The place of God’s providence in my theology

I have been musing lately about how my stance on the creation/evolution controversy would impact other areas of theology if applied consistently. The stance I’m referring to is my conviction that viewing the history of the natural universe as a string of miraculous interventions into nature is hopelessly misguided. I have argued that the atheistic science apologists and the fiat creationists find themselves in agreement on a falsehood, namely that there’s either a natural or a supernatural explanation for the physical phenomena of the cosmos. While agreeing in principle with those two groups, the God-of-the-gaps philosophy known as Intelligent Design tries to bridge the gap a bit and posits an admixture of natural and supernatural explanations that end up sounding arbitrarily inconsistent: the leading ID advocates accept common descent as predicted and confirmed by the scientific method but paradoxically insist that the theory of evolution is insufficient to explain natural phenomena without the aid of Someone/something (nah, just Someone) else whose interventions must remain unrecoverable by the scientific method. One is left wondering where the natural explanations stop and the supernatural ones begin, or even why one must stop for the other to begin.

In contrast, I and most other Christian advocates of evolution with whom I have interacted believe that the natural explanation for the physical world is the supernatural explanation and vice versa. We are wasting our time looking for secrets hidden in the natural world that point to God, because God simply built the universe as He wanted it using the natural laws He Himself created, and He now continues to sustain it in the same way.

Now, I wouldn’t argue that there is no such thing as miracles, defined as supernatural interventions into nature – obviously, Christ’s resurrection would be an example of one I affirm – but I don’t believe that supernatural events are regular occurrences that may be expected to break in and suspend the laws of nature at any time for any reason. Rather, I believe that, with relatively rare but monumental exceptions, the supernatural hand of God is sovereignly working out His will through the channels the Lord designed. I hear the objection, “But why should God be subject to His own rules?” My answer: why in the world did He even bother making the laws of nature if they require breaking any time He wants to get something done? Why hire a landscaping crew whose ability to perform you distrust and whom you’re going to be continually sending home so that you can accomplish the things that you want to in your yard by yourself? The physical world isn’t a prison that God is free of but breaks into occasionally to visit the prisoners: it’s the way God wanted the universe to be. This doesn’t downplay the miraculous, but rather makes it the more remarkable. Miracles are intended to shake up our world, rattle us out of our complacency, shatter our expectations, and demonstrate in full color God’s mastery over His creation. If miracles are to be expected, if they are the nuts and bolts of the Kingdom of God, then miracles are not miraculous but commonplace; as one of my professors at college said, “To argue that miracles are a normal, predictable part of the Christian life is in effect to deny the existence of miracles.” God doesn’t need miracles to get things done but to confirm to us that He is getting things done. Miracles aren’t for Him – they’re for us, and we need them a lot less than we think we do.

I have begun to notice that this coalesces with my view of God’s work in the world in ways other than cosmogony. For instance, my view of the origin and nature of the Bible is one of God ordaining, intending, willing us to have what the human authors wrote about their experiences with Him and the revelation they received. I refuse to read mystical messages into Scripture as some are fond of doing particularly to passages with little to no direct application for our life situations; I have been critical of an attempt to make Genesis mean something eschatological, insisting that it was never viewed as such by the original authors. In short, authorial intent is the fundamental hermeneutic with which we should approach Scripture.

Many Christians have been trying desperately to rescue biblical interpretation from the restrictive clutches of an authorial intent hermeneutic and hand it back to God, allowing Him to do what He really wants to do with it. If, as these argue, the Bible is a supernatural document – a miracle – rather than a natural, historical testimony empowered by Providence, then we who interpret the Bible based fundamentally upon authorial intent interpretations are putting God in a box. But even if that is so, what if God wants it that way? What if He were indeed inside a box of sorts, but willingly? Is the Bible somehow less useful or meaningful because He didn’t deliver us a pure chunk of divine truth, inerrant and brimming with divine revelation? The Bible is empowered by His intent, not by a miraculous origin, and its message is thus contained in that intent which in turn can only be realized from recognizing it in the context in which He ordained it.

