God's Providence

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by Mark Osgatharp, Mar 17, 2003.

  1. Mark Osgatharp

    Mark Osgatharp
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    I assert that what we call "natural" events are, in fact, the work of God. Nothing happens by accident and the only variable in the workings of the creation is the will of men and angels.

    I am not asserting predestination of all things. I am asserting that God reacts to the obedience and sin of men and angels and maintains a providential care over all events at all times.

    Practically speaking, this means:

    1. What we call "nature" does not operate independent of God's moving hand.

    2. Even the evil deeds of men and angels, though not caused by God, are directed by God to accomplish His ultimate purposes.

    For example:

    1. If a tornado rips through a town and kills a family we must acknowledge it as a work of God.

    2. If a child is born blind we must acknowledge this was the work of God.

    3. If a drunk driver slams into a vehicle and kills a family, though we cannot attribute the man's drunkeness to God, we must still acknowledge that God providentialy used the drunkard's sin to remove a family from this life.

    The implications of these assertions are obvious, monumental, and have a direct bearing on the errancy/inerrancy debate.

    I believe one of the primary reasons modernists reject the inerrancy of the Bible is because they know the Bible asserts the providence of God over all things and they are not willing to accept a God that kills, inflicts sickness, and otherwise brings unpleasant events into men's lives.

    What do you think?

    Mark Osgatharp

    [ March 17, 2003, 01:44 PM: Message edited by: Mark Osgatharp ]
     
  2. Andrey

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    You bring up some good points. I believe that my personal relationhsip with God, and my level of trust in Him, is more important than my understanding of how He works.

    <><
     
  3. TomVols

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    But mustn't you have some understanding of "how He works" in order to have a personal relationship with him?
     
  4. Mark Osgatharp

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    Andrey,

    The providence of God is a theme so frequently taught in the Scriptures that it cannot fail to have a bearing on our personal walk with God. I do not say we have to understand "how" God works, but we must acknowledge that it is, indeed, He who works.

    "All things work together for good" is one of the most important promises in the Bible. Unless God maintains a providential care over the creation such a promise is not possible.

    Furthermore, those who reject the Biblical concept of God's providence cannot possibly have "trust" in Him, for they flatly deny the works of the God they claim to trust. For example, if I am smitten with an awful disease and deny that God is the one who gave me the disease, then I am not trusting that God did right in giving me the disease nor that He is able to work the disease to my good and His glory.

    Therefore I assert that it is essential to the praise and honor of God to boldly press and assert this doctrine. The example of all the prophets, from Moses to Christ and His apostles, will bear this assertion out.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  5. rlvaughn

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    Good post, Mark. I heartily endorse this truth of the Providence of God. I would add that I have learned that this is almost exactly what some people mean when they speak of the predestination of all things. The only thing I would change is that I would not choose to use the terminology that "God reacts to the obedience and sin of men and angels..." This is probably just semantics; we probably differ little on the idea. The reason I would not use that terminology is because of the recent rise of Open Theism, who has a God who doesn't know, but is watching to see, what man will do, so He will know how to "react." Since God foreknows all things, He doesn't react in the same sense that men react. Anyway, I think failure to acknowledge this basic truth that you have presented (about God's Providence) is the cause of much theological error. Or maybe the theological error is what causes people to refuse to acknowledge the truth.

    I wonder if insurance companies still refer to the natural events and disasters as "Acts of God." I know they once did.
     
  6. Mark Osgatharp

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    Brother Vaughn,

    I understand "predestination" to mean that an event is determined to happen before it happens and therefore cannot be hindered. The Scriptures will not allow me to believe that all things are predestinated, though I would readily acknowledge that some things are.

    By "providence" I mean that God can and in fact does at times modify His course of action in response to man's deeds, and yet maintains control over the outcome of those deeds on the rest of creation.

    For example, a man is not predestinated to get drunk. That is a choice he can make or not make. But, having made that choice, God will direct his actions to whatever ends He chooses.

    A good Bible example is that of Hezekiah. The Lord told Hezekiah that he was sick unto death. Unless God lied, Hezekiah would have died. But Hezekiah asked God to extend His life and God did. Therefore I can say that God reacted to what Hezekiah did.

