what St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians

The Father’s Plan of Salvation. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will,

Eph 1:3-5 NABRE

but it's not just us that He thought of, the universe, which was created good, was formed out of the void, not out of a preexisting disorder as in the pagan mythologies (see Bishop Barron's intro to the Word on Fire Pentateuch for this line of reasoning).

Bishop Barron goes on to mention in regard to the evil that crept into the world shortly after creation that the two "names of the dark powers" were ho diablos and ho Satanas. Diablos, I had no idea, meant "scatterer".

So when Jesus says that none of His disciples would be lost, He likely meant that they would not truly be scattered, but be One church; A mystical unscatterable body.

So the way the Church reconciles the divine plan is that it is a thing one seeks and only asymptotically "attains" in this life by living a life of virtue loving God and doing good works. Not being scattered, but being true to the True Faith that comes to use from Jesus via His Church.

Seemingly random evil events (cancer and tornadoes), you may attribute to the "passive will of God" direct divine intervention (miraculous cures and God speaking in a whirlwind) is called the "active will of God". Beyond that, it is a mystery and to know any more would truly sap the adventure, if not the joy, out of life.

A small child, or anyone without full use of reason, wouldn't be responsible for their actions or at least not fully responsible in the way someone with all their faculties would be. Mortal sin, at least, requires three things (CCC 1857):

  • grave matter
  • full knowledge
  • deliberate consent

if grave matter is a given, full knowledge and deliberate consent are likely not

  • 1
    That "all computer programmers know, randomness is a fallacy" is itself a fallacy. Yes, purely algorithmic random number generators only approximate randomness. But anything based on external, non-controllable, non-repeatable events is random. Try finding a quantum physicist that doesn't believe in randomness. Jun 21, 2023 at 11:34
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    @ray, quantum physicists believe in randomness like evolutionary biologists believe in natural selection and mathematicians believe in incompleteness and cosmologists believe in entropy and economists believe in the "invisible hand". If it's the tenant of their religion and as a religion it's a heresy, if it's a scientific principle it's a heuristic. Is it wrong to say that the apparent randomness in the universe is just something we don't understand which may truly be incomprehensible?
    – Peter Turner
    Jun 21, 2023 at 13:11

Keep in mind 3 things:

  1. The world might be disordered, but it isn't out of order completely. For example: It has been static for thousands of years that he atom is still an atom. Fine tuning of the universe did not change. The sun rose from the east and set in west everyday.. etc.

  2. This is a fallen world. After the sin of Adam and Eve, the whole world fell with them into rebellion against God. The consequence of falling out with God is that nothing is perfect any more. Hence we have suffering.

  3. Some little children suffer not because it's a punishment for their own personal sins, because they have none of them. Suffering is part of the fallen world, even God himself became man and came to share us this suffering. Even though little ones might suffer and die, but it is nothing compared with eternal life they are going to live with God and all the saints in heaven.

As an answer to your question: There is no contradiction between the Christian faith, in this case the teachings of the Catholic Church, and science (philosophy). Without faith and the relationship with a good God, there is no morality (ethics) nor there is objecvie right and wrong, so there is no contradiction there either.

Even though one might deny that God exists, but the innate moral nature of man comes from the fact that we are universally born with an innate conscience, a whispering voice inside of us which tells us about right and wrong. This voice is part of what the Genesis states that we are created in God's image.

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    – agarza
    Jun 22, 2023 at 3:27
  • "The consequence of falling out with God is that nothing is perfect any more. Hence we have suffering" - nothing is perfect. Perfection versus chaos. If we assume that perfection is a state of harmony and order, and chaos refers to the unpredictability and complex behavior that occurs in deterministic systems, does the Catholic doctrine use the term "chaos" in the sense that it is used in chaos theory?
    – bujals
    Jun 23, 2023 at 13:57
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    No. If everything was perfect, it does not mean I would be able to predict what you are going to do in the future (given that you are a rational soul given perfect freedom by God). Rather, the state of chaos is the condition of the world after its separation from God: illness, suffering, natural disasters and even death itself. I'm not a theologian but this is according to my understanding.
    – ellat
    Jun 23, 2023 at 15:17
  • "Rather, the state of chaos is the condition of the world after its separation from God" - this suggests that chaos is the absence of God's order. Science tells us that chaos is an order that is difficult to predict due to its complexity and sensitivity to initial conditions. Therefore, could it be suggested that both "God's order" and "chaos" in the scientific sense encompass the concept of a deeper order or structure, which may not be immediately apparent?
    – bujals
    Jun 23, 2023 at 20:03
  • Bruce Hoyt wrote "Is God behind all this apparent randomness? We must say that He is. And how does apparent randomness in our universe relate to the order which we believe God has placed there? Or are order and apparent randomness unre­lated?"
    – bujals
    Jun 24, 2023 at 16:24

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