Divine providence

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In theology, divine providence, or just providence, is God's intervention in the world. The term "Divine Providence" (usually capitalized) is also used as a title of God. A distinction is usually made between "general providence", which refers to God's continuous upholding the existence and natural order of the universe, and "special providence", which refers to God's extraordinary intervention in the life of people.[1] Miracles generally fall in the latter category.[2]

Etymology

The word comes from Latin providentia "foresight, prudence", from pro- "ahead" and videre "to see". The current use of the word has the sense of "knowledge of the future" or omniscience, understood as an attribute of God.

Catholic theology

Augustine of Hippo is perhaps most famously associated with the doctrine of divine providence in the Latin West. Augustine held that since God's governance takes place in the universe comprising a vast multitude of relatively independent individuals differing in nature, function, and end, this implies the continuous control and unifying governance of a single supreme Being.[3]

However, Christian teaching on providence in the High Middle Ages was most fully developed by Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica. The concept of providence as care exercised by God over the universe, his foresight and care for its future is extensively developed and explained both by Aquinas himself and modern Thomists. One of the foremost modern Thomists, Dominican father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, wrote a study of providence entitled "Providence: God's loving care for man and the need for confidence in Almighty God." In it, he presents and solves, according to Catholic doctrine, the most difficult issues as related to providence.

Reformed theology

This term is an integral part of John Calvin's theological framework known as Calvinism, which emphasizes the total depravity of man and the complete sovereignty of God. God's plan for the world and every soul that he has created is guided by his will, or providence. According to Calvin, the idea that man has free will and is able to make choices independently of what God has already determined is based on our limited understanding of God's perfection and the idea that God's purposes can be circumvented. In this mode of thought, providence is related to predestination. This concept remains prominent among many Protestant denominations that identify with Calvinism, the Reformed churches.

Lutheran theology

In Lutheran theology, divine providence refers to God's preservation of creation, his cooperation with everything that happens, and his guiding of the universe.[4] While God cooperates with both good and evil deeds, with the evil deeds he does so only inasmuch as they are deeds, not with the evil in them. God concurs with an act's effect, but he does not cooperate in the corruption of an act or the evil of its effect.[5] Lutherans believe everything exists for the sake of the Christian Church, and that God guides everything for its welfare and growth.[6]

According to Martin Luther, divine providence began when God created the world with everything needed for human life, including both physical things and natural laws.[7] In Luther's Small Catechism, the explanation of the first article of the Apostles' Creed declares that everything people have that is good is given and preserved by God, either directly or through other people or things.[8] Of the services others provide us through family, government, and work, he writes, "we receive these blessings not from them, but, through them, from God."[9] Since God uses everyone's useful tasks for good, people should look not down upon some useful vocations as being less worthy than others. Instead people should honor others, no matter how lowly, as being the means God uses to work in the world.[9]

Eastern Orthodox theology

The doctrine of providence in Eastern Orthodoxy is set out by St John of Tobolsk and is in fact very close to the Reformed view: "St. John Damascene describes it thus: 'Providence is Divine will which maintains everything and wisely rules over everything' ... It was not by chance that the iniquitous Israeli King Ahab was struck by an arrow that flew in between the seams of his armor. Truly that arrow was directed by the hand of God, just as was the one which struck Julian the Apostate; only for the soldier who let fly the arrow was it accidental. It was not by chance that swallows flew into the home of Tobit and blinded the righteous man. This happened at God’s command, in order to hold Tobit up as an example to succeeding generations, as we learn from the Angel who accompanied his son Tobias. Nothing happens by chance. It was not by chance that Caesar Augustus ordered the census to be taken in the year of Christ’s Nativity. It was not by chance that Christ met with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar and spoke with her. All this was foreseen and written down in the books of Divine Providence before the beginning of time.” [10]

Swedenborgian theology

Divine Providence is a book published by Emanuel Swedenborg in 1764 which describes his systematic theology regarding providence, free will, theodicy, and other related topics. Both meanings of providence are applicable in Swedenborg's theology, in that providence encompasses understanding, intent and action. Divine providence relative to man is 'foresight', and relative to the Lord is 'providence'.[11] Swedenborg proposes that one law of divine providence is that man should act from freedom according to reason, and that man is regenerated according to the faculties of rationality and liberty.[12]

In Jewish thought

Divine providence (Hebrew: השגחה פרטיתHashgochoh Protis / Hashgachah Pratit lit. [Divine] supervision of the individual) is discussed throughout Rabbinic literature, and in particular by the classical Jewish philosophers. These writings maintain that divine providence means that God is directing (or even recreating) every minute detail of creation. This analysis thus underpins much of Orthodox Judaism's world view, particularly as regards questions of interaction with the natural world.