    In all of this God exercised a providential control over Hezekiah's life; first of all, by making Hezekiah sick and, secondly, by extending Hezekiah's life longer than it would have been had not Hezekiah asked for an extension.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  7. rlvaughn

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    Bro. Mark, I don't wish to confuse the definitions of predestination and providence. I was merely responding to your comment of "I am not asserting predestination of all things." I also don't mean to imply that you do believe in the predestination of all things. But I do know some people who say they believe in the predestination of all things and merely mean exactly what you have asserted in your first post. Whether or not they are using the proper terminology is outside the point I was trying to make.

    Here are a couple of related paragraphs from the Philadelphia Confession of Faith:
     
  8. Mark Osgatharp

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    Brother Vaughn,

    The statement from the Philadelphia Confession teaches that God predestinates all things. That will just not square with the statements of Scipture. Neither, though the confession vainly states that it is so, can the predestination of all things be maintained alongside a denial that God is author of sin or that He violates man's will.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  9. rlvaughn

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    I will not argue with you about the intent of the framers of Philadelphia Confession (and the 2nd London). They may very well believe that God predestinated everything in the sense that you deny, although I think that maybe their modifying phrases are intended to deny the absolute predestination of all things in the sense that it is held on the extreme. It is my opinion that a lot of these details are simply technicalities in the way we try to understand the workings of a Sovereign God. All that aside, I don't see how predestinarians, absolute predestinarians and foreknowledge-onlyists can escape the conclusion that whatsoever comes to pass is the will of God, unless one adopts the Open Theism position. If it were not, it would not be allowed to come to pass.
     
  10. Mark Osgatharp

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    Brother Vaughn,

    The Philadelphia Confession states:

    "God hath decreed in Himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things whatsoever come to pass."

    All subsequent quibbles, dodges, modifiers, and technicalities cannot change the fact that this sentence puts God in absolute control of every thing that ever did or ever will occur and renders every command of God to men and angels useless. Excuse me from such blasphemy!

    I make no pretense to comprehending all there is to know about the foreknowledge of God. I do know that the word of God declares He has given man a choice between good and evil and that He will bless man or punish man according as he does evil or good; it also tells me that God repents in response to man's deeds, all Calvinist rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding.

    If believing these things makes me an "Open Theist" then I will wear that label like a badge of honor.

    If the framers of the Philadephia Confession meant to say that God decreed to allow all things that come to pass, then that is what they should have said, rather than slavishly bowing to their Presbyterian persecutors, and a world of confusion and evil work might have been avoided.

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  11. Daniel David

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    What if a tornado rips through a city and destroys all church buildings? Was that Satan or God?

    If you say Satan, you do not know the Scripture.

    If you don't know, then you might be wrestling with the idea of providence.

    If you say God, you agree with Scripture.
     
  12. rlvaughn

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    I affirm believing that "God [is] in absolute control of every thing," while not believing that He made man a robot who could not make any kind of legitimate choice. I see no reason that these are mutually exclusive.
    Nor do I, but a foreknowledge that does not foreknow is no foreknowledge at all. I think of an illustration of a chess game between God and man. If God is all knowing, it does not have to mean that He predetermined each move that the human player will make - except in the sense that He can make him move certain ways when He so chooses, and that His not doing so means that His will is done in not intervening. But He, if He truly has all foreknowledge, would not respond to the player's move in the same sense that another human would respond. He would already know what the move would be before he made the move. In the end, God will win the game, and if the human player captured even one of God's pieces, it would be only because God allowed, permitted, decreed, chose, or predetermined it to be so - any word suits me as well as the other, the outcome is the same.
    That man has a choice and that he will be rewarded or punished accordingly does not conflict with the fact that God is in absolute control of all things. I don't believe that God repents in the same sense that man does, nor that He changes His mind in the human sense, but I freely profess to not knowing all about the meaning of the passages referring to God repenting. In Jonah 3, both God and the Ninevites "repented of evil", but there is an obvious difference. When God saw the repentance of Nineveh, He repented of the judgement He was about to bring. Whatever all this means, surely it doesn't mean He didn't know what was going to happen, for even Jonah was pretty sure what was going to take place, and God already had conditions in place for such a situation (Jeremiah 18:6-10).
    Either you do not know what an Open Theist is, or you are exaggerating to make a point, or I have completely misunderstood what you believe about the nature of God. The God of Open Theism does not know what you are about to do and is sitting around waiting to see what you will do so He can formulate a plan of how to respond to it.
    Thoughts on "allow" and "the permissive will of God" make us feel better about what God chooses to do. We can argue whether He allows or predestinates, but in the end it all comes out the same, "he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth." God has a sovereign will, plan, and purpose, and it will be accomplished. I do not see how that conflicts with your original post. That the framers of the Second London Confession chose to follow the Westminister Confession so closely (instead of the better, IMO, First London) may be a tragedy of Baptist history, but it (through the Philadelphia Confession) is nevertheless what our American Baptist forefathers professed to believe and teach. It is my opinion that your original post on God's Providence would be much closer both theologically and practically to the views of those brethren than it is to the views of the preachers in your association, judging by the views of the bunch here in Texas. I'm sorry that I derailed your discussion off of providence and more on to predestination. I didn't intend to do that.
     
