Are God’s Knitting Needles Revealed in the Creation of LeBron James?

We all recognize that LeBron James has a unique set of skills. He, you and I are all unique in some way if you think about the millions of variants in our genomes. But how was LeBron James made? How did he come to be the way he is? We find several biblical authors attributing our origins to God’s act of knitting us together in our mother’s womb. What does this mean? Can we identify and see evidence of divine action? Let’s explore these questions within the context of asking “Are Gods knitting needles revealed in the creation of LeBron James?”

The following is an edited version of the transcript for prepared remarks of the video below. After going over the contents of this post I spend another 40 minutes on the video attempting to apply ideas of divine action to different creationist view points.

By Keith Allison on Flickr – Originally posted to Flickr as “Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27)”, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The satire site, The Babylon Bee, published a fiction piece a few years ago in which Ken Ham claimed that Mike Trout’s amazing baseball abilities are the best evidence we have of intelligent design. The Bee’s satire set me thinking about the nature of God’s contingent actions in the world, which have traditionally been identified as special providence, miracles, and creative acts.

I, and all Christians, would affirm that God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, made Mike Trout. But let’s change our focus to LeBron James, who is better known and from the city where I currently work, Akron, Ohio.

We could make the same claim about LeBron James that the Psalmist made about his own origins: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13 NIV) or as Job responds to God in Job 10:11 “You clothed me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews.” Hence, the Christian can confidently proclaim that LeBron James, you, and I are all the product of a process we could generally call intelligent design, not to be confused with the more narrow meaning of those who ascribe to a specific movement called ID or Intelligent Design.

But just how did God make LeBron James? What does it mean that God knit any one of us together in our mother’s womb? I think it is safe to assume that all Christians agree that the physical body of LeBron James is not the product of direct de novo creation. He had parents from whom he obtained his physical and personality traits, ostensibly through the instructions shared by his parents through the donations of their genomic information. Not only that, we all recognize that his parents had parents, and we can continue going back many, many generations. Moving back in time, we can confidently say that you and I and LeBron James, and all people alive today share a common ancestor at some point in the past. Just how far in the past is subject to quite a bit of debate. For some Christians, they would identify the ancestral father of each of us in the person of Noah just 4,350 years ago. Others believe that the common ancestor may be further back in time or possibly found more recently. While we may disagree about the exact date of our common ancestry, we all agree that we, in fact, do share a common father and a common mother, although positions differ about whether those two parents existed at the same time.

A more provocative question (than “Did God make LeBron James?”) might be: If we were to follow LeBron James’ ancestors all the way back to our shared common ancestor, how would we characterize God’s mode of action through Mr. James’ ancestral lineage to the present-day person of LeBron James?

I’m confident that LeBron James’s genome or genetic blueprint is utterly unique. No person before him or that will come after him will be exactly like him. And yet, you and I and LeBron James are made from an ancestral genetic blueprint found in our common ancestor. At a minimum, we can all agree that if we were to examine LeBron James’s genome, we would discover that he has alleles (variations of genes) and genomic rearrangements (structure of his chromosomes) that are unique to LeBron James and his immediate ancestors compared to the variation that exists in any ancestor you or I might share with him. These new alleles and unique structural rearrangements are the result of mutations, broadly defined as any change in the sequence of DNA code or order, and composition of the genome.

We could ask at this point: should we expect to find a signature of divine intervention—miracles or special creative acts—at a specific moment in time that resulted in LeBron James’ specific combination of genes and exceptional skillset? Or would we need only to appeal to God’s faithful and ongoing special—potentially measurable?—providence to make LeBron James? Special providence might include God’s bringing about a series of events through what Jon Garvey has termed the “causes in nature to achieve His desired purpose at a certain time” (See Jon Garvey on modes of divine action for more). Or you might you be content to ascribe LeBron James solely to general providence—the general unfolding by God of the laws of nature from which LeBron James is but one possible outcome of many?

How any Christian responds to these questions is likely to be closely tied to one’s theological viewpoint on topics such as the origins of living things and humans, in particular, and the doctrines of free will, God’s sovereignty, and providence.

