Blogging Through the Trinity (part 6)

After class yesterday I drove up to Pine Mountain Club where my old church is at.  It was the first time that I’d visited PMC in 4 years and it was such a blessing seeing many of my old friends.  I ended up staying in PMC pretty late, which meant that I got back to Los Angeles pretty late so this morning was a little tougher than most.  Fortunately, there is a Star Bucks just around the corner from where I’ve been staying so with my latte in hand I went back to TMS for the last class session in which Dr. Ware covered the Reformed understanding of providence.

Dr. Ware gave the following definition of Divine Providence from a Reformed understanding:

God continually oversees and directs all things pertaining to the created order in such a way that 1) He preserves in existence and provides for the creation He has brought into being, and 2) He governs and reigns supremely over the entirety of the created order in order to fulfill all of His intended purposes in it and through it.

The best way to illustrate the Reformed understanding of providence is probably through what Dr. Ware calls “spectrum texts.”  These are passages of Scripture that illustrate the spectrum of God’s control over both good and evil.  Some examples would be:

Deuteronomy 32:39 — See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand.”


Isaiah 45:5-7 — 5I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; 6 that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, 7 the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD Who does all these.

This passage in Isaiah is an especially powerful one as Isaiah goes to great lengths to make the point that God Himself is the one who “creates darkness” as well as “creating calamity.”  According to this passage it is not that God merely permits evil to happen, nor that he simply watches helplessly as calamity occurs in this world but rather that He actually creates it.  It’s clear from these passages and others that God has absolutely no interest in being removed from responsibility for the evil things that happen in this world. 

The twin pillars upon which the Reformed understanding of providence rests are 1) God brings both and evil to pass, 2) God is good and not evil.  While these twin truths may seem incompatible, when the biblical data is taken into account this the picture of God’s providence that we receive.  Both of these tenants are critical to our understanding of God’s relationship to the world as well as God’s relationship to us as individuals. God is just as much in control of the tragedies, hardships, suffering and pain in this life as He is in control of the joy and happiness in this life.  Behind every experience in life stands a God who is good and and not malicious.

The question still remains how can God remain guiltless when he is in control of all things including evil.  This is a multi-tiered question with multiple answers, but one of the broadest categories is the fact that God works through human beings in such a way that His will and their will is compatible.  The best example of this is the story of Joseph.  In Genesis 45:4-8 we read:

4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, . . . ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life . . . 7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 8 Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.’

The fact of the matter is that it was the brothers who sold Joseph into slavery into Egypt, but God used their sinful choice in order to bring about his predetermined ends.  Another way to think of this is that all men have a freedom of inclination, in other words men do what they are most inclined to do.  In selling Joseph into slavery the brothers were following the inclination of their hearts, but God uses these inclinations in order to bring about His predetermined ends, namely saving the family from the soon coming famine.

This truth has huge implications for sanctification.  If it’s true that men always do what they most want to do than it is also true that we either sin or pursue righteousness based on what we most want to do. What has to happen in us so that we live in ways that are increasingly pleasing to God is that we must have our “most want tos” changed, so that what I most want to do is grow in my faith.  You see, in order for sanctification to happen I must be changed on the level of my desires so that what I most want is to please the Lord rather than myself.  This is the principle issue in any person’s spiritual growth, What does he desire most?

I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to take this class.  I know that I have grown tremendously through Dr. Ware’s teaching.  I have a lot to think about when I get back home and a few books to read through.  For right now, I’m just glad to be back with my family and very glad to be heading back home to Mount Vernon tomorrow.

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January 10 2010 08:00 am | Trinity

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