A Guide to Christian Theology - Lesson 17

Providence (Part 2/2)

From this lesson, you gain insight into the differing theories of providence, namely meticulous providence, active providence, and freewill providence. Each theory presents a unique perspective on God's involvement in human actions and suffering. You also learn about different types of suffering and how these theories of providence can be applied pastorally to understand and address the various forms of suffering individuals may experience.


Gerry Breshears
A Guide to Christian Theology
Lesson 17
Watching Now
Providence (Part 2/2)

I. Theories of Providence

A. Meticulous Providence

B. Active Providence

C. Free Will Providence

II. Meticulous Providence

A. God ordains all moral actions

B. Divine purpose behind every action

C. Responsibility of individuals for their sinful choices

D. Example from Acts 4:27

III. Active Providence

A. God is at war with evil and uses good to overcome it

B. Romans 12:21 - Overcoming evil with good

C. The ship analogy

IV. Free Will Providence

A. God allows all moral actions

B. The importance of the possibility of saying no to make the yes meaningful

C. Differentiating between God's will and human agency in moral actions

V. Types of Suffering

A. Moral Evil

B. Natural Evil

C. Persecution

D. Identificational Suffering

E. Punishment for Sin

F. Devil-Induced Suffering

VI. Pastorally Addressing Suffering

A. Providing comfort and support in cases of moral evil and natural evil

B. Understanding persecution as an opportunity for character development

C. Recognizing God's corrective discipline in cases of punishment for sin

D. Seeking God's grace and goodness in the midst of devil-induced suffering

VII. Ephesians 1:11 - The Council of God's Will

A. Meticulous Providence Perspective

B. Active Providence Perspective

VIII. Conclusion

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 2/2)
Lesson Transcript

Okay, when we talk about providence, how do we relate God, the ruler, and humans, the agents? There are different theories and such, and there's quite a few of them, but I boil it down to three basic theories, and there are variations within that. The first one is meticulous providence. And meticulous is the idea that God is meticulous in His governance. And so the idea here is in meticulous providence, the basic summary is God ordains all... God ordains, that's the blank in your notes. God ordains all moral actions, including evil, for his greater glory and our ultimate good. God ordains, decrees, renders certain, whatever we want to say there, God ordains, predestines all moral actions, including evil, for His greater glory and for our ultimate good. That's meticulous providence.

And the idea here is that everything that happens has a divine purpose behind it. It may lead to pain, but there is no purposeless pain. There's no wasted pain. Everything that happens, back behind it, there's a divine purpose for why God ordained this particular action. Everything happens. Can we have truly evil actions that have God behind it? And again, let's look at scripture. If I go to Acts chapter four, so I look at Acts chapter four, and I look at this great prayer that Peter prays after they're released. So it starts in verse 23, "Peter and John went back to their people and reported everything that happened. And when they heard this, they began to pray." And why do the nation's rage, all that sort of stuff. But if look at verse 27, this is Acts 4:27, "Indeed, Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed." Now, here's the key phrase, "They did what Your power and will had decided beforehand should happen."

What are they talking about there? They're talking about the crucifixion of our Lord. And what it's saying, that Herod, Pilate, the gentiles, and the people of Israel conspired together. But what they did was what God had decided beforehand should happen. Now, that's NIV. That tends to soften things like this a little bit. The ESV says, "To do whatever Your hand and plan had predestined to take place." And the word there is a predestination word, but no matter what translation you read it in, it's very clear God has decided this is going to happen.

And so down to the details, the things that happened there on Calvary was predestined. Now, is the crucifixion of the Messiah of God and evil action? Duh. Yeah, it may be the greatest evil that ever happened. God sends the Messiah and you kill Him, not a good idea. This is a great evil, perhaps the greatest evil in all of history. And God ordained it, because the greater good that would come out of it, the salvation of His people. So can God use an evil action, a completely evil action to accomplish His good? And the answer is yes. So from a meticulous providence evil, God uses what He hates to accomplish what He loves. And the key thing is every single action, no matter how evil, has a divine purpose behind it. Every single action has a divine purpose behind it. But at the same time, the humans who do it are responsible for their sinful choice. So here it's Herod, Pontius Pilate, gentiles, and the people of Israel in the city are conspiring.

