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.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

When God Breaks Promises

Haydn McLean, my previous posts about whom have proven to be popular, if Blogger stats are anything to go by, has an essay coming out soon – ‘Promises, Promises’ – in the Journal of Pastoral Counselling. Here’s the abstract:

Presenting a pledge to another establishes expectation in the recipient for the commitment to be fulfilled, particularly when a promise is devoid of coercion. Defaulting on a commitment may damage relationships between people and may predispose the disenchanted recipient to distrust those who proffer succeeding commitments. The Divine has pledged providential care to his people. God’s advocates who have been disappointed by his evident under-delivery may experience a crisis of faith, exemplified in attachment distress, when disappointment intimates God has over-promised his providence, which questions the nature and, ultimately, the relevance of God.

And here’s a quotation from the essay’s closing paragraph:

Those who have known the sting of disappointment, when a promise does not materialize, may find their relationships crippled and their trust eroded. Life itself may become untrustworthy and undependable, as people withdraw from disappointing relationships to avoid further disillusionment or broken trust. Likewise, a God who over-promises and under-delivers, breaking the trust inherent in Divine promises, provokes alienation from God, as his people seek to protect themselves from disenchantment or unfulfilled promises. God’s reputation—and relevance—is dependent on God’s willingness to fulfill his promises and give his people what they need. God had the potential to establish realistic expectations for his providence, but he declined … to abstain from instituting promises he could not keep.

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