Why do evangelicals tend to think of all of this as a letdown? Is it that we want signs and wonders to validate our faith? I’m sure that plays into it (especially among a certain segment), but another important factor is that we firmly believe our faith is to be relevant to us but cannot see how it can be unless we receive something personalized from God, something tailored to fit each of us in our circumstances of life. But this is where the little dialog I recently wrote comes in. We demand more from God than the blessings He has seen fit to bestow on us. We are too busy making those demands based upon our own expectations to appreciate the gifts and mission He gave us. I need something for me, now, today, special guidance that makes me feel significant and addresses my own perceived needs; I then have the audacity to pretend that the primary reason I’m asking those things of God is to help me help Him, as though “Scratch my back and I’ll scratch Yours” were the sort of bargain we should strike up with a supreme Being. What I really need is a book that will give me nuggets of truth beyond what it was originally written for, insight greater than that which those who first heard those words were able to receive. God’s sovereign providence isn’t enough: I need some of that magic.

But isn’t life itself miraculous enough? God doesn’t just fill in the gaps, or add flourishes to boring parts of the picture; nor is He a watchmaker who winds up the watch and then goes about some other business. He’s always at work in our universe, always moving, always guiding us through the example of His son, the Word of God made flesh who dwelt among us. He is the focal point of both the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature.

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  • Can’t do much else but agree with you Steve.

    Amen.

  • Can’t do much else but agree with you Steve.

    Amen.

  • Nice job, Steve! I can’t do much else but agree with Damian. 😉

  • Nice job, Steve! I can’t do much else but agree with Damian. 😉

  • Thanks, guys. Glad you agree with me – and with one another. 🙂

  • Thanks, guys. Glad you agree with me – and with one another. 🙂

  • Of course, you already know that I am in agreement with you here. But a little caveat. I am finding Mike Gene’s book (The Design Matrix) a fascinating read. My background in biology and genetics is way too insufficient to evaluate the strength of his argument. But from what I understand, his view is one that merits serious consideration. He is not a Discovery Institute ID guy (he is critical of that brand of ID), but he does take up some of the stronger premises of ID and shows how a purposeful Creator might have “front-loaded” genetics in such a way that evolution would naturally tend toward increasing complexity, and result in beings such as ourselves. After that Creation moment, his hands would be off of the process. The predictions that such a theory makes are substantially fulfilled within the science of genetics, and in fact his theory seems to explain many mysteries for which pure Darwinism has no answers. I would very much like it if you would pick up a copy and comment. (or maybe you have a comment now?)

  • Of course, you already know that I am in agreement with you here. But a little caveat. I am finding Mike Gene’s book (The Design Matrix) a fascinating read. My background in biology and genetics is way too insufficient to evaluate the strength of his argument. But from what I understand, his view is one that merits serious consideration. He is not a Discovery Institute ID guy (he is critical of that brand of ID), but he does take up some of the stronger premises of ID and shows how a purposeful Creator might have “front-loaded” genetics in such a way that evolution would naturally tend toward increasing complexity, and result in beings such as ourselves. After that Creation moment, his hands would be off of the process. The predictions that such a theory makes are substantially fulfilled within the science of genetics, and in fact his theory seems to explain many mysteries for which pure Darwinism has no answers. I would very much like it if you would pick up a copy and comment. (or maybe you have a comment now?)

  • Cliff,

    Mike Gene sent me a complimentary copy of his book, which I intend to read and comment on after I finish Lamoureux’s Evolutionary Creation.

  • Cliff,

    Mike Gene sent me a complimentary copy of his book, which I intend to read and comment on after I finish Lamoureux’s Evolutionary Creation.

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,
    Hmmm. Not sure I am in the chorus saying “me too”! Something you said strikes a non-chord with me. You said “He’s always at work in our universe, always moving”
    Now, if indeed this universe He created had all the elements needed to keep it ticking, and what happens happens because it was “all part of the plan”, then why would God need to work at all? This perfectly tuned creation would not have any need of a miracle, because it was all pre-designed to work perfectly within its own design parameters!
    So then, the only thing God would “need” to be doing in the universe would be resting and watching how it all unfolds, and then being ready to partake of the harvest when it comes to maturity!
    So then, are you implying that the “work” God is doing is kind of like “fertilizing the crop” or “pruning the branches”, and if He is doing that, then He would need to do it outside the design parameters, because ostensibly, the original design was completely sufficient for all growth to take place.
    Hence, that is the reason many want and even EXPECT miracles – because the creation, as it is, is insufficient to provide all we need. We need something extra, and that something extra is OUTSIDE of the original design parameters.
    I don’t believe that the original design needed Jesus Christ to die. I believe that Adam could have fulfilled what He was “designed” to fulfill, but that little thing called human will and free choice got in the way.
    I am not saying that God could not have predicted that it was going to happen, and already knew what the remedy would have to be if it occurred. Yet, it DID occur. Do you think that all of the original stuff needed was present in the universe to handle what Adam did without the need of a miracle (virgin birth, God in the flesh, etc.) to intervene?
    So then, what are you really saying about the work that God is about all the time? I would say that if you insist that God is working, then you have to say He is doing something in that work that is requiring Him to step outside the original design and (dare I say it) – perform miracles?