God didn't force them to do that. They sinned in their own responsible choice. From this view, they did what they wanted to do. This would be a voluntary freewill, if you remember the sovereignty freedom discussion that I led you through. And so the responsibility was people, and God ordained their sinful choice to accomplish His glorious good. So God ordains all actions, including the most evil actions, for His greater glory and our ultimate... Our means Christians. So this is Romans 8:28. So stick your finger in Romans 8:28, because we're going to keep coming there. So Romans 8:28, and this particular view tends to read it from the New American Standard perspective. And what does it say? What's the relation in Romans 8:28 in New American Standard, "God causes all things to work together for good." What's the relation between God and all things? God causes all things to work together, Romans 8:28 New American Standard.

And you say, "It's not in my translation." I said, "Look at the New American Standard." This is a place where reading different translations will lead you to some interesting conclusions. Right now, it's looking at meticulous providence. New American Standard, "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God." So God ordains every action, no matter how evil, for His greater glory and our ultimate good. In the short run, it can be horrible, awful. But in the long run, it'll be our ultimate good. So at this point... I just preached on Sunday, I had mentioned it earlier, a guy in our church, Kiko, 59 years old who loved Jesus, truck driver, just an amazing man of God, fairly new in our congregation. Just over a week ago, had a heart attack, took him to the hospital, tried to stabilize him, wasn't working out real well, had several heart attacks.

And after just a few days of desperate work by the medical team, they had to let him go, and his wife and two daughters were there with him as he died. And we lost a really good man. And now Hope, his wife, is now husband-less and his kids are fatherless. And that's a painful thing. And what we say from here, what we say from here, that was God ordaining that. And out of this death of Kiko, somehow God's glory will be greater and our ultimate good will come out of that. That's the view. So the key thing here in the context of suffering is, "Okay, there's a purpose for my suffering. It hurts like everything, but there's a purpose for it. And I can do it as there's a purpose for it." I don't know the purpose.

And my favorite advocate of meticulous providence is really Joni Earekson Tada, she's what, 50 years ago, broke her neck diving into, what, a river or the bay in Maryland, Chesapeake Bay, 17 years old, very athletic, and she's been a quadriplegic ever since. And her stuff's all over the web. She's kind of gone off the front pages now, but what a magnificent witness to the glory of God. And she's a meticulous providence. Now, she wasn't always that, but there were times when she was raging so bad against the pain that she was trying desperately to bang her head against the bed rail to kill herself. And she didn't have the muscles in her neck to get it done.

You listen to her stories, but she will say, "I would never change a bit of it now, because I have God's perspective." And I just look at that and I say, "God bless you, John Earekson." I don't know her personally at all. I've been at a couple conferences with her and talked to her personally one time, and I just relished that. It wasn't a long conversation, but just the godly character of that woman is phenomenal. You can't help but walk away without being blessed by her. Meticulous province. Okay, that's one view. So back to the notes again. It's not the only view. The active providence, and this would be my view, active providence is the phrase here. In meticulous providence, God ordains all things, including evil things. In this view, God is at war with evil, using good as His primary weapon to overcome the serpent and his works. God is at work in all things to do good in the midst of the evil.

So what I'm saying here, the base relation of God in all things in this view is that God is at war with evil. He's not ordaining, though, in my Calminian view, I would say sometimes God ordains details, other times He backs off and lets things happen much more freely. But in everything that happens, God is at war with evil, and that's the defining thing. And His primary weapon to overcome the evil is good. So the key phrase for me would be Romans 12:21 where He says, "Don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." And I see this as God's way of doing things primarily all the way through scripture. And what he's not doing is using the weapons of the enemy, the serpent, which is destruction and those things, power, domination, narcissism. He's instead using the power of service and doing good. The serpent is moving things to chaos. God is moving things to shalom.

So God is at war with evil, and we partner with Him in that war against evil within our thing. Why is there suffering? Well, the serpent is active and working hard. This is a broken world, and broken things happen in a broken world. So that's the base metaphor here, and Romans 12 becomes a key thing. And what I'm saying here in the notes is God is at work in all situations. So when I come to Romans 8:28, I would look at the NIV. I have my preferred translations for certain verses because they say it the way I want to say it. And in the NIV, knowing that I've got a certain person involved in that translation committee sitting in the room as I talk, so I have to be very kind to the NIV.