In traditional Christian Protestant, and in particular Calvinistic theology, and in light of verses such as Psalm 139:9 above, we would say that God made LeBron James exactly as he is today as part of His plan from the beginning. However, I suspect that evangelicals such as Ken Ham and I could make such a statement despite hailing from somewhat different theological traditions.

If it is true that LeBron James was made by God and is part of His divine plan from before the foundations of the world, we would have to say that God is the author or at least knows about and governs the fates of each of the mutations that make up LeBron James’ unique genome and our own as well. However, I think each of us would be hard-pressed to identify (measure) how God has caused those changes to come about outside the context of describing them via probabilistic statistics. By this, I mean that we can mathematically describe the odds of a particular mutation occurring and certain alleles coming together from the parents of LeBron James to form the exact combination that makes his present-day genome. Our calculated odds of getting the exact combination that makes up the person of LeBron James would be very extraordinarily small—think far less than the chance of winning the PowerBall lottery small—but we might all agree that his unique combination of features could have arisen via a multitude of small events, each of which we would attribute to normal providence.

How does God control “normal providence”? In our example of inheritance, millions of genetic variants are recombined in our parents, and each of us gets some new combination of their variants plus some new ones created by mutations or changes that our parent didn’t have. So, we could look at LeBron James’ genome and see the pathway of each variant and allele being passed down to him as a series of highly improbable events and yet completely predictable in the sense that nothing about his particular set of variants appears to have been the result of any miracle—a suspension of normal physical processes. Nothing about his particular set of genes should strike us as being impossible or out of the ordinary providential process God has established for how organisms function.

Put another way, it’s like doing a random draw of a single ball from 1,000 balls, each labeled with a different number, and picking out the number 27. There was only a 1/1000th chance of picking out that ball, but despite the small chance of that result prior to the random draw taking place, we would not immediately jump to the conclusion that a miracle had happened. We would not suspect that the normal mechanisms of how the draw took place were not in order. More importantly, we would not be able to identify the hand of God in the final outcome beyond making a claim of God’s upholding his creation through secondary causes.

Interestingly, might I suggest that we could propose that God’s knitting needles were involved in the selection of that particular ball? Might we know from scripture that that outcome was determined despite its apparent randomness and being the product of the providential workings of this created world nonetheless? After all, we see in Proverbs 16:33: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”

What we are talking about here is the question: how is the particular outcome from the Lord, and is it possible for us to see God’s knitting needles in action? Is it possible to identify God’s action in outcomes we observe, and can we then point to those actions as proofs of His existence?

I have to say that I feel this is a futile exercise and is sending us in the wrong direction looking for God, and yet I feel like many Christian apologists wish to identify specific places where God’s manipulating nature or we might say intervening in His secondary causes to produce us or some other creature to build a proof of God’s existence.

This is the sense that I believe some Christians have when they say they believe that the world is designed. They want to see the great odds against a particular result as proof that God must have been involved to produce that particular unlikely result.

We could say that many Christians wish or even demand to see God’s knitting needles in action before they will believe that God really did it. Furthermore, there are whole groups of Christian apologists who seek to convince the non-believer of the existence of God by showing evidence of God’s divine action. They believe they can demonstrate proof of God’s knitting needles in action.

But what if God’s knitting needles are indistinguishable from processes which the non-theist accepts are just part of nature and not evidence of special creation? What if a biologist can explain the specific combination of genetic variants in LeBron James’ genome and can explain how each gene participates in the process of development from the first cell to embryo to birth? Does that then mean that God is not involved? Or might we say that the biologist has described God’s knitting needles just as the non-Christian meteorologist might describe how a series of events resulted in the formation of a rain cloud.

Did God predestine LeBron James to have his exact skill set? If so, He has been in charge of bringing every allele and every mutation together in his genome and then guiding his life to use those gifts such that he has become who God planned him to be from before the foundation of the world. In order to get from Adam to LeBron James, does that require large-scale supernatural intervention (miracles or creative acts)? Does it require tweaking (small-scale supernatural intervention)? Did it all occur as pre-planned changes – like the pre-programming that Ken Ham, a young-earth apologist, believes God uploaded into the “kinds” of animals at the beginning of creation, which then have run like computer code over time? If so, is this a form of predestination? Or is this deism?

