Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More on Providence

Calvin opens chapter 17 by giving us three notes about the providence of God.

(1) God's providence must be regarded about past as well as future happenings.
(2) Sometimes his providence works through an intermediary, without an intermediary, and sometime despite an intermediary.
(3) He reveals his concern to the entire human race, but especially to his church.

Just because we do not see how God is working in events, does not mean that fate is responsible.  God is working in all things, whether or not we recognize it.  Calvin uses the example of a violent thunderstorm.  He writes, "When dense clouds darken the sky, and a violent tempest arises, because a gloomy mist is cast over our eyes, thunder strikes our ears and all our senses are benumbed with fright, everything seems to us to be confused and mixed up; but all the while a constant quiet and serenity ever remain in heaven."  He is not just talking about a literal thunderstorm, but all the "storms" in our lives.  Whether it is problems at home or work, loss of a friend or family member, a financial crisis or war; God is at work in all things and his purpose will be served by them even when we cannot see the good to come out of the storm.

Ford Lewis Battles paraphrased the next section so well.  He wrote, "the proper attitude toward God's providence is one of fear, reverence, and humility, not the arrogance of some who try to limit God's acts by their own reason."  It is really just a continuation of the previous section and the storm.  We should submit to all of God's plans for us, not try to put into boxes what we think is God's will and what is fate.  Calvin points toward Job, who was going through multiple storms all at once.  He could not see what God's purpose could be for him to go through all these crises at once, but he still trusted in God.  Calvin writes, "Therefore, since God assumes to himself the right (unknown to us) to rule the universe, let our law of soberness and moderation be to assent to his supreme authority that his will may be for us the sole rule of righteousness, and the truly just cause of all things."

We should never let God's providence be an excuse for our actions.  We are still responsible for our actions so we must never blame God for what we have done.  For instance, we can never commit murder and use "God made me do it because of his providence" as our defense.  He quotes several ancient poets whose characters used similar excuses.  In the Iliad by Homer, Agamemnon said, "I am not the cause, but Zeus and fate."  Agamemnon is not accepting the responsibility of his actions but blaming the gods. 

I am going to end with a quote from the middle of today's reading.  Since we are talking about providence, I thought this definition he provides is a good thought for today.  "...but providence, that determinative principle of all things, from which flows nothing but right, although the reasons have been hidden from us."

Tomorrow's reading: 1.17.4-1.17.6

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