Amen. Look what it says. "We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him." See, if you look at the New American Standard, what does it say? It says, "God causes all things to work together for good." That's a very different phrase than the NIV. The New American Standard, "God causes all things." The NIV says, "We know that in all things God works." See, it's a very different translation and a very different takeaway from the NIV translation than from the New American Standard translation. Now, what I'm going to say here is when you find difference in translations, it means there's some sort of ambiguity or theological grid that's coming into the translation, and that's the case. So coming back again to the base idea, the meticulous providence, God ordains all things for His greater glory and our ultimate good. Active providence, as I term it, the Calminian view, is that God is at war with evil.

And from my view, there are things that happen that are against God's will in every sense. In a meticulous providence view, nothing is against his will in the decretive sense. It may be evil and sinful, but it's still He plans it to be true. So a famous phrase that John Piper uses, there's no rebellious atom in the entire universe at a decretive level. And I think I know a lot of rebellious items in this universe. And yeah, against the revealed will of God, the will of desire, but not against the will of decree. And that two wills, the way that get around that, so meticulous problems. Active providence, God is at war with. Now, there's a third view in the spectrum, and that's what's called freewill providence. And this would be typically associated with Wesleyan-Arminian. Free will providence, again, look in the notes, God allows all moral actions. God allows all moral actions, including the worst evil, for the sake of free loving relationship. God allows all actions for the sake of free loving relationship.

So the idea here is God wants us to be in a free loving relationship with him, and for the yes, I want to be with You to be meaningful, there must be the possibility of a no that says I don't want to be with You. If you watch old movies, maybe you watch the Stepford Wives, it's a book behind that. And the idea is this guy programs women to say, "Yes, whatever you want." There's a Star Trek thing where Captain Kirk runs into a place where, I think it's Henry Butterfield is the name of the guy divorced. And he's got all these robots that, "Yes, Henry, whatever you want." And it's incredibly unsatisfying to him because he knows they're programmed, it's not real.

And this view is that idea. If God decrees that everybody will say yes to Him, or those who do are saying it because of his decree, then it's not meaningful. And they're saying for the yes to be meaningful, there must be a no. For an act of obedience to be loving and devoted, there has to be the possibility of saying no. So God never forces anybody to say yes is this view. So God allows evil. So where would you go for this? Well, Romans 8:28, of course. Where does it say... So you look at Romans 8:28, the ESV, the English Standard Version, and it says, "We know that for those who love God, all things work together."

"We know that for those who love God, all things work together." What's the relationship between God and all things? For those who love God, all things work together. Well, God, in that sentence is the object of love. It's not the subject of anything. In fact, the works together does not have a subject grammatically in that sentence. So this is actually removing God even further from the working. And when you go back and look at the Greek, as you expect, the word for word translation, ESV actually follows the Greek closer than any of the other translations. In the Greek, the lovers of God, it says, "For the lovers of God, all things work together." It doesn't say how they work together or what God does to it. The idea is, well, grammatically the subject has carried over from the object, those are the lovers of God, that God is the one who works all things.

But that's a dot connector, not a direct statement. So ironically, the Elect Standard Version, as I sarcastically refer to it, is the weakest of them in terms of the providence that comes out here, but it's closer to the Greek. The New American Standard imports the word cause, and it should not be there. Or if they put it in, it should be italicized, which is the New American Standard way of saying this is an added word for sake of clarity in English, just like the King James. And they don't italicize cause. And that just annoys me to no end, because clearly... It's simply not in the Greek at all. So what do you do with this? God ordains all things, no purposeless pain. God is at war with, we are warring with God, and we will prevail, but it means God loses battles, that there are actions that are against God's will in every sense, but sometimes God drills down and makes things happen. Crucifixion, for example.

The freewill providence, God allows because, see, if you have view one, God should go to hell. If He ordains all things, including killing babies, then God should go to hell. The logical conclusion, if God's the ordainer, He should be the responsible one. So the mystery is how can God ordain and be responsible? And we don't know how those go together, it's a real problem in the view. If you go to my view, God's at war with, how can the super powerful God, how can He lose battles in this war?