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,
    Hmmm. Not sure I am in the chorus saying “me too”! Something you said strikes a non-chord with me. You said “He’s always at work in our universe, always moving”
    Now, if indeed this universe He created had all the elements needed to keep it ticking, and what happens happens because it was “all part of the plan”, then why would God need to work at all? This perfectly tuned creation would not have any need of a miracle, because it was all pre-designed to work perfectly within its own design parameters!
    So then, the only thing God would “need” to be doing in the universe would be resting and watching how it all unfolds, and then being ready to partake of the harvest when it comes to maturity!
    So then, are you implying that the “work” God is doing is kind of like “fertilizing the crop” or “pruning the branches”, and if He is doing that, then He would need to do it outside the design parameters, because ostensibly, the original design was completely sufficient for all growth to take place.
    Hence, that is the reason many want and even EXPECT miracles – because the creation, as it is, is insufficient to provide all we need. We need something extra, and that something extra is OUTSIDE of the original design parameters.
    I don’t believe that the original design needed Jesus Christ to die. I believe that Adam could have fulfilled what He was “designed” to fulfill, but that little thing called human will and free choice got in the way.
    I am not saying that God could not have predicted that it was going to happen, and already knew what the remedy would have to be if it occurred. Yet, it DID occur. Do you think that all of the original stuff needed was present in the universe to handle what Adam did without the need of a miracle (virgin birth, God in the flesh, etc.) to intervene?
    So then, what are you really saying about the work that God is about all the time? I would say that if you insist that God is working, then you have to say He is doing something in that work that is requiring Him to step outside the original design and (dare I say it) – perform miracles?

  • Hi Cliff,

    I have not read it, and will likely not be able to for some time, unfortunately. I will, though, make a couple comments based upon what you are saying here. Bear in mind that I’m simply responding to your summary, not to his book (as yet unread by me).

    …but he does take up some of the stronger premises of ID and shows how a purposeful Creator might have “front-loaded” genetics in such a way that evolution would naturally tend toward increasing complexity, and result in beings such as ourselves.

    In theory, I don’t have a real problem with that being the case. To be sure, I can’t believe that there was ever a real chance that things wouldn’t have turned out as they have, although this perhaps may not have appeared that way at the time each evolutionary step took place. In other words, the process from our standpoint appears absolutely natural and random, but God was in control of it. I can imagine that probability for evolutionary events, when strung all together, would appear suggestive of God’s front-loading. (Does Gene present this line of reasoning at all?)

    But then again, I want to ask why He did it this way. If it were God’s intention to front-load the process and provide for design, then He could have done it a lot more efficiently and quickly than He apparently did. On the other hand, if He were content for natural processes to occur using regular laws of nature, it would have turned out like it has. I suppose my inclination is to presume that God didn’t set the deck as it were, but that out of all possible games, He chose the game that ended the way He wanted it to.

    My background in biology and genetics is way too insufficient to evaluate the strength of his argument.

    Understandable, but it does lead me to wonder what others with more “sufficient” backgrounds in biology and genetics think of his stuff. Do you know if pseudo-Gene (heheh) has had his work peer reviewed (other than critical reviews of his book)? If it has been peer reviewed, I’d be interested in the response.

    The predictions that such a theory makes are substantially fulfilled within the science of genetics, and in fact his theory seems to explain many mysteries for which pure Darwinism has no answers.

    No answers…yet? In other words, I’m asking whether it’s a philosophical adjustment of the theory of evolution or more of an evidentiary critique, i.e. an argument based on something that future scientific discoveries might overturn/be able to offer its own solutions to? If the former, I’d like to hear it. If the latter…well, been there, etc.

    Please note that these misgivings are all sight-unseen. I have not written him off by any stretch of the imagination; rather, I’m looking for a reason to chase down his position (given that no one’s been able or willing to summarize it for some strange reason), and I wish to have a basic level of familiarity with his position between now and the time I’ll be able to read his book myself.

