Random Chance and Divination?


Cleromancy is a form of divination using sortition, casting of lots, or casting bones or stones, in which an outcome is determined by means that normally would be considered random, such as the rolling of dice, but are sometimes believed to reveal the will of God. Casting of lots occurs relatively frequently in the Bible, and many biblical scholars think that the Urim and Thummim served this purpose as a means of determining God’s mind:

  1. Book of Leviticus 16:8, God commands Moses, “And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.”

  2. Joshua 7, a guilty party (Achan) is probably found by lot and executed.

  3. Book of Joshua 18:6, Joshua says, “Ye shall therefore describe the land into seven parts, and bring the description hither to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the LORD our God.” **This action is done in order to know God’s will **as to the dividing of land between the seven tribes of Israel who had not yet “received their inheritance.” (Joshua 18:2).

  4. First Book of Samuel 14:42, lots are used to determine that it was Jonathan, Saul’s son, who broke the oath that Saul made, “Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies.” (1 Samuel 14:24).

  5. Book of Jonah 1:7, the desperate sailors cast lots to see whose god is responsible for creating the storm: "Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah."

  6. Nehemiah 11:1 Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem; the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine-tenths were to dwell in other cities.

  7. Numbers 16:55 “But the land shall be divided by lot; they shall inherit according to the names of the tribes of their fathers. According to the lot their inheritance shall be divided between the larger and the smaller.”

8. Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.

  1. Acts 1:26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

I just find the whole subject curious as divination is forbidden by the Church. But we do undulge in random selection without much thought of it. Lotteries, flipping coin at foorball games, BINGO, rolling dice, etc. I suppose we do not think of it as revealing God’s will, a purelu secular activity.

Any thoughts?


I do not see how the concept of “chance” is consistent with the Church’s view of reality. Providence replaces the pre-Christian concept of “chance.” In a world where not a sparrow falls . . . there is no room for chance.


The Apostles drew straws or cast lots to choose a replacement for Judas. God controls all life events by His providence. When The Holy Spirit wants to communicate He sometimes uses certain acts of people like opening the Bible at random to receive an answer to a spiritual problem. I know this for a fact. Many Christians do this. I agree that it looks strange and maybe superstitious. When it comes to Faith, all things are possible. Jesus confirms this. Discernment is a gift that is,used to be able to tell what is from a good spirit or an evil one. Scripture tells us that if the spirit glorifies Jesus, it is good, if it doesn,t it is evil. I had many such events., and confirmations too. This doesn’t mean that it works all of the time, I don’t control the Spirit, only when He chooses to communicate in this way. I had about 60-70 people, including priests, nuns and college students witness one of these events in a chapel at a college. In a world that is so incredulous these Charisms are needed to build the Church, they are called"edifying grace" Vatican II, and St. Thomas Aquinas speaks of them. Satan imitates the Holy Spirit to deceive. His works as St. Ignatius explains is like water dropping on a rock making a big splash. On the othe hand the works of the Holy Spirit is like water dropping on a sponge, it us absorbed. When these manifestation take place, discernment is given to protect the Faithful… The church warns that if we always look for signs the Devils’ deceits are around the corner. It pleases God if we believe without seeing, but He does give signs when He sees that we need them. He gave many signs to prove He is God, He is still giving signs through His mother, the saints, and angels, He loves us infinitely, He leaves no stone unturned looking for us, the Hound of Heaven.:slight_smile:


As I recall Fr. Mitch Pacwa explaining it, the casting of lots was a culturally appropriate way of allowing God to decide a matter.


Here is what St. Thomas Aquinas says, "Lots: If we ascribe it to chance it does not seem to imply any vice other than vanity. If, on the other hand, the decision by lot be left to a spiritual cause, it is sometimes ascribed to demons, as in the case in Ezekiel 21:21, which is unlawful and forbidden. Sometimes, however, the decision is left to God, according to Proverbs 16:33. This sortilege is not wrong in itself. If anyone resort to the drawing of lots in Church elections, this should be carried out by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Wherefore as Bede says (Super Act. Apos.) ‘Before Pentecost the ordination of Matthias was decided by lot; because as yet the fullness of the Holy Spirit was not yet poured forth into the Church.’

I can see how using lots can be used even on a personal level if someone wants to make a decision yet wants to eliminate all traces of their own bias in the process while asking for God’s guidance. But this obviously should never be done unless all options are completely and equally morally neutral.


One of the signs of the fullness of the Spirit was the strong move of the Apostles to go out and tell the “Good News, Jesus Christ , The Messiah” This is called :Evangelization. The Apostles were given all of the charisms they needed to do the job. Charisms are no signs of sanctity but signs of “edifying grace” the Holy Spirit building His Church. Jesus said that you can have all of these charisms and still go to hell if you didn’t practice the virtues of faith, hope and love. Love of God and neighbor. Is the fullness of the Spirit present among catholics.? The last three,perhaps more, popes have emphasized the great need for “Evangelization” Are things in our day morally neutral! Our society shows a strong amoral sign especially among our youth, check the questions asked in all of forums. Why do we tire God with our own convictions and opinions. Even Issaiah said the same thing to King Ahaz so God gave him a sign, “A virgin shall conceive a Son called Emmanuel” We old believers are like the “old wine skins” if we pour new wine into the old wine skins the skins are liable to break. New wine is poured into new wine skins. Jesus said “Old wine is better” but we become all things to all men for the sake of the Kingdom. Yes, ask for a personal sign of Gods’ love for you, if you are sincere and desire to know Him, He will answer. He picks the time and place. We might forget Him, but He never forgets us and our request. He desires this more than we do His love for us is greater than our love for Him. The Holy Spirit is inspirering Christians of all Faiths to step out in Faith and use the tools of the Lay Apostles the world needs Jesus more than ever. Satan is certainly doing his evil inspirering, this is so obvious with the mass killing of children all over the world. When we go against God, we go against the truth, the result of going against the truth is irrationality, we go against our own nature. Do insane situations exist in our society? And how prevalent are they?


