Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 5 - Divine Providence


5.1 GOD who, in infinite power and wisdom, has created all things, upholds, directs, controls and governs them, both animate and inanimate, great and small, by a providence supremely wise and holy, and in accordance with His infallible foreknowledge and the free and immutable decisions of His will. He fulfills the purposes for which He created them, so that His wisdom, power and justice, together with His infinite goodness and mercy, might be praised and glorified. [Job 38:11; Ps. 135:6; Isa. 46:10,11; Matt. 10:29-31; Eph. 1:11; Heb. 1:3.]

5.2 Nothing happens by chance or outside the sphere of God's providence. As God is the First Cause of all events, they happen immutably and infallibly according to His foreknowledge and decree, to which they stand related. Yet by His providence God so controls them, that second causes, operating either as fixed laws, or freely, or in dependence upon other causes, play their part in bringing them about. [Gen. 8:22; Prov. 16:33; Acts 2:23.]

5.3 Ordinarily, in His providence, God makes use of means; yet He is free to work without them, to give them efficacy above what they normally possess, and even to work contrary to them, at His pleasure. [Isa. 55:10,11; Dan. 3:27; Hos. 1:7; Acts 27:31,44; Rom. 4:19-21.]

I would like to make one comment about statement 5.2, just to preclude any misunderstanding. When we talk about God as the "first cause" and about other events as "second causes," we sometimes get the idea that God works like a train of dominoes. Domino 1 starts the chain reaction by falling against domino 2. Domino 2 falls against 3, 3 against 4, and so on. So God (domino 1) has only an indirect relationship with dominoes 3, 4, 5, etc. But this does not match the biblical information, nor is this what the statement 5.2 above is saying.

In biblical thought, God is directly involved in everything that happens (thus the statement above says that God is the first cause of all events). When we talk about secondary causation, we mean it in the sense that all of the causes we observe in this world are secondary to God's causation. The causes that we observe are part and parcel of God's operation. For example, when an apple falls to the ground, we attribute it to gravity. This is correct. But we may at the same time attribute it to God, for gravity is the outworking of God operating in, with, and by his creation.

When we think of this, it should make us worship. Psalm 104 is a perfect example for us:

"You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; He makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire....You make springs gush forth in the valleys....You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate....These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.... May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works...!"

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