Re: RFEP/ID/Providence

RDehaan237 (
Sun, 5 Apr 1998 05:20:54 EDT

In a message dated 4/3/98 9:11:10 AM, (Howard Van
Till) wrote:

<<Control language can sound very nice and pious when it is applied
selectively to outcomes that we welcome and want to thank God for, but what
about those real life outcomes that are the occasions for intense pain or
grief? Did God so control things so as to give us those particular
experiences also?

Suppose, for example, that we use your gardening metaphor. Life in that
garden looks good to the pole beans, but what if you were a dandelion?


<<My response: Yes, I think so, but I would have to refresh my memory on the
way in which the concept of divine 'concurrence' is ordinarily employed in
theological discourse. Webster might not here be a sufficient source of


I agree that Webster might not provide a good enough basis for a discussion of
providence and the RFE Principle. I suggest we look into the Belgic
Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism for definitions of Creation and
Providence that we can both agree to since we were brought up in the same
Reformed tradition. I'll print out the relevant passages so that others on
this listserve who are not familiar with these doctrinal standards may
understand what I'm discussing. Unfortunately, I do not have the updated
version of the HC so I will have to use the 1934 version. (I will emphasize
the words providence, governing, etc.)

Here's the Belgic Confession:

Article XII--The Creation of All Things, Especially the Angels.

We believe that the Father by the Word, that is, by His Son, has created of
nothing the heaven, the earth, and all creatures, when it seemed good unto
Him, giving unto every creature its being, shape, form, and several offices to
serve its Creator; that He also _still upholds and governs them by His eternal
Providence and infinite power_ for the service of mankind, to the end that man
may serve his God.


Article XIII--The Providence of God and His Government of All Things

We believe that the same good God, after He had created all things, did not
forsake them or give them up to fortune or chance, but that _He rules and
governs them according to His holy will_, so that nothing happens in this
world without his appointment; nevertheless, God neither is the Author of nor
can be charged with the sins which are committed. For his power and goodness
are so great and incomprehensible that He _orders and executes_ His work in
the most excellent and just manner....

Here's the Heidelberg Catechism:

Lord's Day IX

Q. What do you mean when you say: _I believe in God the Father, Almighty,
Maker of Heaven and Earth_?

A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who of nothing made
heaven and earth with all that is in them, who likewise _upholds and governs_
the same by his eternal counsel and _providence_, is for the sake of Christ
His Son my God and my Father; in whom I so trust as to have no doubt that He
will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul; and further, that
whatever he sends upon me in this vale of tears, he will turn to my good; for
he is able to do it, being almighty God, and willing also, being a faithful

Comment: This answer responds to your comment question about dandelions and
to your other question "...but what about those real life outcomes that are
the occasions for intense pain or grief? Did God so control things so as to
give us those particular experiences also?"

Lord's Day X

Q. What do you mean by the providence of God?

A. The almighty and everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were by
His hand, He still upholds heaven, earth, and all creatures, and so _governs_
them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food
and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea all things, come not
by chance but by His fatherly hand.

Q. What does it profit us to know that God has created, and by His providence
still upholds, all things?

A. That we may be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and with a
view to the future may have good confidence in our faithful God and Father
that no creature shall separate us from His love, since all creatures are so
in His hand that without His will they cannot so much as move.


These doctrinal statements are fully as rhapsodic about providence as they are
about creation. They contain the essence of what I mean by providence.

I miss in your writing the kind of emphasis on providence that these doctrinal
standards give. They suggest that creation and providence provide a continuum
of the way God deals with his creation; that providence cannot be separated
from creation. If I have overlooked this emphasis in your writing, I would
appreciate having it called to my attention.