More on God’s Providence

By Warren Coe

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The “Concurrence” Part of Providence

When theologians use the term “Concurrence” in discussions about God’s providence, they mean that God’s “concurrent” or “confluent” involvement in all that occurs in his world does not violate the nature of things and the ongoing processes or decisions of human beings.  The exception, of course, is when God overturns the laws of nature.  This is called a miracle, like when Jesus turned water into wine in John 2.  How God accomplishes His will and allows free human agency is a mystery to us.

The Bible teaches us that God’s concurrent providence is seen in the following areas of life.

  • In nature. Fire and hail, etc. fulfill his command.  Psalm 148:8.
  • In the Animal kingdom. Psalm 104:27-29; Job 38:39-41, Matthew 6:26, 10:29
  • In seemingly “Random” or “Chance” events. Proverbs 16:33
  • In events fully caused by God and fully caused by the creature. The king makes his decision but the Lord channels his heart (Proverbs 21:1).  Man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9).  Even though a natural explanation can be given for actions and decisions behind them, all are the providential decrees of God.
  • In the affairs of nations. Job 12:23, Psalm 22:28, Daniel 2:21, 4:25
  • All aspects of our lives. God provides our food (Matthew 6:11); our every need (Philippians 4:19).  God ordains our length of days on earth (Psalm 139:16).  The Lord directs our steps (Jeremiah 10:23).  In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).  Our successes and failure and the ability to make wealth is from the Lord (Psalm 75:6-7; Deuteronomy 8:18).  Children are from the Lord (Psalm 127:3).  Talents and gifts are from the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:7).  “Our words, our steps, our movements, our hearts, and our abilities are all from the Lord.” (Wayne Grudem in Systematic Theology)

What About Evil in God’s Providence?

“Of the evils that infect God’s world (moral and spiritual perversity, waste of good, and the physical disorders and disruptions of a spoiled cosmos), it can summarily be said: God permits evil (Acts 14:16); he punishes evil with evil (Psalm 81:11-12; Romans 1:26-32); he brings good out of evil (Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; 13:27; 1 Cor 2:7-8); he uses evil to test and discipline those he loves (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 12:4-14); and one day he will redeem his people from the power and presence of evil altogether (Revelation 21:27; 22:14-15).”  (J. I. Packer in Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. pg 56).

I chose this quote since it succinctly states the entire question of the place of evil in God’s created order.  Our goal is to give a simple but biblical explanation for the problem of evil yet open the door of inquiry to those who want to go deeper.[1]

The question of evil is difficult, especially when our Bible declares that God’s purposes are accomplished in or through evil.  For example, the Lord tells the prophet Habakkuk that He will raise up the Chaldeans to punish His people (Hab 1:6).  In and through the wickedness of a godless nation, the Lord will smite His own people.  How can this be?

There are other passages of this same vein that makes the problem of evil more problematic.  Amos 3:6 “If a calamity occurs in a city has not the Lord done it?”  Micah 2:3 “Therefore, thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I am planning against this family a calamity.”  Isaiah 45:6,7 “I am the Lord, and there is no other, The one forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.”  Ecclesiastes 7:14, “In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider God has made the one as well as the other so that man may not discover anything that will be after him.”

What are the Benefit(s) of the Doctrine of Providence for the Believer?

I consider this doctrine the safety net doctrine of the Bible.  The universe and all that it contains—including my life—is sustained and cared for by the loving Creator.  Just as he provides food for the birds of the air, so he provides all that I need to exist.  All created beings; both animals and humans are provided with all that is necessary for life from the providential decrees of God.

This means that my life is not subject to chance, fate or luck.  All that happens to me is the result of God’s perfect plan.  We agree with Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

[1] Students wishing to go deeper should read Charles Colson’s Developing a Christian Worldview: The Problem of Evil, Tyndale Publishing House.  Another reference can be found at www.spotlightministries.org.uk.  See the Problem of Evil.

More on God’s Providence

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