One of the huge conundrums of scripture, indeed in one’s understanding of God, is the idea of providence – the control or management of future – even current – events.
I expect there are few doctrines in the protestant church that receive more wordsmithing and perhaps less genuine attention than this idea of providence. Which may be evidence of most peoples failure to fully grasp the concept.
In the Reformation Study Bible, which by the way, is an excellent study Bible whether you are of a reformed persuasion or not, there is this statement regarding providence.
It is sometimes supposed that God knows the future but does not control it; that He upholds the world, but does not intervene in it; or that He gives general direction, but is not concerned with details. The Bible emphatically rules out all such limitations of His providence.
Now on the surface that is fairly straight forward. God controls ALL things. It is a reflection of what the writer of Proverbs says in 16:9, “The heart of a man plans his ways, but the LORD establishes his steps.”
The piece continues with this:
God’s ‘concurrent’ or ‘confluent’ involvement in all that occurs does not violate the natural order, ongoing causal processes, or the free, responsible agency of human beings. God’s sovereign control does not take away the responsibility and power of second causes; on the contrary, they are created and have their roles by His appointment.
If you did not follow that, basically what they are saying is that if a person makes a decision contrary to the primary will of God, that’s okay, God knew the person would do that, in fact, had already set that decision as part of His sovereign will. So, it was really not contrary to His primary will. In some ways, this is similar to the Proverb, “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble (16:4).”
Frankly, when it comes to this idea of providence. I am not fully convinced where I would land if pressed for a decision. Accepting God’s interest, involvement, and yes even “control” over my life in general terms does not cause any friction. Believing that God is concerned whether I wear boxer shorts or tigthty whities is a stretch for me.
That does not mean I am a modified deist. It simply means that I struggle with some of the consequences of providence and sovereignty. I would choose the proverb, “Commit your work to the LORD and all your plans will be established (16:3).” For you folks who are strictly NT, Romans 8:28 would be your choice.
In reality, God is going to do what God is going to do. I may not understand it, agree with it, or find it comfortable, but it is what it is – I think.