And my real question is, "God, why in the world You didn't take a shotgun to that snake in Genesis chapter two, or maybe a little earlier." And that's a real problem. Why is this war going on so long? Of course, 2 Peter deals with that, kind of, except it doesn't. Why does it do that? God allows all things. Well, that puts the agency with us. It moves God further from the agency of evil, but it also puts him further away from doing good. It's not like the world's running out of control. God's over there just watching say, "Yeah, I guess that's okay." Or we send requisitions up to God, "Hey, can I kill this baby?" God sends back a requisition form, says, "I guess I'll let you do that." I'm being totally sarcastic. When you look at these emotionally, none of them work out. There is no rational thing for evil.

So what do you do with this? There are a few things I want to play with here just to finish up with play in the sense you play chess. I think of different kinds of suffering, different kinds of suffering. One kind of suffering is when a person gets raped. We call that moral evil. That's a type of suffering. Moral evil. So I just think of a rape, because that's kind of an ultimate violation. In many ways worse than murder. Another kind of suffering is a person gets cancer. In most cases, there's no moral agency. Cancer is just a result of a broken world. That's a natural evil, we call it.

So there's a big difference between moral evil, a person getting raped, and natural evil, cancer or a flood comes and washes your baby away. There's a third type of suffering in scripture, and that's persecution, when a person gets persecuted for being a Christian. That's a type of suffering, but it's different than the other two, significantly different than the other two. Suffering is real. I've talked to some people who've been through torture. Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ, was at Western Seminary back in the early days I was there, magnificent man of God, literally tortured for Christ in a prison. And he talked about doing communion in the prison with the elements of God's creation, which is say nothing. And they did communion with the elements God created the heaven and the earth from. Nothing. They had no wine, they had no bread, and they did communion anyway. He couldn't even walk up on the stage. His feet were so damaged from the torture they had to help him up. It's just incredible. That's a third type.

A fourth type is when I go to share the suffering of another person. I am not suffering. But when I go and sit with, we think of Job's friends who came and sat with him and just wept with him for seven days. They didn't have to do that, but it's a genuine suffering. And because you can't do anything, and sometimes it makes it even worse. A fifth type of suffering is when God punishes me for sin, when God punishes me for sin. That's a different kind of suffering, but it's genuinely... You look at the examples in scripture. Now, not every pain is being punished for sin, but some of them are. And then a sixth type of suffering is when the devil brings disaster into my life.

So person gets raped, moral evil, person gets cancer, natural evil, person's persecuted for being a Christian, a person goes to share the sufferings of another person, a person suffers because they're being punished for sin, and a person suffering because the devil brought disaster in their lives. Now you could add to that list, but what I want to do is use those examples and come back and take your model of providence and try them against those questions. What would you do pastorally for these kinds of things? Now, my model is God's at war with evil, active providence. I've called it the ship theory, where on a ship headed for paradise, AW Tozer gave me the analogy. But on the ship there's a war going on and there's a bad guy down in the hold that's trying to take over the ship. It ain't going got work. When we get to the destination, he's going to get hung. But right now it's really gnarly.

The meticulous providence, the example there is Shakespeare to Hamlet. Why does Hamlet decide to go back in the castle and face his murderous uncle? Well, it's in the script. But if we make it a real life and not a drama that's performed, there's a Shakespeare behind it. But on the stage, Hamlet is making a real choice between running away, committing suicide, or going back into the castle. Why does he make that decision? Because it's what he really wants to do, but it is his decision. The Armenian freewill providence, God is like a king with subjects who are many times rebellious. Could He go in and kill them all? Yep, he could, but that wouldn't get His job done. So He goes in and dies for them so they can be redeemed. And that becomes different analogies, all limited, but it helps you understand things a bit. So my view, rape, I come in and I would say this is not God's will.

Now, sometimes it might be, but in general, I'm going to say usually a woman, but men get raped, too, that rape is not God's will. In a general sense, I'm going to say nope, that's somebody following Satan. And I think there's things that happen that are against God's will in every sense. A cancer, while sometimes, scripture is clear, the plague comes at the hand of God, I'm going to say on the whole that's not God's direct will. It's a fate of living in a broken world, and I'm going to approach it that way. And that's real for me, because I've got stage four metastatic melanoma going right now that I'm glad to say is being contained by immunotherapy, but it's active cancer in my lungs. There were two nodules in my brain, but radiosurgery has killed those nodules. And this recent MRI confirmed that there's no activity in my brain whatsoever. And Sherry thinks, "Yep, I've thought that for a long time."