  13. Mark Osgatharp

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    Brother Vaughn,

    You said,

    "Thoughts on 'allow' and 'the permissive will of God' make us feel better about what God chooses to do. We can argue whether He allows or predestinates, but in the end it all comes out the same, 'he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.'"

    I beg to differ. There is a vast difference in God allowing me to sin and predestinating me to sin. Sin is something I do, not something God does.

    To say God predestinates me to sin, or even just to say I am predestinated to sin, says it is already determined that I will sin. To say God allows me to sin says that He also allows me to not sin. It says I have a choice in the matter and whether or not I sin will be determined by me, not by God.

    You also said,

    "God has a sovereign will, plan, and purpose, and it will be accomplished. I do not see how that conflicts with your original post."

    In my original post I plainly stated that there is a variable - the will of men and angels. In predestination of all things nothing is variable.

    Predestination says that God's sovereign plan will be fulfilled because God decrees every event and that, in fact, every event is the sovereign will of God. Providence says God's sovereign plan will be fulfilled because God will overule the events that He did not decree and work them all to His good.

    In predestination man has the appearance of choice but none in reality. In providence man makes his choice and God responds accordingly but never loses control of the overall situation.

    In predestination the events of nature are unalterable. In providence God alters the events of nature so as to bless, try, and punish man according to his deserts.

    A man who truly believes the first sentence of the Westminster Confession, or any of it's bastard offspring, must believe God predestinates sin. A man who believes the Bible must believe that, while God causes no man to sin, He does allow man to sin and uses man's sin to work good in the end to fulfill His purpose and to bless those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.

    You also said,

    "It is my opinion that your original post on God's Providence would be much closer both theologically and practically to the views of those brethren than it is to the views of the preachers in your association, judging by the views of the bunch here in Texas."

    I would judge that the majority of non-Calvinist Baptists today (ABA or otherwise) have embraced a quasi-Deistic view of providence wherein the creation normally operates on "laws of nature" with God reserving the right to intervene. Ironically, even many who profess a Calvinistic soterology hold to this quasi-Deistic view of nature.

    Notwithstanding, the view of God's providence that I have here asserted differs monumentally from the Calvinistc view of predestination. As a matter of fact, what I have expressed about providence doesn't necessarily deal with the subject of predestination at all.

    I understand, however, that these two subjects are often confused which is why I stated in my original post that I am not asserting the predestination of all things.

    Mark Osgatharp

    [ March 19, 2003, 12:13 AM: Message edited by: Mark Osgatharp ]
     
  14. Artimaeus

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    God's omniscience requires that he has the ability to do anything he wants to. If a drunk kills my family I can blame the drunk because he chose to drink and drive and I would be right to do so). I can also blame God because He allowed that to happen and He could have stopped it. It is in His providence to do so. I would be wrong to blame Him because He is all Good, I would just be right in asserting that He could have stoppd it if He wanted to. I just trust Him and know that by definition if He allows it it is good. In the example about Hezekiah and God repenting, I would say this. Repent doesn't just mean to change your mind. It means to change direction. If I am heading away from God and turn to head toward God then it is said that I repented. If God told Hezekiah he was headed toward death and Hezekiah prayed and God headed him in another direction (temporarily) then it can be said that God repented (He didn't change His mind, He just went in a different direction). When I am driving my car and I come to a "T" intersection and I was headed north and I turn left and am now headed west I have repented of the direction I was going. I haven't changed my mind about my trip or how I was going to get there but I did change direction.
     
  15. Mark Osgatharp

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    Artimaeus,

    You said,

    "When I am driving my car and I come to a 'T' intersection and I was headed north and I turn left and am now headed west I have repented of the direction I was going. I haven't changed my mind about my trip or how I was going to get there but I did change direction."

