A Guide to Christian Theology - Lesson 16

Providence (Part 1/2)

You will gain a comprehensive understanding of providence through this lesson. It explores the theological concept of providence, which encompasses God's continuous upholding of creation and His guidance of all events toward His ultimate purpose. This guidance includes the integration of human choices into His plan, emphasizing God's sovereignty. Key passages like Psalm 33 and Romans 8:28 support these ideas. The lesson also underscores the complexity of human suffering and the existence of evil, acknowledging that sin is both evil and a violation of God's command. However, it emphasizes God's simultaneous anger at sin and His love and compassion for sinners. Ultimately, this lesson offers insights into the multifaceted nature of providence and its implications for understanding God's role in the world.

Gerry Breshears
A Guide to Christian Theology
Lesson 16
Watching Now
Providence (Part 1/2)

I. Introduction to Providence

A. Definition of Providence

B. Key Aspects of Providence

II. God's Plan and Providence

A. God's Sovereignty and Plan

B. Biblical Passages on Providence

1. Psalm 33

2. Romans 8:28

3. Ephesians 1:11

III. Common Agreements about Providence

A. God's Autonomy

B. Evil's Origin

C. Sin and Responsibility

D. God's Moral Character

E. The Irrationality of Evil

F. The Reality of Suffering

IV. Theological Considerations of Providence

A. Theology of Providence and Sin

B. Theological Reflection on Human Suffering

C. Balancing God's Compassion and Justice

V. Meditation on Psalms 13 and 33

VI. Theories of Providence

Class Resources
  • In this lesson, explore the significance of systematic theology, blending academic insight with personal devotion. Learn to interpret biblical texts, understand how theology shapes beliefs, and fortify your faith against deception. This study fosters personal, biblical, and responsible theological growth, vital for spiritual development and discipleship.
  • Learn diverse ways to tackle theological questions, focusing on Holy Spirit baptism. Understand deductive, inductive, and retro-abductive methods. Acts 17:11 and Acts 15 show how community perspectives contribute to nuanced theological discussions, promoting unity amidst differing viewpoints.
  • This lesson provides insights into theological certainty levels, categorizing beliefs into "die for," "divide for," "debate for," and "decide for," highlighting essential doctrines, divisive issues, passionate debates, and less crucial matters, while underscoring the significance of understanding diverse perspectives and theological terms across different Christian tribes.
  • Explore general revelation through creation and conscience (Psalm 19, Romans 1). Responding leads to God, though not salvation alone. Special revelation possible. Diverse salvation views, favoring knowing Jesus. Seared consciences don't always void salvation.
  • Gain deep understanding of special revelation: history, divine acts, and communication revealing God's character and redemptive plan via Messiah. Lesson highlights Bible's key role, conveying God's nature, guidance, and transformative power, emphasizing ongoing divine-human communication.
  • This lesson delves into the concept of divine inspiration in Scripture, citing 2 Timothy 3:15-16 and 2 Peter 1:16-21. It explains "God-breathed" as a term highlighting God's creative influence on words, rejecting mere concepts or dictation. Inspiration involves human authors, their personalities, and styles, conveying God's message to the entire church.
  • In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of God, including their definitions, biblical support, and implications and applications.
  • In this lesson you will gain insight into the Bible's clarity, sufficiency, and authority, and the Canon.
  • In this lesson, you'll grasp a deep understanding of God's character. His foremost quality is compassion, like a mother's love. He's gracious, patient, loving, faithful, and forgiving, extending favor even to the undeserving. Yet, He's just, not sparing the persistently rebellious. This lesson dispels misconceptions, urging contemplation of God's profound blend of love and justice.
  • This lesson delves into holiness via Isaiah 6, emphasizing dedication over separation from sin. It challenges misconceptions and calls for church reform.
  • This lesson delves into the fundamental characteristics of God, particularly the Trinity, emphasizing God's essential relational nature within Himself and its biblical implications, while also addressing theological controversies and highlighting the complexity of the Trinity.
  • This lesson explores different approaches to knowing God, inspired by Thomas Aquinas, discusses the doctrine of immutability, and highlights how God can change in his attitude and actions based on biblical evidence, emphasizing the value of in-depth Bible study and open dialogue in understanding God's nature.