    Doug,

    Now, if indeed this universe He created had all the elements needed to keep it ticking, and what happens happens because it was “all part of the plan”, then why would God need to work at all?

    This quote suggests that you’ve missed my main point. You’re still presupposing a dichotomy between a recognition of the methods of God’s creation and an acknowledgment of His agency; it appears that, to you, there is a distinction between God doing something (using nature) and really doing things (supernaturally). I am saying that Christians are in effect robbing God of the credit for running our universe when they presume that He’s really rolling up His sleeves by working miracles. Every time water boils at 212º (F), God is moving. When a person’s cancer goes into remission as a result of medical treatment, God is moving. All proximate causes are attributable to God. Things happen because He wills it (“speaks” it, you might say), not because He needs to step in and micromanage the events in a mechanical sense. Keep in mind that I’m referring to the workings of nature being proximate causes versus the ultimate cause, of which we would remain unaware except by revelation. The testimony of Scripture is one such way of revealing His responsibility for certain things (e.g., the creation of the universe in Gen. 1.1). But at times He has revealed His intent and attention by stepping in and accomplishing His will in a more transparent way (e.g. the incarnation, the resurrection of Christ), and that’s what a miracle is.

    So then, what are you really saying about the work that God is about all the time? I would say that if you insist that God is working, then you have to say He is doing something in that work that is requiring Him to step outside the original design and (dare I say it) – perform miracles?

    I’m saying the exact opposite: when He performs miracles (and He does, even today), it is not because He is required to “step outside the original design,” as though He forgot to program nature to make everything turn out the way He wanted it to. Miracles have only ever been about demonstrating His power and provision for the sake of our observation, not because His design and control of the universe is insufficient to accomplish His purposes.

    Hope that helps!

  • Hi Cliff,

    I have not read it, and will likely not be able to for some time, unfortunately. I will, though, make a couple comments based upon what you are saying here. Bear in mind that I’m simply responding to your summary, not to his book (as yet unread by me).

    …but he does take up some of the stronger premises of ID and shows how a purposeful Creator might have “front-loaded” genetics in such a way that evolution would naturally tend toward increasing complexity, and result in beings such as ourselves.

    In theory, I don’t have a real problem with that being the case. To be sure, I can’t believe that there was ever a real chance that things wouldn’t have turned out as they have, although this perhaps may not have appeared that way at the time each evolutionary step took place. In other words, the process from our standpoint appears absolutely natural and random, but God was in control of it. I can imagine that probability for evolutionary events, when strung all together, would appear suggestive of God’s front-loading. (Does Gene present this line of reasoning at all?)

    But then again, I want to ask why He did it this way. If it were God’s intention to front-load the process and provide for design, then He could have done it a lot more efficiently and quickly than He apparently did. On the other hand, if He were content for natural processes to occur using regular laws of nature, it would have turned out like it has. I suppose my inclination is to presume that God didn’t set the deck as it were, but that out of all possible games, He chose the game that ended the way He wanted it to.

    My background in biology and genetics is way too insufficient to evaluate the strength of his argument.

    Understandable, but it does lead me to wonder what others with more “sufficient” backgrounds in biology and genetics think of his stuff. Do you know if pseudo-Gene (heheh) has had his work peer reviewed (other than critical reviews of his book)? If it has been peer reviewed, I’d be interested in the response.

    The predictions that such a theory makes are substantially fulfilled within the science of genetics, and in fact his theory seems to explain many mysteries for which pure Darwinism has no answers.

    No answers…yet? In other words, I’m asking whether it’s a philosophical adjustment of the theory of evolution or more of an evidentiary critique, i.e. an argument based on something that future scientific discoveries might overturn/be able to offer its own solutions to? If the former, I’d like to hear it. If the latter…well, been there, etc.

    Please note that these misgivings are all sight-unseen. I have not written him off by any stretch of the imagination; rather, I’m looking for a reason to chase down his position (given that no one’s been able or willing to summarize it for some strange reason), and I wish to have a basic level of familiarity with his position between now and the time I’ll be able to read his book myself.

    Doug,

    Now, if indeed this universe He created had all the elements needed to keep it ticking, and what happens happens because it was “all part of the plan”, then why would God need to work at all?