    In the case of Hezekiah the Lord told Hezekiah he was sick unto death and then, when he prayed, the Lord told Hezekiah he would be healed. That cannot mean anything other than that the Lord changed his mind about when and how Hezekiah would die.

    For your analogy to fit the case of Hezekiah you would first have to state an intention: "I am going to turn right on to the interstate." Now suppose your wife says, "Could we take the scenic route" and you agree and so instead of turning right on to the interstate you turn left on to the scenic route.

    You have, indeed, changed your mind (though not your ultimate destination) which is exactly what the Lord did on numerous occasions.

    As far as your statements about God "allowing" a drunkard to kill a family, I will be so bold as to say God CAUSES the drunkard to kill your family. God allows the drunkard to be a drunkard but He takes the drunkards deeds and moves them in the direction that He wills.

    We have many instances in the Scripture where God actively moved the deeds of wicked men so as to fulfill His purpose, not the least of which was the crucifixion of the Lord. God allowed the men who killed the Lord to commit murder. God took their murder and used it to fulfill His intended, and in this case predestinated, will. As Peter said,

    "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain."

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  16. rlvaughn

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    Brother Mark, I have not advocated that God predestinates you or me to sin. Nevertheless, I do say that a lot of the issue of terminology is about people making themselves feel better about God according to their views - not about what actually happens. The "if God is love, it couldn't be His will to have a drunk driver run over my family" kind of stuff. So He just allowed it. Let's take the permissive will of God. The Bible does not assert such a thing. And even if it is His permissive will, it is still HIS WILL, unless His permissive will is not actually His will; and if it is not, then people need to get off the fence and stop calling it His will.

    Let me try to illustrate what I am trying to say. I feel I have not effectively done so up to this point. Since you have not denied it, I am assuming that you believe God is all-knowing with complete foreknowledge. There's the crazy murderous mom - Andrea Yates - who methodically drowned her five children. Her acts were wicked and she is answerable to God (and hopefully Texas law) for her actions. From eternity God knew the act would come to pass. He could have dropped a piano on her head from a second story window, could have ordered a drunk driver into her pathway to take her out into eternity, could have sent a tornado through her town with her name on it - hopefully we get the picture. BUT He DID NOT do so. Without full understanding of God and why He has chosen what He has chosen, I must, with what limited understanding I do have, believe that somehow, somewhere, somewhy this is God's will, because from the eternal ages He chose this course of history. No, He did not make Andrea Yates kill her children. But He did choose or decree that course of history would come to pass. If He did not choose it, He would have changed it. This is what I am talking about us choosing words that make us feel better about what has happened. It doesn't change what has happened. The same would be true in your discussion of God "allowing" a drunk to kill a family, or God "causing" a drunk to kill a family. As you can see, hopefully, I have no problem with the terminology that God causes it. Some people feel better if they can just say He allowed it. The family is just as dead either way. I am curious though - do you believe only getting drunk would be a sin, or would killing the family be a sin as well??
    Mark, I think sometimes you are debating what I say and sometimes you are debating what you may think I am saying because I gave some quotes from the Philadelphia Confession. I apologize for the confusion on my part. I originally pointed out that some people call what you asserted in the first post "the predestination of all things." Whether they are wrong does not change the fact that they call it that. I believe that the Philadelphia Confession also maintains that, though not exactly the same, there is an intertwined relationship between the two. Again, whether they are wrong does not change the fact that they maintain it. I am not convinced that your theology of God's Providence is not closer to your American Baptist forefathers than it is to the fellowship of your choice.

    So, anyway, I didn't say there are no variables, but I believe "God has a sovereign will, plan, and purpose, and it will be accomplished." Andrea Yates' evil (she chose it), the evil of Judas in betraying the Christ (he chose it), the wicked act of the crucifixion (they chose it), and every other wicked act that takes place in the course of history will praise Him; and His sovereign will, plan, and purpose will be accomplished. And those acts are in some sense by God's sovereign choice because they make up the historical course that He "declared" from the beginning. His counsel shall stand; He will do His pleasure.
    In light of no statement to the contrary, I must assume that you would prefer the non-Calvinistic quasi-Deistic views of many in your association to the views of your American Baptist forefathers. Please clarify if I have misunderstood.
     
  17. Deacon

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    Interesting post Mark.
    As a young Christian teen I wrestled with the idea that God knew my paths beforehand. I would take different ways to school to see if I could “test” God’s foreknowledge. (I didn’t find the answer that way though :rolleyes: ).