  • This lesson covers key theological concepts: sovereignty, election, and free will. It explores differences between Calvinist and Wesleyan-Arminian views on God's sovereignty, impacting God's plan and human responsibility. Emphasis on defining terms to prevent disputes. Speaker is a "Calminian," blending Calvinism and Arminianism for a balanced perspective. Valuable insights into theological complexities and scripture interpretation.
  • Exploring various theological views and problematic issues surrounding the concept of providence, we will gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of prayer in providence, as well as the compatibility of God's sovereignty and human responsibility.
  • You will gain knowledge about anthropology and its biblical foundations, creation of human beings and the image of God in humans, fall and sin and their implications on human nature, redemption and sanctification, and human destiny and eschatology, including views on heaven and hell and the return of Christ.
  • This lesson offers valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of providence and its profound implications for our comprehension of God's role in the world.
  • The lesson touches upon various types of suffering, categorizing them into six different types: moral evil (e.g., rape), natural evil (e.g., cancer), persecution, sharing the suffering of another, punishment for sin, and suffering caused by the devil.
  • Learn to discern God's will by cultivating a Christ-like character, living by moral principles, seeking counsel, embracing uniqueness, and praying. It's about aligning with your long-term happiness and godly desires, offering a balanced approach to life decisions.
  • Explore Jesus' nature and incarnation. Learn how He balanced divine and human attributes, challenging traditional views. Reflect on His mission and ours, empowered by the Holy Spirit, bridging divinity and humanity.
  • This lesson delves into the incarnation of Jesus, explaining his dual nature as both God and man during his earthly mission, supported by Old Testament, Gospel, and epistle references. It acknowledges the complexity of his divinity and humanity, even after his ascension.
  • This lesson explores Jesus' dual nature, divine and human, delving into emotions, knowledge, sin, and his role as the Second Adam, offering theological insights.
  • Learn about Jesus' life and mission, challenging traditional beliefs like the virgin birth. Explore his spiritual journey, resurrection, and more, fostering critical thinking and alternative perspectives.
  • This lesson provides a comprehensive examination of atonement, its various dimensions, and the theological concepts surrounding it.
  • Learn about the Holy Spirit, baptism, and its role in Christian faith. Understand diverse perspectives on its workings in believers' lives, emphasizing its incorporation at conversion and empowering influence, supported by biblical insights.
  • Gain insight into the relationship between spirit baptism and conversion, the various terms used in Scripture, and the importance of ongoing fillings with the Holy Spirit for special ministry tasks, character, and as a command for all believers.
  • This lesson explores the role of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. It challenges traditional definitions, proposing that any ability empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in ministry is a spiritual gift. The primary gift is the Holy Spirit himself.
  • Learn about the theological debate on spiritual gifts like prophecy and miracles. Explore four perspectives: cessationism, continuationism, functional cessationism, and word of faith. The instructor, a continuationist, emphasizes discernment and scripture while promoting respectful dialogue among believers with differing views.
  • This lesson explores the Bible's view of humanity, emphasizing humans as God's unique creation, made from dust and breath, in His image. It delves into human origins, our role as covenant partners, and the interaction between spirit and body, supported by biblical passages, offering a holistic perspective on being human in God's eyes.
  • This lesson redefines humans as image-bearers of God, emphasizing the role of reflecting divine attributes in all work, gender equality, and growth in Christ-likeness. It promotes dignity for all, with potential for deeper reflection as faith matures.
  • In this lesson you will explore the origin of sin, rejecting dualism in favor of a Christian perspective where sin arises from the choices of morally responsible creatures. The lesson introduces the idea of a pre-creation rebellion by Satan, emphasizing that humans are called to engage in spiritual warfare by doing good and promoting Shalom in the world.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the nature, marks, purpose, structure, and sacraments of the Church and learn about the different views and definitions used to define it.
