Wednesday, August 14, 2002

God's Providence

Light blogging today. I am taking the gang to Lake Winnipesauke. These random interruptions will continue until school begins.

The recurrent discussions on God being outside of time have been bouncing around inside my head. I have been thinking about various things: God’s Will, His Providence, chance, luck, man’s free will, God’s Sovereignty, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, pork belly futures, etc.

How do all these things fit together?

I don’t have a clue. I can only begin to grasp these things if I tackle them in bite-sized chunks.

I have blogged before about God’s Sovereignty and Will, and also about our free will. Today I will take a peek at God’s Providence.

In particular, I was curious as to whether or not God’s Providence is the same as God’s Sovereignty. No clear answer there, but I was able to muster a sense that the concepts, though related, refer to different things. Providence is the particular way God chooses to use His Sovereignty. Whether I can fully convey the distinction remains to be seen.

When I wrote of God’s Sovereignty, I discussed the three types of His Will: Decretive(that which He decrees—it will happen), Preceptive (that which He desires but doesn’t decree, such as our obedience) and Permissive (that which He permits, good or bad).

Providence is the combination of all forms of God’s Will along with His foreknowledge-- all working together to sustain creation. His foreknowledge includes knowing the state of our hearts at any instant. Our hearts control our desires, to which our free will is beholden. His doesn’t make us make choices, but He knows how we will choose.1

Providence is the amazing amalgamation of these different aspects of God’s Sovereignty and foreknowledge that permit Him to govern the universe without violating man’s free will. The “factoring in” of our free will into God’s Sovereignty is called concurrence. Providence states that God chooses to use his Sovereignty to govern in a way that is sustaining, glorifying to Him and dignifying for us. His Sovereignty clearly accomodates other manners of governing; He chose the manner we call Providence.

Providence explains the amazing stories we all hear about resources from unexpected sources permitting glorifying work to go forward when all seemed lost. Providence explains how great good came from the great evil perpetrated against Joseph by his brothers.

In the likely event that I wasn’t cogent, allow me to cheat in my summation and simply quote the Westminster Confession2:
God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

1 Including the fact that, apart from divine intervention, we will not choose Him.
2 In reading the Westminster Confession, regardless of whether I am in agreement, I am always amazed at the quality, especially in terms of economy, of the writing.

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