This morning marked a significant shift in the class as we started focusing in on the doctrine of Divine Providence. Dr. Ware prefaced the entire discussion by pointing out that in order to understand Providence we must begin by understanding the triune nature of God. The taxis of the trinity (the role that each person of the Godhead fulfills) is very helpful in understanding providence. The work of providence is ultimately the design of the Father. In other words, the Father designs and orchestrates all things according to His will. While the Father is the grand architect of all things, the Son is the agent by which the Father causes all things to happen. In other words, while the Father designs providence, the Son is the one who actually carries out the affairs of this world and “holds all things together” (Hebrews 1:3). The final step in providence is that the Son sends the Spirit as the activator of His will and His work (John 15:15-31). With this understanding we begin to see how all three persons of the trinity are intimately involved in ordering the affairs of this world and even the small things of my life.
In order to study providence Dr. Ware began by taking us through a full examination and explanation of the classic Arminian model of Divine Providence including history, major tenets, etc.
The most important thing to remember about the Classic Arminian position is that it places a heavy emphasis upon the universal love of God for all men. Arminians understand the universal love of God to be that love by which God loves all men equally and desires the greatest good for all men. The irony of the Arminian position is that in their desire to emphasize the universal love of God, they miss the much deeper aspect of God’s particular love for His people. It is absolutely true that God has a love for all men (John 3:16-17) and yet this does not discount God’s particular love for His people. In fact one of the major themes in Scripture, when it comes to the love of God, is the way in which that love is contrasted with those who God does not have this particular love for. Isaiah 43 is a great example of this.
But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
God specifically says that He will give up other nations, in order to ransom Israel back as His beloved bride.
The particular love of God would be similar to a husband’s particular love for his wife. It is true that the Bible commands me to have a love for all men, even a love for my enemies, but this does not negate the particular love that I have for my wife. I love my wife in a way that far exceeds my love for the person sitting next to me right now. In the same way God has a general love for all mankind, but He has a particular love for the his children (Ephesians 5:22-33).
The nail in the coffin of Arminianism seems to be the fact that it is completely incapable of accounting for the unspeakable evil that exists in this world. The Classic Arminian system can do little but look at the horror of the suffering in this world and attribute it to meaninglessness. As a theologian, I find that answer questionable at best. As a Pastor, I find it revolting. If there truly is no purpose to suffering and no greater purpose for the evil that exists in this world then I have absolutely nothing to say to the man suffering with terminal cancer, or the woman who just lost her baby, or the child who just lost his mother. The best I can do for them is say, “Well, that’s tough. I wish God would have done something, but you know he values mankind’s free will so much that He’s chosen to give up control of this world and because of that, this kind of stuff happens sometimes. But aren’t you glad that you have free will!” I find that way of thinking completely unacceptable.
If you’re interested, the following is a 10 minute video of Dr. Ware critiquing he Arminian position in a public debate.
Tomorrow Dr. Ware is going to begin unpacking the Open Theist view of Divine Providence and Saturday He will get to the traditional Reformed understanding of Divine Providence.Share on Facebook
January 08 2010 08:00 am | Trinity