Precious Providence

Last Christmas, as I was looking through old pictures of my dad's family, I learned something about my late Grandpa. My dad's dad was a pilot in the military with a dramatic story that brought to life the importance of sound theology.

"Providence" is God's ongoing relationship with His creation.

According to my dad, my Grandpa was flying his jet off of Greenland and, due to a malfunction, had a slow decompression in the cockpit. This resulted in something called "the bends," or nitrogen bubbles in the blood and brain. As a result, he temporarily lost his vision! Flying! The first resort would have been to bail out, but the water temperature would've killed him within a minute or so.

But his wingman, Tom, was in the right place at the right time. He flew beside my grandpa and talked to him about direction, altitude, airspeed, and probably helped keep him calm all the way back to the runway's final approach. From there, the tower control talked him down to a landing. Whew! You can imagine how intrigued I was to hear all this.

The year was 1953, which sobered me because that meant my dad hadn't even been conceived. No Grandpa . . . no dad . . . no me.

The point of that story isn't that I was born (though I hope someone's happy about that). What struck me were the implications of God's care and control before I ever knew Him. As I sat there thinking about it, I realized everything had to happen at just the right time and in just the right way in order for that flight to end without disaster.

That wasn't just "chance." That was God. He intervened in order to bring about His purposes.

The truth sets us joyfully free—even in the midst of the most mind-blowing circumstances.

So what does this have to do with theology and your life? Oh, so much! My example is a small illustration of what theologians refer to as God's providence. Although the term providence isn't found in Scripture, it's used to denote God's ongoing relationship with His creation. I've enlisted Dr. Wayne Grudem's very helpful Systematic Theology to help us understand this wonderful truth.

In order to grasp what providence is, I thought it'd be useful to quickly identify what it stands opposed to. Dr. Grudem names four errors that we avoid when we hold to this doctrine:

  1. Deism—God created us and unleashed us to figure it all out.
  2. Pantheism—Everything we see in creation is actually a part of God—the two aren't separate.
  3. Chance—Everything is random.
  4. Fate—Embracing the slogan, "Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be."

None of these are a right or sufficient understanding of God's relationship to His creation and, in my opinion, lead to a miserable understanding of life. But, the truth sets us joyfully free—even in the midst of the most mind-blowing circumstances. Next week we'll continue to take a look at this wonderfully comforting doctrine, and I'll show you how right thinking about God (doctrine) leads to extravagant worship of God (doxology).

About the Author

Lindsay Swartz

Lindsay Swartz

Lindsay Swartz serves at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) as the managing editor of content. She completed her Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and currently makes her home in Nashville, Tennessee, where she loves … read more …

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