  • This lecture discusses the leadership offices of a church, including eldership, deacons, and church members, and how they function according to biblical principles of polity, which prioritize following what the Bible prescribes, closely following what it describes, and using wisdom and being Spirit-led in matters it is silent about, all with the aim of effectively sharing the Gospel and achieving unity and focus.
  • In this lesson, you will explore baptism's significance, modes, and theological perspectives, and learn its role in church membership, unity, discipleship, and spiritual growth.
  • This lesson provides an overview of the historical, biblical, and theological aspects of Communion, including practical considerations for its practice.
  • You will gain a good understanding of death and its theological implications, including the biblical view of death, consequences of death, and resurrection and the afterlife. The lesson covers the definition of death, cultural views, and the portrayal of death in the Old and New Testaments. You will also learn about the physical and spiritual consequences of death, as well as the Bible's teachings on resurrection and the afterlife.
  • From this lesson, you gain insight into the biblical concept of God's Kingdom, its significance in Christian theology, and its impact on eschatology, social justice, and the Church's role.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into eschatology, examine biblical perspectives, explore key events like the Rapture, Tribulation, Millennium, and Final Judgment, and learn the significance of eschatology for today's believers.
  • By studying the eternal state, you gain insights into the new heaven and earth, resurrection, judgment, and eternal life, deepening your understanding of Christian hope and assurance.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into the crucial role of church leaders, their essential qualities, and the challenges they face, while discovering the importance of support and encouragement for their growth and effectiveness in ministry.
  • In this lesson, you gain an understanding of the nature of Scripture and learn to interpret the Bible within its historical, literary, and canonical contexts while addressing challenges in biblical interpretation.
  • This lesson delves into the structure and authority of a church, examining different leadership models and emphasizing the overarching role of scripture as the final authority, while also highlighting the need for congregational involvement in decision-making processes and the unique nature of the apostles in early church leadership.
  • Learn Dr. Breshears' local church leadership principles: focus on equipping, inspiring, empowering, unifying, exemplifying, caring for, overseeing, and shepherding members. Rooted in biblical teachings, emphasizes servant leadership. The lesson discusses congregational decision-making, women in church leadership roles with respect for differing views.
  • Learn about church leadership principles, roles of elders and deacons, active membership, mutual commitment, gift utilization, and clear processes in this comprehensive lesson.
  • This lesson explores sacraments, focusing on baptism and diverse theological views. Baptism signifies a profound commitment to Christ within a believer community, emphasizing understanding and promptness post-conversion.
  • In this lesson, you'll grasp the essence of baptism, its questions, and debates. Discover belief's role, its confession, and the link to repentance and faith. Explore diverse views on baptism performers, methods, and locations. Gain insights and wisdom for informed baptism decisions in your faith community.
  • From this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of Communion, also known as the Lord's Supper or Eucharist. It will provide you with insights into the controversy surrounding its terminology and the theological background of Communion, primarily focusing on 1 Corinthians Chapters 10 and 11. You will learn about various theological perspectives on the real presence of Christ in the Communion elements and explore different viewpoints on the frequency, leadership, eligibility, and practical aspects of Communion. Overall, this lesson will equip you with the knowledge to better understand and participate in the Communion meal.
  • This lesson delves into two ends: individual death and the end of the age. It explores human death, material and immaterial aspects (Ecclesiastes 12:7, Genesis 3), fear, loss of autonomy, cremation, death determination, rewards, and urges preparation to meet Jesus, facing the undeniable reality of death.
  • Learn about the Kingdom of God, its aspects, Christ's return interpretations, and key concepts like inaugurated, Messianic, and millennium kingdoms. Emphasizing humility and mission in theological debates, it prepares you for insightful discussions on Christ's return and tribulation.
  • Learn about Christian views on heaven and hell. Hell is punishment for those who reject Jesus; heaven is eternal bliss with Him on a renewed Earth. Explore differing views respectfully.

