Q&A: God's Providence in Theology

God's Providence in Theology

What do theologians mean by the providence of God?

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Answer

In today's society, or in Christian circles today, there are probably two prevailing views of God's providence. I hold to the circle that sees God's providence as — since God has foreordained all things to come to pass — his continual engagement and governing of his creation by the power of his will. Another competing view that is very popular for some today comes from middle knowledge or Molinism, believing that God is a God that knows all possible contingencies, knows all possible actions that individuals would do given a certain state of affairs, and then God literally changes in some sense to organize and govern things in a way that does not, in any way, interrupt the libertarian free will of individuals. This view tries to make a strong case very often, but it seems so complex. It seems hard for me to believe that people like the apostle Paul, in the writings of Scripture, had such a complex conception of providence in mind whenever they were speaking of the God of the Bible. A more simplistic answer — that God simply governs by the power of his will — seems to be the one that's most consistent, that we find in Scripture.

Answer by Prof. Brandon P. Robbins

Prof. Brandon P. Robbins is a professor at Birmingham Theological Seminary.