    This quote suggests that you’ve missed my main point. You’re still presupposing a dichotomy between a recognition of the methods of God’s creation and an acknowledgment of His agency; it appears that, to you, there is a distinction between God doing something (using nature) and really doing things (supernaturally). I am saying that Christians are in effect robbing God of the credit for running our universe when they presume that He’s really rolling up His sleeves by working miracles. Every time water boils at 212º (F), God is moving. When a person’s cancer goes into remission as a result of medical treatment, God is moving. All proximate causes are attributable to God. Things happen because He wills it (“speaks” it, you might say), not because He needs to step in and micromanage the events in a mechanical sense. Keep in mind that I’m referring to the workings of nature being proximate causes versus the ultimate cause, of which we would remain unaware except by revelation. The testimony of Scripture is one such way of revealing His responsibility for certain things (e.g., the creation of the universe in Gen. 1.1). But at times He has revealed His intent and attention by stepping in and accomplishing His will in a more transparent way (e.g. the incarnation, the resurrection of Christ), and that’s what a miracle is.

    So then, what are you really saying about the work that God is about all the time? I would say that if you insist that God is working, then you have to say He is doing something in that work that is requiring Him to step outside the original design and (dare I say it) – perform miracles?

    I’m saying the exact opposite: when He performs miracles (and He does, even today), it is not because He is required to “step outside the original design,” as though He forgot to program nature to make everything turn out the way He wanted it to. Miracles have only ever been about demonstrating His power and provision for the sake of our observation, not because His design and control of the universe is insufficient to accomplish His purposes.

    Hope that helps!

  • Thanks for your comment on my blog… nice to know some one out there finds it useful. Thanks also for the link.

  • Wow… good thoughts

  • Thanks for your comment on my blog… nice to know some one out there finds it useful. Thanks also for the link.

  • Wow… good thoughts

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,
    I guess I still don’t get your point. Have thought about it, and it SEEMS like you are saying that I believe in “Deux ex Machina”, so that I have to have God “step in” whenever I need rescuing, and that He does so by a miracle. At other times, you think, I believe God is NOT in the machine.
    That might be what others believe about miracles, but that’s not what I believe.
    Basically, I too see miracles in every sunset and every baby who is born, but I also see that a baby’s birth is just the way God designed it all, and although it “seems” miraculous that all the DNA can come together as it does and a new soul is brought into existence, in reality it IS a “God thing” simply by the fact that God made it possible for reproduction to happen inthe human realm. So, when people say “What a miracle” when they see a new baby, they are just expressing the delight in knowing that God was in the details all along, although it isn’t any less a “miracle” than a withered hand being healed by Jesus and letting us see that happen.
    I guess what I can’t really understand about your musings is whether you are cutting off God’s “special” intervention whenever we pray and ask for God to do something in a hopeless situation, whether itbe one of health, wealth, or relationships.
    There certainly ARE many times in my life where I was at the end of my rope, and if I didn’t believe that God “stepped in” to the situation and acted in a way that He wouldn’t have acted if I had not asked for help, then I would be a most miserable person indeed. I would never pray or ask God for anything again if I just believed that it was going to happen anyway, no matter what I did.
    So then, when He does do something “out of the ordinary” and He does it because I asked Him to, I see that as a miracle – not just business as usual.

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,
    I guess I still don’t get your point. Have thought about it, and it SEEMS like you are saying that I believe in “Deux ex Machina”, so that I have to have God “step in” whenever I need rescuing, and that He does so by a miracle. At other times, you think, I believe God is NOT in the machine.
    That might be what others believe about miracles, but that’s not what I believe.
    Basically, I too see miracles in every sunset and every baby who is born, but I also see that a baby’s birth is just the way God designed it all, and although it “seems” miraculous that all the DNA can come together as it does and a new soul is brought into existence, in reality it IS a “God thing” simply by the fact that God made it possible for reproduction to happen inthe human realm. So, when people say “What a miracle” when they see a new baby, they are just expressing the delight in knowing that God was in the details all along, although it isn’t any less a “miracle” than a withered hand being healed by Jesus and letting us see that happen.
    I guess what I can’t really understand about your musings is whether you are cutting off God’s “special” intervention whenever we pray and ask for God to do something in a hopeless situation, whether itbe one of health, wealth, or relationships.
    There certainly ARE many times in my life where I was at the end of my rope, and if I didn’t believe that God “stepped in” to the situation and acted in a way that He wouldn’t have acted if I had not asked for help, then I would be a most miserable person indeed. I would never pray or ask God for anything again if I just believed that it was going to happen anyway, no matter what I did.
    So then, when He does do something “out of the ordinary” and He does it because I asked Him to, I see that as a miracle – not just business as usual.

