“Theology of Luck: Fate, Chaos, and Faith” Book Review

Posted: September 15, 2015 in Book and Article Reviews
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Jeff Lane and Rob Fringer have written a very accessible introductory work on what they term a “theology of luck.” That title can be a little misleading. Another appropriate title might include the words: a relational theology of love or an introduction to open theism. I’m not sure if they would agree to the designation of “open theism,” but their work is, in large part, trying to make those ideas accessible.

Let me quickly highlight Lane and Fringer’s task. They are trying to discern a middle way between Voltaire’s Deism and Leibniz’s Determinism. In other words, Leibniz holds that God determines everything that happens. God is a God of control and power that maneuvers everything that happens. On the other side of the fence, Voltaire conceives of a God that winds everything up and lets it go. God is distant and doesn’t interfere in any way with the happenings of the world.

These two varying theologies produce very different followers. Determinism creates apathy. If God has already decided everything, there is really no need for my participation. Deism creates disciples that believe in autonomy and freedom. The danger then is that God is not necessary when I have the will to power.

Fringer and Lane want to move beyond these stale theologies to a theology of love that is bound up in intimate relationship with God and with each other. This theology holds that God does not determine everything, yet God is still actively working and inviting our participation in the world. Love, because it is not coercive, invites our response of love to God’s love. Love always risks the possibility of rejection. The authors conclude: “A system that is fully controlled does not allow for choice, luck, or responsibility; whereas, a system that allows for luck also allows for genuine love, free response, and actual responsibility” (172).

The benefits of this kind of theology is found in that God cannot be blamed for everything that goes wrong in the world, including sin. At the same time, it maintains that God has not abandoned the world but continues to work through us to reclaim and redeem that world. It is the invitation of love and relationship. It is a call to response and responsibility.

Overall, I thought this presented the thoughts of open theism on a very accessible level. It provided a thoughtful, Wesleyan, and Christian perspective on issues surrounding theodicy, or the problem of evil. It also maintained a helpful balance between a God of immanence and a God of transcendence. In other words, this book would be a great potential tool for pastors and parishioners to wrestle with their picture of God, the resulting theology, and the outcome of that theology in their lives. Questions are also included at the end of each chapter to help with reflection or use in a small group setting.

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