Providence vs. Naturalism
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Now one of the things that jumps out at me about this verse is the strength of conviction that the Apostle expresses when he writes these words. You know, it wasn’t that he said, “I sure hope that everything is going to come out well in the end.” Or, “I believe that things will work out according to the will of God.” But he says, “For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, and are the called according to His purpose.” I mean, he’s speaking here with an apostolic assurance about an idea that is so basic and so fundamental to living the Christian life, that I think that we can from this passage derive great comfort. But I’m also afraid that in this day and age the strength of conviction that is expressed here by Paul is very much absent from our churches and from our Christian communities. And there’s been a striking change in our cultural understanding of the way in which our lives relate to the sovereign government of God.
Some of you in recent years had the opportunity to see the series on television, the mini-series on the Civil War. And one of the most moving segments of that series was when the narrator read letters that have survived from soldiers of both sides of the conflict in the war between the states. As they would write home to their loved ones, to their wives, or to their mothers or fathers on the eve of a battle, and they would talk about their concerns, and about their fears and their apprehensions. And yet they would say frequently in these letters, “But my life is in the hands of a good, benevolent, providence. And to Him do I trust myself body and soul.”
There was a time when people settled this country and they would name a city Providence, like the town in Rhode Island. But who in the world would do that in our culture today? The whole idea of divine providence has all but disappeared from our culture, and that’s a tragic thing. I think if any way in which the secular mindset has made inroads into the Christian community, it’s with a worldview that assumes that everything that happens out there, happens according to fixed, natural causes. And God, if He is anywhere doing anything, is above and beyond it all, and He’s just a spectator up in heaven looking down and perhaps rooting us on and cheerleading for us, but He has no immediate control over what happens here.
Whereas the Christians of the church of all centuries have always had an acute sense that this is our Father’s world, and that the affairs of men and nations, in the final analysis, are in His hands.