  • Doug,
    In all honesty, defining miracles the way you do waters down its definition to mean “business as usual” despite your protestations. For example, if you see a “miracle” in natural events such as sunrises and childbirth, what do you call it when God answers your prayer in a way that countermands those processes? If everything is a miracle, nothing is. That’s why I’m careful to make the distinction that sunrises and childbirth are God’s providence but events that interrupt normal processes are miracles. It’s well and good to say that God’s providential actions are wonderful and amazing, but in technical, theological discussions, it’s useful and in fact necessary to make a distinction in terms, even if your theology makes you believe they are indistinguishable.

    Another professor at college (somewhat of a Calvinist) once said, “I’ve heard a lot of Christians say, ‘Prayer changes things,’ and I agree. Prayer changes things: it changes me.” Asking for God’s help does satisfy our feelings of desperation but the important thing that’s going on is that we are acknowledging God’s lordship, faithfulness, and power over our lives when we do so. I frankly find it more amazing (what some might call “miraculous”) to believe that God knew I would feel at the end of my rope at 3:40 PM on September 3, 2012 and prepared a way out for me from before the foundations of the world. This doesn’t absolve me from the responsibility of submitting myself to Him in prayer over it. For all I know, it is my prayer that prompts His provision.

    Now, while I think all this is tenable, I will admit that I’m not sure about the whole providence issue when it comes to the will of humanity (or else I’d probably end up as a supralapsarian). I do tend to view the natural world, designed and controlled by God’s wisdom, as somewhat different from the will of man. As I see it, God is not at the mercy of the will of man, as many Calvinists charge the Arminian position with claiming, because He controls all the external factors (a view called compatibilism or Molinism).

    I would never pray or ask God for anything again if I just believed that it was going to happen anyway, no matter what I did.

    I’d have to say that this sentiment gives the impression that the only reason for prayer is getting something out of it; the fact is, we are actually commanded to pray and are even promised results, so it appears that God’s acts of providence – as well as any miracles – are dispensed to those who do pray and acknowledge His sovereignty over our situations. God does move – but He’s not required to do so supernaturally (thus He is no “deus ex machina”), although He frequently does perform “signs” for the benefit of our observation (this was my original point).

    Am I being any more clear?

  • Doug,
    In all honesty, defining miracles the way you do waters down its definition to mean “business as usual” despite your protestations. For example, if you see a “miracle” in natural events such as sunrises and childbirth, what do you call it when God answers your prayer in a way that countermands those processes? If everything is a miracle, nothing is. That’s why I’m careful to make the distinction that sunrises and childbirth are God’s providence but events that interrupt normal processes are miracles. It’s well and good to say that God’s providential actions are wonderful and amazing, but in technical, theological discussions, it’s useful and in fact necessary to make a distinction in terms, even if your theology makes you believe they are indistinguishable.

    Another professor at college (somewhat of a Calvinist) once said, “I’ve heard a lot of Christians say, ‘Prayer changes things,’ and I agree. Prayer changes things: it changes me.” Asking for God’s help does satisfy our feelings of desperation but the important thing that’s going on is that we are acknowledging God’s lordship, faithfulness, and power over our lives when we do so. I frankly find it more amazing (what some might call “miraculous”) to believe that God knew I would feel at the end of my rope at 3:40 PM on September 3, 2012 and prepared a way out for me from before the foundations of the world. This doesn’t absolve me from the responsibility of submitting myself to Him in prayer over it. For all I know, it is my prayer that prompts His provision.

    Now, while I think all this is tenable, I will admit that I’m not sure about the whole providence issue when it comes to the will of humanity (or else I’d probably end up as a supralapsarian). I do tend to view the natural world, designed and controlled by God’s wisdom, as somewhat different from the will of man. As I see it, God is not at the mercy of the will of man, as many Calvinists charge the Arminian position with claiming, because He controls all the external factors (a view called compatibilism or Molinism).

    I would never pray or ask God for anything again if I just believed that it was going to happen anyway, no matter what I did.

    I’d have to say that this sentiment gives the impression that the only reason for prayer is getting something out of it; the fact is, we are actually commanded to pray and are even promised results, so it appears that God’s acts of providence – as well as any miracles – are dispensed to those who do pray and acknowledge His sovereignty over our situations. God does move – but He’s not required to do so supernaturally (thus He is no “deus ex machina”), although He frequently does perform “signs” for the benefit of our observation (this was my original point).

    Am I being any more clear?