Re: Providence

George Murphy (
Wed, 08 Apr 1998 08:58:24 -0400

RDehaan237 wrote:
> Howard,
> Sorry for the delay in this reply.
> I have no question whatsoever about your theological roots and loyalty to the
> historic Christian faith expressed in Reformed doctrines. I feel right at
> home with you. Moreover I think you have done exactly what you said should be
> done with regard to the doctrine of Creation--"It is my belief that each
> generation of Christians must work with diligence to rearticulate the historic
> Christian faith in its own historical/cultural context and in its own
> conceptual vocabulary."
> I only wish that you would do the same with the doctrine of providence. IMHO
> you have neglected that doctrine, and what you have written re the doctrine of
> Creation does not fill the gap. I suspect that providence conflicts with your
> view of creation. If you do not think the doctrine of providence is important
> enough to expand I think you should give reasons why since it has such
> prominence in Reformed doctrines.

Allow me to jump in here with a modern Lutheran comment-
It seems to me that both modern science and basic theological
insights (i.e., christological & trinitarian) demand an important
revision of the _ordering_ of doctrines of creation & providence.
Traditionally one was supposed to start with creation as origination, &
then see providence primarily as divine sustenance of what God had
created in the beginning.
But both Luther's & the Heidelberg Catechisms, in explaining the
First Article, actually emphasize providence. We begin with belief that
God is active in our lives today & then extrapolate that belief to God's
origination of all things - just as science begins by studying our
space-time neighborhood & then tries to extrapolate what it learns to a
scientific cosmology. Thus I would suggest that in a sense providence
be given precedence over origination.
& within the doctrine of providence, we need to move away from
the idea that what God _primarily_ does is to maintain static structures
of the world - because the structures of the world _aren't_ static.
Within the classic division of providence into
sustenance/cooperation/governance, cooperation - God's activity with &
through the dynamic natural processes of the world, should be given
precedence over sustenance. Not that God doesn't sustain creatures, but
that they are sustained precisely by God's cooperation with the
processes which (in physical terms) make them what they are.

George L. Murphy