Persecution. See, I'd say it is God's will to be a Christian and to be open about that and faithful in doing that. But the person who persecutes them, I don't think generally that's God's will. But I think that's when God talks in scripture, suffering works for our greater character, I think He's usually talking about persecutional suffering. I don't think he's talking about being raped or having cancer. I think he's talking about persecution. And when we stand faithful in persecution, it builds our character. I think that's usually what the Bible is talking about. When I go to share the suffering of another person, identificational, that is the will of God. We should go and bring comfort in the life of the suffering person. Not every suffering person, but when we have a relationship, I think it's absolutely God's will that I go whether or not, whatever the source of the hurting in that person. I think that is God's will. We should go and sit with and share in the pain of the suffering person, and do it as unto the Lord.

When God punishes me for sin, I think it's not His will that we sin, but I think it is His will to use his punishment to bring attention to the fact that's not okay. Now, it's not that I'm going to whack a kid because I'm feeling bad. It's not the malicious thing, but I think God gives us a loss of privilege and timeouts and will spank us if we persist in being sinful. And the whole point is to bring us back to Him. God never punishes anybody. I don't know what Bible you're reading. You're not reading what I read.

And the devil, the devil brings disaster in my life, I'm going to say flat out that is not God's will. He may work in that to do good, and that's a fundamental thing I'm going to say. There is no evil who's going to handcuff God so He cannot do good in this evil situation. So my constant prayer is, "Lord, you are at work here, too, in the midst of this awful thing that's going on. Lord, Holy Spirit, grant me eyes to see the flickers of Your grace in this dark place," because it's easy to miss God because He works quietly in good. Satan works dramatically, explosively for evil many times and wants to get our attention because he's the ultimate narcissist. Well, it's been a long lesson, but providence is because it hits the ground on suffering, we all agree on some things.

So let me just conclude by looking at Ephesians 1:11, because this is such a critical passage. So Ephesians 1:11, if you're coming from meticulous providence perspective, "He works all things according to the council of His will." The council of His will or the purpose of His will is this sovereign decree plan done back before the creation of the world. And there's a script by which we are living this out. So everything happens according to the strategic plan of God, down to meticulous detail before He created everything. That's that view. My view, active providence, is the council of God's will is to crush the serpent, and He's working everything in order to crush the serpent. But in this war, there's stuff that He loses the battle. The council of His will is not an ultimate strategic plan written out in detail before creation. The council of His will is to crush the serpent and to have us be beautiful bride for His precious Son and have everything be brought together in Christ for the praise of His glory. That's the council of His will.

And in there on the ship, there's all kinds of stuff that happens, but the plan will be new earth and evil put in another place. The Armenian view are going to read this, God is working out everything according to the purpose of His will, the purpose of His will is to have people saved. So He is working things to the level that He can so that the maximum number of people will get saved and join the us in Christ and have the glory of being with God in heaven forever. So the difference here is what is the council of His will or the purpose of His will?

Is it a strategic plan written before creation? Is it a plan to crush the serpent and have us be a beautiful bride? Or is it God hoping that people will respond to His call to salvation? We can't predetermine what the council of the will is. We have to show that biblically, and that's the trick. And what annoys me, since I get annoyed pretty easily, are the Calvinists who just assume the only possible biblical answer of council of His will is the strategic plan written before the creation of world. That's not the only possibility. Or they take place where God ordains down to the detail and say He always ordains the detail because of this passage. He does work all things, but the person's will is not a strategic plan necessarily. All right, I'm going to quit. Questions?

In Genesis where it talks about the fall of Adam and Eve where they sinned against God, where did sin originate?

It originated in the heavenlies with Satan who becomes the serpent who tempts them. Most evangelicals would agree with that. The origin of sin in this world, again, what does [inaudible] mean there? The origin of sin in the land is when Eve and then Adam, I think define for themselves good, bad versus trusting God to define good, bad. And that betrayal of the relationship is the heart of sin, as I look at it. But evil, the rebelling against God is in the heavenlies. Tim Mackie suggests from Ezekiel 28 that the throne bearing cherub wants to be on the throne instead of carrying the throne. It's hinted at in Ezekiel 28, but we have no answer for it. 1 Timothy 3:7 talks about don't get a young convert, lest he fall into pride, and identifies that as a sin of the devil. We just get these hints, but no explanation of what happened, but sin originated in the heavenlies would be a very common answer, and I think it's the right answer. But what is it? We don't know.