    God works in many different ways. Just some stray thoughts here, although I may be opening a can of worms.
    We know that God has a interface with every particle in the universe. If He didn’t He wouldn’t be the Almighty Creator.

    We also know that God holds our universe together, Heb 1:3
    Combining the miracles involved in the creation of the universe and God’s miraculous sustaining action produces the potential for theistic unguided matter in operation, matter operating according to the inherent characteristics designed by God. (see Jeremiah 31:35 where God commands or uses ordinances describe how He operates at times).
    Normal-appearing natural events (like that tornado you mentioned) can be either direct theistic action or theistic unguided matter in operation.
    Perhaps the tornado example isn’t the best example. Does God guide every red blood cell through your body and know it’s path? Yes, but He (probably) uses commands or ordinances to perform that function rather than an intimate involvement.
     
  18. Jim1999

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    I draw two circles, one within the other. The out circle represents God's sovereignty. Man cannot cross this boundary. The inner circle represents man's domain. He has freedom of movement within this domain and only sometimes does God intervene in this realm. This is where the free will of man comes into play, and the permissive will of God. It is not that God wills these actions, but permits them in the nature of His creation. It is in this realm where we also decide what is the "will" of God for our lives, but we make that rational decision. Sometimes God gives us certain assurances that we are doing the right thing.

    God is directing the play, but the actors play the roles, and sometimes the actors adlib their parts.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  19. Mark Osgatharp

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    Brother Vaughn,

    I understand and agree completely with what you are saying about the way people use "allow" to absolve God. In the analogy of a drunk driver killing a family I do not hesitate to affirm that God CAUSED the family to be killed by a drunk driver. This is exactly what I meant in my original post about God's providence.

    My problem with the misuse of "allow" is that men say God only "allowed" thing that He actually caused. For example, people say that God "allowed" a tornado to kill someone. I say that a tornado is the finger of God.

    Notwithstanding, I do not believe God ever caused a man to sin and therefore I will insist that a real distinction between "allow" and "caused" exists when we are speaking about the sin itself. This distinction is not to absolve God of what He did do but to refrain from charging Him with what He did not do.

    A Biblical example: Samson was enticed by a Philistine woman contrary to God's revealed will against adulterous lust and against inter-religious marriage of Jews and pagans. When Samson's parents attempted to disuade him from marrying this woman the text says,

    "But his father and mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines."

    There is nothing here of God simply "allowing" this situation. The situation was "of the Lord." The Lord put the woman there knowing that Samson would lust after her and take her for his wife. The Lord gave Samson breath and life that he might accomplish the deed. He did all of this so that He might use Samson's life against the Philistines.

    But one thing we know that God did not do was put lust in Samson's heart because the Bible flatly says that God tempts no man with evil.

    Therefore we can say that while God caused all the outward events of this situation, He did not cause the lust in Samson's heart. And since there was lust in Samson's heart and since God could have stopped Samson had He so chosen, we must also conclude that God "allowed" Samson to have lust.

    None of this touches directly on the subject of predestination, for had Samson been an obedient man God could have used him in a much greater way against the Philistines and the whole woman thing would not have been necessary. In other words, God is not limited to one course of action and He may take different courses depending on what we do or don't do.

    As for foreknowledge and predestination, there is nothing in my understanding of God's foreknowledge that necessitates Him knowing now, or in eternity past, everything that will ever happen for the simple fact that, having left certain choices to man, everything that will come to pass has not yet be decided. I know you will have violent objections to this assertion, but I think an unvarnished reading of the Scriptures will bear it out. See the "Does God Repent?" thread.

    However, I do not deny that God has decided certain things within Himself and those things He will most surely bring to pass because He has predestinated them so to be. Of these things He will never repent, for, as the Scripture says, He is,

    "not a man that he should repent."

    Mark Osgatharp
     
  20. rlvaughn

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    If we agree to disagree on terms, and if you can agree that since God could have stopped Samson had He so chosen, but chose not to stop him but rather "allowed" it, that it must have been God's will, then we have no substantial disagreement on the matter.
    Thanks for this clarification. I think this will reveal to be the heart of our disagreement. Certainly I do "violently" object, though I will not resort to violence. We can probably say that you believe He is actively choosing in time, while I believe He has already actively chosen in eternity. I would also add that there is nothing in my understanding of man's ability to choose that would keep God from always knowing from eternity past everything that will happen.
     

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