|drawn by the fabulous Rachel Nigh|
The act of creation is nonrepeatable; as a work “out of nothing” it effects the transition from nonbeing to being, and establishes the relation between Creator and creature. Providence is a different work, directed to that which has already been given life by God; it is an act of preserving rather than making. Because of this, providence is not to be thought of as continuing creation, that is, as a ceaseless repetition of the act of bringing the world into being. This not only confuses “bringing into being” and “sustaining in being,” but also undermines the integrity and stability of created reality, mischaracterizing the divine act of creation by failing to grasp that it is a gift of dependent but real being and freedom in relation to God.
John Webster, ‘Providence’, in Kelly M. Kapic and Bruce L. McCormack, Mapping Modern Theology: A Thematic and Historical Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), pp. 203–226; quotation from p. 206
I should be clearer: this quotation comes from a section of Webster’s essay on providence where he outlines classical Christian theology on providence. I’m not sure if this quotation reflects his own position on continuous creation; I suspect it might. Regardless, it’s a good, clear quotation worthy of posting!