Understand the core topics of systematic theology, from what we know about God to the future state of humankind. Special emphasis is given to such topics as Christ, salvation, the church, and the future.

A Guide to Christian Theology
Dr. Gerry Breshears
Providence (Part 1/2)
Lesson Transcript

Providence. It's one of those, again, very significant, very significant pastorally, and significant differences among views. But the general idea of providence, again, working from the notes, providence has three different sides to it. One is upholding his creation. We talk about providence, meaning God is upholding His creation, and then He's also directing all things toward His ultimate goal. Those are the two key aspects of providence. God has a plan by which He is upholding creation. If God quit paying attention to the world, it would just kind of wink out, but He's sustaining the creation. But the fundamental idea of providence is God is guiding, governing, directing the universe to an ultimate goal, and so we're talking about there is how that works out.

What I'm talking about here, just in the beginning, is things that everybody agrees on in this definition. His plan includes all the decisions and actions of persons who act free and responsibly. Somehow our choices fit into His plan. We talked about sovereignty already. There's some differences opposed to that, but what it's saying here is God is working things according to His plan. If I come back and look at, say, Psalm 33, it's such a fabulous Psalm. "Sing joy for the Lord, you righteous. It's fitting to praise him. Sing good songs." Get a worship leader who can play skillfully.

Verse five, "God loves righteous and just as the earth is full of [inaudible], by the word of the Lord, the heavens are made, the starry host by the breath of His mouth," talking about creation, His work over the rulers, let all the earth fear him. Then Verse 10 begins the idea of providence. "The Lord foils the plans of the nations. He thwarts the purposes of the peoples," so the nations, those are the evildoers, are worshiping, serving others gods. He foils their plans. He thwarts their purposes, but Verse 11, "The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations."

That's the heart of providence, right there, is God has a plan and His plan stands firm and He is working. Or Verse 14, "He watches overall who live on earth. He forms the hearts of all, considers everything they do, no king is saved," and so on. That's a key passage we're looking at when we think of providence is God is the one who is overseeing and directing. We find this in a number of other passages.

One of the famous passages is Romans 8:28 in New American Standard. It says here, "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. God causes all things to work together for good, to those who love God are called according to His purpose." That's, again, a standard view for providence, and we'll look at that one as we dig into this a bit.

The other one we're going to look at is Ephesians, Chapter 1, Verse 11. We just looked at Ephesians, Chapter 1, the earlier part of it, and I suggested to you from my view, this is God having eternal plan for us in Him to be a beautiful bride for His precious son. Well, what about Verse 11? Actually, starting back in Verse 10, "We have a view to administration suitable to the fullness of times that is a summing up of all things in Christ, things in heavens, things under the earth. In Him also we've attained an inheritance, having been predestined, according to purpose of Him who works all things after the counsel of His will." Ephesians 1:11, "God works all things after the council of His will."

That's an obvious governance thing. We're talking about God as the governor and ruler of the universe, and we could go to many passages that talk about that. God works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we first hope in Christ would be to the praise His glory. When I think about providence, just in a general context, some things we would all agree on. God doesn't give account to anyone, and that sounds so obvious, but it's really significant.

There's no power, no force that God has to justify Himself to. When He decides to act, it happens. In Psalm 33, He makes it clear. No one can frustrate Him. When He decides to act, nobody can stop Him and that we all agree on. It's pretty clear in scripture. God is the ultimate. There's at the God level, He's the only up there. Whatever's down below Him, all the angels, all the demons, all the humans, all those other things are under His leadership.

Another thing we would all agree on is evil is a result of morally significant free actions of God's creatures. Again, we all agree on that. Evil is a result of morally significant actions of God's creatures. God never ever does evil and He never ever makes someone else do evil. All Christians agree on that. Even really hard Calvinists would agree on that. God renders things certain, but He's not making anybody do evil against their will. That would be an agreement.

