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  • Virginia Brown

Parsing Providence

God upholds, directs, disposes, dictates, and governs all creatures, actions, and things ranging from the smallest to the largest (Westminster Confession of Faith, 5.1). Theologians label this doctrine as providence. God governs in different ways: there exists ordinary, special, and miraculous providence.

Ordinary providence pertains to (surprise!) ordinary events: the sun rising and setting, consistency in the rate of gravity, making a phone call, going for walk, etc. This form of God’s governance grabs our attention the least. Frankly, we take it for granted. We mustn’t do that, for Scripture teaches that Christ “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3).

Special providence occurs when God uses natural means to accomplish extraordinary events An example of this: the Dunkirk evacuation. During WWII, after a National Day of Prayer, some 338,000 allied soldiers were saved from certain death at the hands of the Nazis when a mist descended that protected the allied soldiers while a stillness blanketed the waters. Both unusual factors coalesced to allow for the naval evacuation, and this episode changed the overall trajectory of the War.

Miraculous providence occurs when God intervenes in a way that is not explicable by purely natural causes. The resurrection of Jesus Christ and the splitting of the Red Sea feature as great examples of miraculous providence. Miracles happen today—God still works in this manner.

Look closely for God’s work, and my hope is that this framework will aid you in that pursuit.

Pastor Chance

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