Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Systematic Theology, Part 19

The Providence of God.   What does that really mean?

The biblical doctrine of providence teaches that God created us, and is actively involved at each moment.   Chance and fate do not determine the future, but God, who is the "personal yet infinitely powerful Creator and Lord."

1.  Preservation.  God, according to Hebrews 1:3, upholds the universe by his word of power. He keeps things steady and preserves them, so to say.  I can put gas in my car, with the knowledge that God has preserved it for what it is, and that the gas today wont turn magically into water tomorrow.  God preserves things in their ways on this earth.

2. Concurrence.  Ephesians 1:11, God accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.
     a. Inanimate creation. God makes even inanimate things occur (i.e. cause the snow to fall on the earth).
     b. Animals. Matt 6:26, Look at the birds of the heavenly Father feeds them.

     c. Random events. Proverbs 16:33, the lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is wholly from the Lord.
     d.  Events fully caused by  both God and the creature. Scientists can point to what makes grass grow, etc, yet the scientist can not bring about the rain/sun to make the grass grow, and in all things we should thank God.
    e. The affairs of the nations. Job 12:23, God makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away.
    f. All aspects of our lives.  "Give us this day our daily bread."  It might come about by natural means, but God makes that food get from seedling to our plates.   God plans our days before we are born (psalm 139), knows the number of our days.  God also knows/ordains our success/failure, our steps and our path, our children, talents, abilities, our hearts, etc.

At the same time, we do cause events to happen, we ARE responsible, we DO have choices, etc.
Wayne Grudem puts it like this:  "It seems better to affirm that God causes all things that happen, but that he does so in such a way that he somehow upholds our ability to make willing, responsible choices, choices that have real and eternal results, and for which we are held accountable."

What about Evil? What then, is the relationship between God and evil in the world?  Scripture never blames God for evil or shows God as taking pleasure in evil....AND scripture never excuses human beings for the wrong they do.

Scripture shows in many places that God indirectly brings about some kind of evil. Yet in all those examples, the evil is actually done not by God but by people or demons who choose to do it.
Job 1:21, The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
    g. Analysis of Verses relating God and Evil (for example when God hardened Pharoah's heart or allowed his prophets to sin)
1. God uses all things to fulfill his purposes and even uses evil for his glory and for our good. Joseph, for example, says to his brothers, "you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good."
2.  God never does evil, and is never to be blamed for evil. "James 1 says, Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God', for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire."
3. God rightfully blames and judges moral creatures for the evil they do.  Take Isaiah 66, for example, "These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations;"  The blame for evil is always on the responsible creature, and that creature is always worthy of punishment.
4. Evil is real, not an illusion, and we should never do evil, for it will always harm us and others.  There is an analogy of a parent using a sharp knife but not allowing his child to use it, and that shows that God himself can use evil to bring about good purposes but never allows his children to do so.
5.  We have to come to the point where we see that God does not give us all the whys and hows of this mystery, but he is totally right in what he does.

Are we really Free?  Do we really have free will?
What a great question. Calvin explains it as we do not have free choice equally of good and evil, but we act wickedly by will, not by compulsion.  Our choices DO matter, yet God is providentially in control of all things.

Government. God governs and directs all things in order that they accomplish his purposes. Psalm 103.

There are two aspects to the will of God.  1. His moral "revealed" will: This is all the parts of the Bible that tell us how we should conduct ourselves if we would act rightly before him.  Another aspect, 2. is his providential government "secret will", where God ordains events to come about throughout history, including Christ's crucifixion.

The decrees of God. This is where God, before the creation of the world, determined to bring about everything that happens.  God does not make up plans suddenly as he goes along. He knows the end from the beginning, and he will accomplish all his good purposes.

More on God's providence next week....

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