The Problem Isn’t Providence: Why People Dislike the Doctrine

No one fully understands God’s providence. Though we believe it and trust it, we simply don’t “get” it. Our finite minds are just that—finite—and our understanding limited. Anyone who says they do is lying to you.

Still, just because we don’t “get” it doesn’t give us an excuse to ditch it. We are unwise to our own demise if we allow our inability to grasp this aspect of God to become, instead, a pseudo-reason for replacing him with ourselves.

In re-reading “Four Views on Divine Providence” this week, I was reminded again of this as contributor Paul Helseth beautifully addressed this point much better than me, calling out our current culture, both Christian and pagan, for its tragic problem with providence:

“In my estimation, the primary difficulty with the doctrine is found not in the doctrine itself but in the increasingly pagan milieu that makes the doctrine sound almost completely implausible to contemporary listeners. It perhaps goes without saying that the doctrine itself commends a vision of God and of his providence that is growing more and more foreign in a culture that is increasingly beholden to pagan assumptions about God and the self.

“As a consequence of this accommodation, it is becoming increasingly difficult for those who are and are not members of the church even to consider the possibility that, as created beings, we are, as Warfield puts it, “wholly at the disposal of another.” In short, the doctrine of divine omnicausality is growing more and more difficult for many of our contemporaries to take seriously because we think increasingly little of God and progressively more of ourselves and of our capacities. Indeed, to one degree or another, we have accommodated the paganism of the age and in the process have “gone soft” on the Creator/creature distinction, and as a consequence, as Warfield provocatively notes, “we wish ‘to belong to ourselves,’ and we resent belonging, especially belonging absolutely, to anybody else, even if that anybody else be God.” (p. 38-39)

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