Of course, this brings us to the question: what of free will actions by man? Did God foreordain that LeBron James would exist by planning for that existence from the beginning? Or did He only provide in mankind the capacity to produce a LeBron James, a Ken Ham, a Donald Trump, you or me by “chance” uncontrolled events of the original starting material? In other words, was LeBron James a possible but not an inevitable outcome of God’s creation of man based on the potential in the ancestral genome of mankind? Some Christians take this view, sometimes called open theism, and are inclined to believe that maybe LeBron James is the fortunate one who happened to get the exact combination of alleles as God let “chance” do the work.

Yeah, these are tough questions, especially for one who is coming from a Calvinist tradition. Let’s try the same thought again, but put a different way. If God “knew” of LeBron James before the formation of the world, does that mean he installed the specific alleles (variation of genes) in Adam and Eve from the beginning, and LeBron James is merely one of billions of intended consequences of that plan (a deistic mode)? Or does God, potentially, guide (or decide) every variation in order to individually craft the person He intended? This would also include all the new variants that come into being via mutation in successive generations. We could call the former a deist approach, while the latter would be a sovereignty approach. A third alternative, the open theism approach we mentioned a few moments ago, might posit that God creates the starting conditions (e.g. Adam and Eve) but doesn’t know the outcome and therefore LeBron James is just one possible but not inevitable outcome. Personally, I am not inclined to accept this as an option because I don’t believe it comports to the clear teaching of scriptures that LeBron James, you and I have been knit in our mother’s womb among other passages that teach God’s omniscience over His creation and history.

Does that mean I have the answer? Definitely not. But I believe there is common ground among most Christians regarding the origins of us and all living things. God formed LeBron James via a common ancestor, along with the rest of us at some point in the past. LeBron James himself was not formed via direct special creation or miracle but through special providence, sometimes called special governance of His creation. But how God employs His upholding and making of each individual is a subject of much discussion among Christian theologians, scientists, and philosophers.

Another question worth exploring is how we might extend our understanding of how God has formed each of us individually to how God has created other living things. Might we expect God to have worked in a similar fashion, or is there something special about how He directs our lives versus the creatures? If we understand and agree that God worked through some combination of special and/or general providence, might we extend a similar approach to understanding how He may also have knit together the other forms of life that we see, and have seen, over time?

I suggest that this “knitting process” is, in large part, processes that we have elucidated via God’s gift to us of self-discovery or the scientific process itself. When we discover how genes are expressed and interact to develop our physical bodies, we are discovering God’s knitting needles. Many may not wish to ascribe those discoveries to God’s action and give God glory for His general providence, but it may be that when God tells us that He knit us together in our mother’s womb, His authorship and upholding of the processes we are allowed to discover are, in fact, the descriptions of His knitting needles.

I’m not sure anyone can adequately answer all these questions, integrating them into a fully consistent explanatory framework for how God accomplishes His purposes in the world today, but all Christians can agree that LeBron James exists and God created him.

Praise be to God for all He has done, even if we don’t fully understand how He did it!

One thought on “Are God’s Knitting Needles Revealed in the Creation of LeBron James?

  1. A lot of interesting questions, but I want to question what appears to be a tacit assumption that LeBron Jame’s exceptional athletic skills were largely inherited, wherever and however the genes originated. I submit that while his height and probably some aptitude for athletics were inherited, that to a large degree his exceptional skills can be attribute instead to long and intense practice and training. In fact, there is research to support that this is the case for the majority those at the top of their field, whether in sports, music, art, acting, business, and even science. Many people talk about how “talented” someone is, as if they were just born or “gifted” with exceptional talent and skill, without realizing that in most cases what was truly exceptional was the many years of deliberate, intense and focused work/study/practice, often from very early ages (Tiger Woods being a classic case). If you are in doubt about this, I invite you to read the book Talent is Overreated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin. I read it years ago, and it had a big impact on my thinking. I think many young people would benefit from reading it as well.


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