The only place I can think of that casting lots was used for divining an answer was in Jonah, but this was done by people who didn’t necessarily believe in the same God as Jonah did:

Jonah:1:5: Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.
6: So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.
7: And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.

Yet the result turned out to be true but, it wasn’t for the sake of the crew. It could be easily understood that God was in control of the situation and would have the result fall on Jonah because he will have His Word fulfilled.


Sometimes we give up trying to control a situation, not to blind luck, but leaving it all up to God.


In the Name of the Father, and the Son and in the Name of Holy Coincidence.


I agree. But then, when they flip the coin for the super bowl, does God really care?


Interesting post.
When it comes ot a fork in the road Maybe God will tell me the direction to take by flipping coin, maybe not.

Best to stick with Yogi Berra, “When you come to a fork in the road, pick it up.”:smiley:


Haha! I’ve personally did a casting of lots before in order to choose something related to service to God, and it worked out for the best. The reason why I did it was because I had a choice to do something, and I knew what I wanted to do but not sure if it was God’s choice, so I wanted to eliminate my desire in the decision. But obviously someone should not cast lots to see if they should sin or not, or even to choose between something good or neutral, because the good would be the obvious choice that should be taken. But it should be done when both choices are equally good.

I am not speaking with authority but only giving my own reasoning based upon what I have understood from other Catholic theologians.


Well here is a question. In choosing between two goods what is the difference between casting lots and drawing taro cards or throwing runes? I do not know what that entails but they would seem to be random activities used to interpret a present situation and best action to take?

Another is the I Ching. An ancient Chinese book used for divination but also just philosophy. A person uses either coins or some other random process to select one of 64 gua or hexagrams that represent the focus of a reflection on the current stuation. It is all so symbolic it is difficult to understand. But I have been reading about the history and how most of the images relate to the life of an ancient king or nature itself to talk about specific virtues to be applied.

I can see some value in not relying on a random process but selecting one that seems most applicable. Then no “divination” is involved at all.

Here is an example:

You can see how coming up with this one in a random process to a specific decision you might be trying to make can be more confusing than helpfull.

“There is wind above thunder.
If the great man sees right, he emulates it.
If the great man sees wrong, he eliminates it.
Expansion of the proper way.
The great man is encouraged to endeavour some venture.
The great man may cross the great water.”

I am intrigued by the symbolism.

" 2 The man is expanded with the help of another. Ten tortoises would not change this."

For others with similar interest I have found this book:

to be the best for explaning the symbolism and Confucious. It all goes back to the life of King Wen and how he overthrew the Zang tyrant king using patience, alliances, and strategy.


God created us and gave us an appetite for truth. Truth is the desired object of the mind or intellect. We all have it. It is no surprise that no matter what part of the world or society we encounter we will find human wisdom. Many times this wisdom is mixed with with religious beliefs and fantasy. Discernment is needed to see the difference between truth and fantasy, what is true and what is not. Satan is always ready to take advantage of our false beliefs by using his angelic powers to enhance our false beliefs. He has done this quite successfully thats why we have so many false religions not consistent with the truth. There are so many superstitions, so many false beliefs like fortune telling, clair-voyance, quija boards, tarrot cards, casting lots in order to foretell the future etc. It is true that God does gift people with the ability to prophesy to predict the future and even to heal. This is always associated with the advancement of His Kingdom. Holy Scipture tells us that if the spirit glorifies Jesus, it is good, if it doesn,t it is evil. What makes a half truth acceptable is the half that is true. If we fall into the trap of Satans deceit we can begin to believe that we are divine, or there is something of divinity in our nature, like ESP, healing ,miracles and predicting the future. We can share in divinity by grace, by the work of the Holy Spirit. We can fall into the sin against the first commandment. I am the Lord, thou shalt not have any other gods before me. Satan takes advantage of our tendency to pride, and ignorance. When making a choice, if it made to do the will of God and we made what we think is a bad choice, God in His providence will make it turn out right, He writes straight lines with our crooked thinking. He wants us to practice trust in Him, it is a spiritual power, it is Hope. We are always subject to His Providence in all cases. We can step out in faith and expect the answer if moved by the Spirit to advance the Kingdom of God, but pray that you hear the call to step out. Peter said to Jesus, "If it is you Lord bid me come to You (over the water). Jesus said “Come” Sometimes we step out before we hear the word “Come” and we sink. (Oh ye of little faith!):slight_smile:


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