Unfortunately, there is a gross misunderstanding concerning the theological doctrine of Providence. Though Providence shares many of the same components as Election, there remains a stark difference between the two doctrines. Election deals primarily, though not exclusively, with the doctrine of soteriology (doctrine of salvation). One prime example of Election is when God chose the nation of Israel as His covenant people in the Old Testament. It could be and actually should be argued or at least understood that the whole of the Bible is one grand metanarrative. From Genesis to the closing words in the Book of Revelation, the Bible is one unfolding story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation.
I frequently sit back in awe of the trouble the Triune God decreed to endure when They created. At first, I was going to type “they decided to create,” but I quickly caught myself as that would be an incorrect theological expression. It would, in fact, be a heretical expression. God is never in the process of doing anything. God stands outside of time, and theologians understand God knows all events (past, perfect, and future) as an “Eternal Now.” There were never a certain point and time that God began to love. God has always loved. That mere thought is beyond my pay grade, and I frankly will never grasp what that truly means exhaustively.
Every reader will easily be able to quickly think of a moment in time that viscerally remains indelibly etched in their consciousness. As a small child, I can vividly remember something was wrong one night as someone ascended the steps to the second floor of my childhood home. It turned out to be a burglar. My parents were out for the evening, so while I initially was both excited and relieved they had returned home for the evening, my relief and joy quickly turned to panic as something told me to hide quickly.
Although I indeed had no clue of these deep theological concepts, what I was experiencing that night was God’s Providence. In a word, Providence is God’s meticulous moment by moment management of His creative order. It covers the profound, and it covers the mundane and everything in between. The very fact I begin to type this blog article at National Discount Tire is part and parcel of God’s Providence.
Several of you know I was on my way home from visiting family members as we gathered to celebrate the Centennial Anniversary of our beloved Matriarch, Susie Kyles, aka Grandma, aka Madea. I left Chicago at 5:30 AM on Wednesday, February 25th, and had just passed Lafayette, LA, when I experienced a blowout. Thankfully, when my rear passenger tire blew, there was no traffic in the immediate vicinity, and I was able to retain control of the vehicle and drive it safely to the shoulder.
Now, there were many contingencies beyond my direct control, which could have resulted in a far more grave and dire outcome. I could have lost control; I could have panicked. There could have been a car in the immediate vicinity. The weather could have been different. The list could go on and on. Yet, none of those things took place. The secularist would foolishly attribute my “good fortune” to blind chance.
The sober Evangelical, heck the “sober anything’ finds that worldview severely unfulfilling and void of true cognition. God decreed before life began that I would experience a tire blowout at the precise time it took place and that I would safely steer my vehicle to the side of I-10. God decreed that while it would be a significant inconvenience, I would live to blog about it. There is no real entity such as pure chance or luck. Evangelicals draw comfort and resolve as they learn the Bible teaches there is no such beast as senseless evil.
Embracing the doctrine of Providence does not fail to regard evil for what it is: pure evil. But the Bible explicitly and repeatedly teaches that God is Sovereign over every event that transpires between the Alpha and the Omega. I would venture to interject at this point; there is confusion about what the Bible teaches about God’s Sovereignty.
Let me demonstrate with this question: Who is the source of disease? I know many of you will reflectively direct your attention right to Satan. Would you be shocked if I argued that instead of the Bible advocating Satan as the source of disease, the Bible instead teaches God as the source?
Although I could advance several Scriptures to support my thesis, I would trust for the sake of brevity and the fact all it takes for something to be true is one piece of evidence. I direct the reader to Exodus 4:11
Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
The conventional understanding you often hear is “God allows …” or “God permits …” That type of language is passive. Did you read any passivity in the above-referenced verse? “Who makes.” God distinctly asks Moses in His response to Moses’ fleshly attempt to “beg out of the task to serve as Israel’s spokesperson to Pharaoh.
No, the Bible teaches that God is active in His management of history’s human affairs. This teaching does not make God the author of sin, nor does it violate man’s free agency (I refrain from using the incorrect moniker of free-will. Again, due to the nature of a blog article, I will refrain from getting too far afield from the main topic of this blog post).
Let me demonstrate what I mean. Many of the factors that heavily influence my reality are beyond my direct input. I did not have any input into what generation I would be born, what continent I would be born, my parents’ economic status, or any of the soci-economic components of said parents.
It goes further; think for a moment about the marital choice I made. What if Monique was born in Topeka, Kansas? Even granting that she would be born in Chicago, IL, there are well over 2 million Chicago residents. I would guess more than 90% I have never encountered, yet God providentially ensured I would meet Monique and subsequently marry her.
God is free, and I am free, but God ensures His plan divinely orchestrates my reality in a way in which I freely accomplish everything that God decreed before time began. I spent considerable time delving into some of the nuances of God’s Providence to speak about a harrowing experience my family has undertaken in the last few days.
I decided to surprise my family by driving to Chicago to participate in the Centennial Anniversary activities of my Grandmother’s entry into time and space. Naturally, there was so much excitement and buzz within the family and close family friends. A feel-good story quickly was deflated with the sudden news of the passing of my youngest brother, Elder Renaldo Kyles.
What made the entire scenario so ironic was that Renaldo was the principal player in my Grandmother’s planned celebrations. Renaldo took care of the coordination with the City of Chicago to have a Police escort as family members drove past the residence that Grandma currently resides (made necessary due to COVID-19 restrictions).
Now, do Evangelicals choose the naïve and unbiblical option and posit Renaldo’s passing the very time family members gathered to celebrate the milestone of my Grandmother was just pure bad luck and a random, senseless, tragic event, OR do Evangelicals instead yield to the Bible’s revelation that the events of last Saturday (the day Renaldo died) were part of God’s meticulously detailed plan which brought God the most glory and most edifies His people?
Well, I hope you understand I chose the latter over the former, all-day, every day and twice on Sundays. God’s Providence ensures that everything that takes place in my life will work together for my good. God can only make this Divine promise if He controls every facet of the human experience. I close with the famous quote by the late, great theologian Abraham Kuyper. He said,
There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
Why God does what He does and when He does it is beyond human comprehension but what is within human comprehension is whatever God does will be right. That truth did not change when God chose to end the human existence of my baby brother. Please do not advance sentiments like, “he died before his time” or “Renaldo died before he was able to complete what God had in store for him.” If you do, then you have not begun to fully grasp what it means for God to be Sovereign or to what the Providence of God means.
Renaldo’s services will be next Saturday (March 6th at 10 AM). Lord willing, I will be there, and I will be there with a sense of sorrow, but I will not sorrow as those do without hope. Because of God’s providential care of His creation, I understand in Him are only Yes and Amen.
As always, let me know what you think. Do you understand my thesis about God’s Providence? Do you agree? Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.