Another thing is that sin is really evil, and moral agents, humans and angels, are responsible for their sinful choices. Again, fundamental thing everybody agrees on is that sin is really sin. Can God use sin to accomplish a greater purpose? Yes, many would say that. Can God work good in the context of sin? Yes, we would say that, but we're all going to agree that sin really is a violation of God's command and it really is evil. We would say really, truly God is angry at sin. God is really, truly angry.

Why? Because it's in the scripture. Well, if God ordained it, how can he be angry about it? Put that off for a minute. It's very clear in scripture that God is angry at evil. The other side of it is He's very compassionate and loving enough to come, call and die for those same sinners that He's angry at. Now, to me, this is fundamentally important. God is both really angry at sin and compassionate and loving enough to come and die for those very sinners. Those are both true at the same time. That's complex emotion, to be sure, but that's critically important as we approach this.

We would all agree that God is too good to do evil and too wise to make a mistake. We would all agree on that. God is too good to do evil and too wise to make a mistake. God is too good to do evil. He is too wise to make a mistake. Again, these are all things we'd be coming to this debate. We would all agree that God is loving enough and powerful enough to do good in the worst evil. Again, everybody agrees on this. God is too good to do evil, too wise to make a mistake. He is loving enough and powerful enough to do good in the worst evil.

There's a lot of things we'll disagree around that, but that we all agree on, and there's a lot more we can say. But another thing we would say very much is that evil is fundamentally irrational. It makes no sense. There is no rational explanation for evil, and so when you try to explain it and can't, okay, don't worry about it, because it's irrational. Why in the world would creatures, angels or humans rebel against the God that we see described in scripture, except I want to do it my way?

We'll talk about sin soon. Oh gosh, there's so much more I could say here, but let me just say one more thing here. Sin really hurts. Suffering really, really hurts, and when we are in a context of hurt and pain, the thing to do is we should grieve. We should express our hurt. Psalm 13 is a very important psalm for me for a variety of reasons. In Psalm 13, written by David, the same guy who wrote Psalm 23, "The Lord is my shepherd," and all that. In Psalm 23, he says this, "How long, oh Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?"

Now, you can put your emotion into that, but I see a man who is just hurting desperately for whatever reason. We don't know what the context is. He's deeply, deeply, deeply hurting. "How long must I wrestle my thoughts day after day and with sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?" Look at me, God. I think Verse 5 and 6, though, is not a resolution, but at the same time, it's a contrasting contemporaneous emotional feeling. At the same time, he is saying, "How long, Oh Lord? Will You forget me forever?" He's also saying, "I trust in your [foreign language], Your unfailing love. My heart rejoices in Your salvation."

I think when we do things with the deep maturity of a good theology of providence and a good theology of sin, that we will at the same time... God, why have You forgotten me? The agony of lost-ness, and at the same time sing, "I trust in Your [foreign language]," and somehow bringing those to where we can feel both of those at the same time is the goal of every spiritual blessing. I think that's what God's trying to work with us.

When I think about Providence, one of the things I think about is this thing of how do you deal with human suffering and real evil in the context of a God who is a ruler over all? How we come out on that, we've got to have the reality of God's compassion. We've got the reality of God's justice. We've got the reality of human responsibility. We've got the reality of human sin and genuine, deep, painful evil in our world. How do those relate? I'm glad you asked. I'm glad you asked.

What I'd like you to do here is just take a short break and just turn to Psalm 13 and Psalm 33 and think about it a bit. Ponder on it a bit. I did a lesson with a group called Call to Be Handicapped down at Cannon Beach Conference Center. I did it twice, but one of the times I did the three psalms as meditation. These are severely handicapped people. They're coming in and they're in beds and their powered wheelchairs together at Cannon Beach.

David was the leader and he has cerebral palsy. By the end of his life, nobody could understand him, but what a magnificent man of God. I did Psalm 3, Psalm 13, Psalm 23, and Psalm 133 in our four meditations where we took communion together. They're magnificent Psalms. Just take a break here for a few minutes and just look at Psalm 13. Look at Psalm 33 and ponder it, and then when you get ready, come turn your computer back on and we'll take a look at theories of Providence.


Log in to take this quiz.