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.

Monday, 18 March 2013

ReKnewing Providence

I’ve just stumbled across www.reknew.org, via Rachel Held Evans. It’s a Greg Boyd-led initiative inviting ‘believers and skeptics alike to ask tough questions and consider a renewed picture of God.’ The aims of this movement (is movement it be) are listed in the ReKnew manifesto. Of interest to me is that the doctrine of providence is listed as the fifth item in the manifesto. Here’s the full text of that item:

The dominant image of God within Christendom after Augustine (5th century) has been that of an all-controlling deity. The Church has therefore tended to espouse a “blueprint worldview” in which it has assumed every event that comes to pass conforms to a meticulous “blueprint” God had before the creation of the world. In this view, God wills (or at least allows) every particular event for a specific good reason—including each and every evil.

Our conviction is that the cross reveals the kind of power on which God relies: not power over others, but power under others. It is the power of self-sacrificial love—which is the greatest power there is, for it alone is able to transform hearts. Along with every church father before Augustine, therefore, our conviction is that “God is a God of persuasion, not coercion”—as Irenaeus (2nd century) put it. While God remains in control of the big picture, we believe God has given humans and angels free will, which means we have a degree of “say-so” over what comes to pass. We can either use that “say-so” to further God’s purposes, or to resist them. As such, we believe all evil is the result of the misuse of created free wills, whether human or angelic. In place of the “blueprint worldview,” therefore, we advocate a “warfare worldview” in which the creation is viewed as a battlefield between God and Satan, along with all created human and angelic agents who align themselves with one or the other.

Moreover, since creation includes free agents who have the power to resolve possible courses of actions into actual events, we believe the future is partly comprised of possibilities and that the all-knowing God therefore knows them as such. Yet, because God is infinitely intelligent and can anticipate future possibilities as effectively as certainties, we don’t believe God loses any providential advantage. Whatever comes to pass, God had been preparing a plan, from all eternity, on how he would bring good out of it in case it came to pass. So while we don’t believe everything happens for a good purpose, we believe everything happens with a good purpose—namely, the eternally prepared good purpose God had in place in case any given event came to pass.

I can see Boyd’s fingers in this, and I dare say it will be worth keeping an eye on the ReKnew website for comments on determinism, Open Theism, and related topics.

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