A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
By Benjamin Montoya
About the Author
Bruce A. Ware (Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written numerous journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, and has authored God’s Lesser Glory and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Chapter 1 Considering the Enduring Questions and Necessary Features of Divine Providence
Part 1 Foundational Theological Bases for Divine Providence
Chapter 2 Framework for Understanding God and Creation: God’s Transcendent Self-Existence and Immanent Self-Relatedness
Chapter 3 Ruling Over Creation: Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom (Features 1-3)
Chapter 4 Ruling Through Creation: Divine-Human Concurrence (Features 4-5)
Chapter 5 Ruling With Creation: Divine-Human Relationality (Features 6-10)
Part 2 Practical Christian Relevance of Divine Providence
Chapter 6 Living Behind God: Veiled to the Purpose of God in Suffering
Chapter 7 Living Before God: Trusting the Character of God in Prayer
Chapter 8 Living Under God: Seeing the Generosity of God in Our Service to Him
Conclusion Chapter 9 On Narrowing the “Distance from Majesty”: Longing to Behold God More as He Is
Appendix: Chapter 10 Defining Evangelicalism’s Boundaries Theologically: Is Open Theism Evangelical?
In This Book, You Will Learn:
- What the doctrine of divine providence means
- How to understand God’s transcendence and immanence together
- What the meaning of middle knowledge is
- How God rules over and with creation
- What the practical significance of the doctrine of divine providence is
- Why we should think of God as majestic and deserving of glory
The Contribution of This Book:
This book is the companion volume to Bruce Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory. That book explained and addressed what is known as open theism. That book focused primarily on providing a negative assessment of open theism because it contradicts so much of the Bible’s teaching about God. This book, however, develops the doctrine of God’s providence positively. Read rightly, both books help us understand how to think more about God by considering what we should think and what we should avoid. In the end, both books are intended to point us to our great God whom we should live, serve, and worship with deep reverence in light of how majestic He is.
Introduction: Chapter 1: Considering the Enduring Questions and Necessary Features of Divine Providence
God’s providence is a doctrine that can provide much comfort. Even people who express no dout it whatsoever, however, can begin to worry when they get on an airplane. Nevertheless, a good understanding of this doctrine can alleviate fears. But, how should it be defined? The following is the definition used throughout this book: “God continually oversees and directs all things pertaining to the created order in such a way that 1) he preserves in existence and provides for the creation he has brought into being, and 2) he governs and reigns supremely over the entirety of the whole of creation in order to fulfill all of his intended purposes in it and through it.” God is in control. He is governing and reigning supremely in a way that no one else can. This definition, though, raises some other important questions that this book will consider in more detail.
First, what is the relation of divine providence to human freedom? The definition above seems to make no room for human freedom; does it still exist? Second, what is the relation of divine providence to moral responsibility? This question focuses on morality because if God is in complete control, then why are people responsible for their actions? Third, what is the relation of divine providence to good and evil respectively? If all creation is for God’s purposes, then how does evil fit in if God is truly good? Fourth, what is the relation of divine providence to natural law? Is it even real in light of providence? Fifth, what is the relation of divine providence to salvation? That is, how does it relate to election and people’s choice to follow Christ? Sixth, what is the relation of divine providence to practical expressions of the Christian faith, such as prayer, evangelism, and Christian service? Seventh, what is the relation of divine providence to the very nature and character of God?
Any model of divine providence must have certain features. First, there must be an exhaustive and meticulous divine sovereignty of God. Scripture points to this clearly in several texts such as Deuteronomy 32:39, Psalm 135:5–6, Isaiah 45:5–7, Daniel 4:34–35, Romans 9:6–26, and Ephesians 1:11. Second, divine sovereignty and human freedom are compatible concepts within the Bible. Two reasons support this point. First, the nature of the divine sovereignty requires that every aspect of created reality fit within it. Second, Scripture requires both divine sovereignty and human freedom. Scripture demonstrates repeatedly that the two concepts are compatible in texts like Genesis 45:4–8, 50:20; Isaiah 10:5–19; Habakkuk 1:6–17; Acts 2:23, 4:27–28; and Romans 9:6–26. The third feature of divine providence is that human freedom is of inclination, not libertarian or contra-causal freedom. Fourth, God’s relationship to good and evil is asymmetrical, such that He causes good events to happen in a different way that He permits evil to occur. Fifth, God has a middle knowledge of what people could freely choose to do. Sixth, God is omnipresent and omnitemporal. Seventh, God is both immutable and mutable. Eighth, there are necessary and contingent divine qualities. Ninth, there is a uniqueness of real relationality with God. Tenth, God’s glory alone is the ultimate purpose for the God-world relationship.
Part 1: Foundational Theological Bases for Divine Providence
Chapter 2: Framework for Understanding God and Creation: God’s Transcendent Self-Existence and Immanent Self-Relatedness
Doing theology well involves balancing concepts well. For example, God is both transcendent and immanent. He exists in the fullness of his infinitely glorious tri-Person unity and apart from the finite spatio-temporal created reality He freely brought into existence; yet, He immanent, near, and involved with every aspect of the created order. To understand the doctrine of God’s providence, these two concepts must be balanced together as one thinks about the other. To over- or deemphasize one concept in favor for the other will create theological problems because Scripture presents God with both attributes. These theological ideas can be identified as the position as of what is known as classical theism.
These ideas, however, have come under fire from more recent theologians. Some have critiqued both concepts while others have stressed one over the other. The primary theological issue that gave rise to this book and its counterpart, God’s Lesser Glory, is open theism. This position overemphasizes God’s immanence to the exclusion of God’s transcendence. Some of them base this argument on the reality of the incarnation of the Son of God in the person of Jesus Christ. God revealed himself as fully God and fully man in Christ. But, God’s revelation of himself in Christ is. . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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