LDS theology

This passage is not supportive of the topic of providence. Instead, it merely promulgates Mormon scripture. The scripture might be used as an illustration of Mormon theology pertaining to providence, but it is not here. Please connect it to the topic or have it appropriately disregarded as propaganda for proselytizing. Please state what Mormons believe about providence.


According to the Book of Mormon, Samuel the Lamanite is a prophet who lived in the ancient Americas, sent by Jesus Christ around 5 BC to teach and warn the Nephites just before his birth in the Old World. The account is recorded in Helaman 13-16. After attempting to preach to the people in Zarahemla, and being rejected, he was told by revelation to return and prophesy to the people. He was not allowed into the city. In one of the more iconic stories of the Book of Mormon, he preached on the wall of the city, calling the people to repentance for their sins, prophesying about the impending advent of Jesus Christ in the Old World, and warning of the destruction of the Nephite nation. The people in the city tried to kill him by throwing stones and shooting arrows, but he was protected from harm by divine providence.

When the Lord created His works from the beginning, and, in making them, determined their boundaries, He arranged His works in an eternal order, and their dominion for all generations.[13]

Do not say, "It is the Lord's doing that I fell away;" for He does not do what He hates. Do not say, "It was He who led me astray;" for He has no need of the sinful. The Lord hates all abominations; such things are not loved by those who fear Him. It was He who created humankind in the beginning, and He left them in the power of their own free choice. If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. He has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose. Before each person are life and death, and whichever one chooses will be given.[14]

Specific examples

Text of Scripture

Those who believe in the inerrancy of the original biblical manuscripts often accompany this belief with a statement about how the biblical text has been preserved so that what we have today is at least substantially similar to what was written. That is, just as God "divinely inspired the text," so he has also "divinely preserved it throughout the centuries."[15] The Westminster Confession of Faith states that the Scriptures, "being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical."[16]

This is an important argument in the King James Only debates. Edward F. Hills argues that the principle of providentially preserved transmission guarantees that the printed Textus Receptus must be the closest text to the Greek autographs.[17]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Definition in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2014-07-17. 
  2. ^ "Creation, Providence, and Miracle". Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  3. ^ Walker, Leslie. "Divine Providence." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 19 November 2016
  4. ^ Mueller, J.T., Christian Dogmatics. Concordia Publishing House. 1934. pp. 189-195 and Fuerbringer, L., Concordia Cyclopedia Concordia Publishing House. 1927. p. 635 and Christian Cyclopedia article on Divine Providence. For further reading, see The Proof Texts of the Catechism with a Practical Commentary, section Divine Providence, p. 212, Wessel, Louis, published in Theological Quarterly, Vol. 11, 1909.
  5. ^ Mueller, Steven P.,Called to Believe, Teach, and Confess. Wipf and Stock. 2005. pp. 122-123.
  6. ^ Mueller, J.T., Christian Dogmatics. Concordia Publishing House: 1934. pp. 190 and Edward. W. A.,A Short Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther's Small Catechism. Concordia Publishing House. 1946. p. 165. and Divine Providence and Human Adversity Archived 2010-07-07 at the Wayback Machine. by Markus O. Koepsell
  7. ^ Luther's Works Vol. 1 Lectures on Genesis Chapters 1-5 page 25, 47
  8. ^ "Luther's Small Catechism, The Apostle's Creed". Bookofconcord.com. Retrieved 2014-07-17. 
  9. ^ a b Luther's Large Catechism, First Commandment
  10. ^ http://livingorthodoxfaith.blogspot.co.za/2009/11/divine-providence-by-st-john-of-tobolsk.html
  11. ^ S. Warren, Compendium of Swedenborg's Theological Writings, page 480
  12. ^ Swedenborg, E. Divine Providence, note 71-73
  13. ^ Wisdom of Ben Sira 16.26-27 (composed circa 180 B.C.E.)
  14. ^ Wisdom of Ben Sira 15.11-17 (composed circa 180 B.C.E.)
  15. ^ Inerrancy and its Implications for Authority: Textual Critical Considerations in Formulating an Evangelical Doctrine of Scripture Quodlibet Journal: Volume 4 Number 4, November 2002
  16. ^ Westminster Confession of Faith, I.viii.
  17. ^ Edward F. Hills, King James Version Defended!, pp. 199-200.

External links

Christian material

  • Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology chapter on Providence at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library
  • Summa Theologica: The Providence of God by Thomas Aquinas. Traditional teaching of the Catholic Church
  • Providence by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.
  • God's Providence by James Montgomery Boice
  • Dialogue 4, 13 "On Divine Providence": LH, Sunday, week 19, OR. by St. Catherine of Siena
  • The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel, ISBN 0-85151-104-X — a Puritan classic on the subject
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry
  • Creation, Providence, and Miracle
  • Divine Providence, Emanuel Swedenborg
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Divine Providence". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 

Jewish material

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