On Providence

With an incomprehensible God, the human mind will forever fall short of absolute understanding of His works and His being. One of the ways God is understood is through an understanding of how He interacts with His creation. Philosophers, both Christian and pagan, have debated this concept for millennia.

Albert Einstein famously said:

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

This pithy saying sounds faithful at first glance. When I first heard it, it resonated with me because I believed there was “a god” and this saying was deep and mysterious seeming. “Ooh, everything is a miracle…” is how I interpreted it. But old Albert failed to use biblical language properly, and we would do well to avoid the same pit.

Phil Johnson’s talk, Providence IS Remarkable is an excellent demonstration of how God actually does interact with His creation, including an explanation as to where the “miraculous” should fall into our thinking.

Here is an excerpt

But, notice this, the message they [the Twelve] proclaimed was not about the miracles. It was the same gospel Jesus preached, the parallel passage in Mark 6 verses 12 and 13 actually sums up their ministry this way, Mark 6:12 and 13 says, “They went out and proclaimed that people should repent.” That was the message. And here’s what validated the authority of that call to repentance. They cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. So Mark makes the point very clear, they did not preach about health and wealth and prosperity, or seed faith, or holy laughter, or how to be clairvoyant or positive confession, or any of the typical Charismatic themes. Their message was about repentance for the remission of sins just like Jesus. They were delivering the message of their Lord with authority, specifically delegated from Him for that purpose. And what you actually see here in Matthew 10 is the very beginning of the process that is described in Hebrews 2, verses 3 and 4. Which tells us that the gospel was at first declared by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will. And these uniquely miraculous gifts are referred to in 2 Corinthians 12:12 as the signs of a true Apostle, signs and wonders and mighty works.

And this:

I cannot stress this enough. When the Lord wants to reassure the Apostles that Almighty God is directly and personally and lovingly involved in their experience, and not only in their triumphs and successes, but also in their trials and sufferings.  Jesus doesn’t point them to the miracles.  He doesn’t talk about dreams and visions, or other mystical phenomena.  He doesn’t tell them to listen for a still small voice inside their own heads, and He certainly doesn’t tell them that their words have creative power, so, you know, when you encounter opposition, just go ahead and make a positive confession.

Instead, Jesus teaches them a truth we know as the doctrine of providence.  He stresses the fact that God is intimately involved in all the details of our lives, even when we can’t consciously sense His presence, even when we don’t understand what He’s doing or why He’s doing it.

I commend the entire sermon to you in audio format or you can read it here:

Strange Fire – The Mr Phil Johnson

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