Doctrine Considered and Applied: Calvin on Providence, pt. 1
Years ago I ran my first triathlon. I enjoyed it and was happy that I didn’t drown. But as I emerged from the water and was running towards the beach I could hear the people standing on the beach cheering. At first, I thought they were cheering for someone else because I didn’t have any friends or family there with me. Upon getting closer, however, I realized that they were cheering for me as well as all of the other race participants. It was encouraging to hear these people cheering me on. In fact, the whole race there were people that were cheering the race participants along.
As I was running, I couldn’t help but think of Hebrews 12 and the great cloud of wit-nesses. I couldn’t help but think of the great saints of the church, people whom I had never met, cheering the church militant along in the race of life . . . rejoicing every time God is glorified in one way or another. It is this aspect of the body of Christ, its historical roots, that we do not often think about. Our Christian walk is often occupied with the here and now. However, I think it is often helpful and edifying to look back into the history of the church and learn from one of the titans of the faith. After all, many of the great theologians of the church were brilliant and gifted thinkers with intellectual acumen far surpassing any of us today. Moreover, not only were the giants of the past brilliant thinkers but the depth of their understanding was only matched by the passion and love for Christ. Hence, it behooves us to stand on the shoulders of the giants of the faith and see what in-sights they have to teach us about the Christian faith and life. In this vein exploring Calvin’s doctrine of providence seems like a very worthwhile endeavor.
What is Providence? Westminster defines it in the following manner:
“God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all crea-tures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immuta-ble counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy” (WCF 5.1).
Why reflect upon the doctrine of Providence? Because Providence is something that we seldom that we master. Most of us are able to praise God when Providence is good. What about in the midst of trial and tribulation? Can we still praise God and rejoice in his providence when things aren’t going well? This is why we should look to see what Calvin had to say about providence because it is something, that I believe, that Calvin understood in a number of ways. Understood in what sense? He mastered it in the sense that he truly understood the doctrine of Providence, not only intellectually, but personally.
Let’s therefore: (1) Turn to several passages of Scripture to see what the Word has to say about Providence. (2) Then turn to see what Calvin had to say about these passages of Scripture as well as the doctrine of providence. (3) Then, lastly, see in what ways Calvin lived this truth in his own life.
Stay tuned for part 2, next week!