About Providence, Divine Action and the Church

In this blog, Terry J. Wright posts thoughts and shares research on the Christian doctrine of providence. This doctrine testifies to God’s provision for all things through creation’s high priest, the man Christ Jesus. However, the precise meaning and manner of this provision is a perpetually open question, and this blog is a forum for discussion of the many issues relating to providence and the place of the Church within God’s action.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Don't Panic!

Jill Carlson Colwell, ‘“One Who Trusts Will Not Panic”: Providence and the Prophet of Desecuritization’, Ex Auditu 24 (2008), pp. 101–121

Since 9/11 in the United States, 7/7 in London, and various other terrorist attacks around the world, including this week's bombing and shootings in Norway, the matter of security has never been too far from political minds. But in truth, there has never been such a thing as security, if by this is meant absolute protection from the unknown future. And it is not only the terrorist threat that is at issue; environmental, economical and social factors all play significant parts in the development of a concept of security. Thus the only real issue, suggests Jill Carlson Colwell in this intriguing essay, is where – or in whom – we place our security. Given God’s sovereignty over all things, however this is conceived, there is no need to panic. There is only a need to trust God.

Drawing from the Book of Isaiah and John Calvin, Colwell argues that the desire or perceived need to locate one’s security in someone or something other than God is an act of unfaithfulness to God. The point is that an appropriate fear of God displaces all other fears; it is, in fact, an act of desecuritization that puts its trust in God rather than in the help of other people or things. On this account, threats to security are actually challenges to be faced while living righteous lives in accordance to God’s commands.

Colwell is aware that not all will accept Isaiah or Calvin’s pictures of God causing all things, but maintains that most Christians assume that somehow God’s ultimate purposes will one day be achieved. Thus the doctrine of providence has something very relevant to say about fear and security:

By assuring us of God’s ultimate sovereignty over all of history, the doctrine of providence frees us to act boldly and righteously in the face of fear, aligning our practices and policies with the values of God’s kingdom and trusting that God will honor this risk and will conform it to God’s good purposes in the end. (p. 121).

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