The Extent of God's Providence
Russell Moore is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He formerly served as Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. Dr. Moore is the author of The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective (Crossway, 2004) and Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Crossway, May 2009).
- 2008 Dec 14
Some of us think that God rules providentially over the broad parameters, the “big things,” but not over the incidental details of history or of our lives. But, as I’ve noted before, so much of history–and our lives–is itself detail driven. The Bible tells us God raises up and tears down nations and rulers–the kinds of spectacular things we read about in our history books and hear about it in real time on CNN. But Jesus also tells us that a bird doesn’t hit a window and break its neck apart from the Father’s care.
It turns out God saves the world through very minute and (it seems) random details. Apologist Peter Kreeft puts it this way: “If one Egyptian tailor hadn’t cheated on the threads of Joseph’s mantle, Potiphar’s wife would never had been able to tear it, present it as evidence to Potiphar that Joseph attacked her, gotten him thrown in prison, and let him be in a position to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, win his confidence, advise him to store seven years of grain, and save his family, the seventy original Jews from whom Jesus came. We owe our salvation to a cheap Egyptian tailor.”
Think of all the biblical prophecies that are dependent on the tiniest of details. What if Pilate had decided to whisk Jesus off to Alexandria, to protect him from the crowds? What if Judas had been murdered on his way to betray Jesus? What if the guards at Golgotha had decided to break Jesus’ bones to make it easier to pull him down from the cross? What if Paul had drowned in his first shipwreck because he wasn’t paying attention to a tidal surge, preventing him from taking the gospel to the Gentiles? We’d all be in hell right now. But God’s purposes aren’t dependent on chance or luck. He works all things out according to the counsel of his will.