Is part of the answer of God not destroying evil wrapped up in the parable, the wheat and the tares, where if God took all the evil out of the world, He'd have to destroy all the world itself because it's so entwined in what's going on?

I think the wheat and the tares, that's Jesus' parable, because we want to go in and get the weeds out of the wheat and He says, "No, you'd destroy the wheat in the process. Wait till the end to do it." I think that is a metaphor. I think the reason... When I tell stories, because I've taught in Beirut a number of times and have Syrian friends. When the Syrian civil war broke out here a few years ago, it was horrible beyond words. And one of my friends was literally blown out. He was a small businessman who ran a church in his home, and his church was blown up, his home was blown up, and he's now refugee in Germany, living a very difficult life.

And he spent a bit of time in the Beqaa Valley there in Lebanon as refugee. Now my story, not his, he's in his tent there in the Beqaa Valley, wife, two little kids, and his wife can hardly move. She's so exhausted. The kids are crying, because there's no food and she has nothing left to give them. He walks into a little town near the refugee village and there's a shop with some food laid out for display. What's his temptation? Grab it and run. Could the United States stop the Syrian civil war? Yeah, go nuke the place. Turn into concrete. That'd stop it. But my friend would die in that process. That's an analogy.

Why doesn't God just stop it now? I think he will. Revelation 19, when Jesus comes back, He will bring it to a conclusive end. But there'll be a lot of people on the ground and their flesh being eaten by carrion birds. And some of those people, and that's what he says, I want everybody to come to repentance. Everybody. Nobody perish. I want them to come to repentance. So the term is collateral damage. That's the best answer we've got, but it's not a satisfying answer. But again, I look at some of these people that have come to Christ, had Jesus come back 30 years ago, would be in hell. And I say, "Okay, Lord, come back quickly, spare my loved ones, and take everybody else." Well, that's the wheat and the tares. It didn't work like that, but He will shut the system down, but not yet.

I read a book the other day on the problem of pain, and I think I know what your response is going to be, but I wanted to ask you, the author was making the point that a lot of things that we may consider more like natural evil or something are actually ultimately manmade. He talks about wearing a really nice cheap shirt. How does the shirt get so cheap? Well, we have slave labor in western China with little children sewing on the buttons. Or if you like Michelin tires, if you know the history of Michelin, they enslaved huge sections of Indo-China to create rubber. And so by buying nice cheap shirts or driving on Michelin tires, am I in essence making these evils human evil and not natural evil?

There's certainly a lot of that. Since I've got cancer, everybody in the world wants to tell me why I've got cancer and what natural remedy will fix it. But that idea of what is the cause of cancer, I think it's a lot more complicated than just a broken world. I think our lifestyle and other things contribute to that. Certainly the explosion of cancer in the past few years has some cause other than just luck. There are systemic and environmental actions of some sort.

So yeah, I think the cause of evil is much, much, much more complex, and we tend to simplify it and make one bad guy or one, whatever it is. I think there's a lot more agency involved, demonic agency as well as human agency in what appears to be natural evil. So when Mount St. Helen's blew up, just up the road here a ways, Harry Truman was there. "How I love this old Mountain and she loves me, and if she kills me, I'll die happy." I don't know what he said, but crusty old guy. And when it blew, he was dead in a heartbeat. Was that a tragedy that Harry Truman died? Harry Truman, is that his name? That's the President, whatever his name was.

As long as people know it's not the President.

Yeah, he wasn't President Truman. Yeah, but he was kind of a legend around here. Crusty old guy. Well, he chose to be there knowing full well the mountain might blow up and kill him. And so is it a tragedy? Yeah, in one sense. His lodge is gone. A lot of people really enjoyed his lodge there on Spirit Lake, but he's the guy that chose to be there. When we build our houses in the midst of the forest and the forest fire comes and burns your house, that's tragic. But duh, come on. I can't say it's completely environmental and creation. Yeah, so there's agents. I'm giving you obvious examples, but there's certain agency involved more than I think we really... Because we want to blame somebody else.


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