Quick Thoughts: Providence, Miracles and God’s Sustaining Work.


I was talking with some friends on Facebook about spiritual gifts and the topic got to the miraculous.  There was an interaction regarding providence and miracles, so I tossed in two cents worth.  Seeing that I’m not really blogging right now (and I ended up spending way more time writing a response than I was planning to), I thought I would double-dip and toss my thoughts up on here as well.

Here are some off-the-cuff thoughts on providence, miracles and sustenance.

And if I might be so bold, I might be able to help with the talk about “miracles” and “providence”.

The natural order of things is not providence, but God’s sustaining activity of the world. Matt. 5:45 talks about how “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”.

Natural laws are manifestations of God’s faithfulness, not *really* his providence.

In other words, the rate of which an object accelerates when in free fall is 9.8 m/s2 (nine point eight meters per second squared). When you hold a ball over the edge of a 60 story building and let it go, God is faithful at 9.8 m/s2 with regards to that ball, gravity, mass, etc.

Providence is God’s orchestration of events and circumstances for the outworking of his desired goals. Miracles are a temporary suspension of God’s natural manifestations of faithfulness for the purpose of a special revelation of his character or presence (usually in an event).

Here’s a passage that lays both miracles and providence side by side:

“(22) Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— (23) this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” – Acts 2:22-23.

So in verse 22, we have Jesus being attested to the Jews by God, by means of the healing and casting out of demons, as well as his other demonstrations of power over nature, circumstances and death. There’s a reason the Bible uses the terms “signs” and “wonders” but not “miracles”. Supernatural occurrences are always meant to point to whatever God is doing in a circumstance; they’re never ends in themselves.

But, in verse 23, we have Jesus being delivered unto the cross by means of the plan and foreknowledge of God; God laid it out in advance and accomplished it by means of thousands of people with wicked intentions, all thinking that they were acting freely and pursuing their own autonomous ends. None of them were aware of God’s hand bending and leaning them and causing to do exactly what needed to be done at exactly the right time, but that doesn’t matter to God one iota. God lets it be known that everyone, from the crowds to the Sanhedrin to the entire Roman court, was doing what he had laid out, in advance, for them to do.

reflections on Christ - crucifixion.

That is providence. That’s God doing what he wants done in a circumstance by orchestrating the desires of hearts, the political climates of times, the weather, etc. to bring his ends to pass exactly as he desires.

Just in case there’s confusion, God’s sustaining work is general; making things operate. God’s providential work is specific; making things operate unto a specific end. They’re very similar but not synonymous.

One lase note: God’s providence isn’t just something that occurs with special people or events; it involves every person and every event in history. God providentially orchestrates every life so that those lives are part of structures (i.e. churches, businesses, governments, etc.) and God orchestrates all those structures so that those structures are part of nations, and God orchestrates those nations to bring about his ultimate end for the universe, and the plan is everlasting…meaning that it began at creation and continues on infinitely.

Chew on that for a little.

And this is where I ask for comments, and fear that I’ve said something heretical or totally out to lunch that I haven’t yet noticed.  If you’re going to straighten me out, please be gentle!

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “The Armchair Theologian” Unger  (haven’t used that name in a long time…)


3 thoughts on “Quick Thoughts: Providence, Miracles and God’s Sustaining Work.

  1. I would not presume to know how to straighten you or anyone else out. I think my time would be better spent in that regard straightening myself out. I think however that by asking you a few simple questions it might help you to straighten out your own thinking. When you start off your examples using the constant of the acceleration due to gravity, I think you may be illustrating more about man’s perspective than anything to do with God’s laws. 9 8 m/s^2 works only at Earth’s surface. At the center of the earth one is actually weightless. When one reaches escape velocity and goes into continuous free fall one is essentially weightless once again. All of the metrics of an object falling off a 60 story building can be calculated to a fare thee well in classical or Newtonian physics. But in the end none of that is real, or any more real than using the term sunrise or sunset. Einstein showed what’s really happening when mass deforms space time. Yet even Einstein could not make his mind understand that objects can exist in two places at the same time, which is the truth in the world of quantum physics. Forces in nature can mimic other forces but be entirely dissimilar. Centrifical force can mimic gravity, but centrifical force is an imaginary force, not unlike the normal force, and therefore cannot affect time the way gravity can. Time itself is not a constant as it is affected by gravity and by velocity. You make illustrations of behavior that seem to suggest that behaviors are controlled to create a certain predetermined outcome. The work of E.O. Wilson suggests that ants can create very complicated structures with only a few very simple rules and behaviors. If the question is how sovereign is your God, why would you want to suggest any limitations as to outcomes based on mere human behavior and the vagaries associated with that behavior? The imaginary line called the present, where the past is swallowing the future, is merely a human perspective.

    • You didn’t ask me any simple questions outside of one.

      I don’t think we are talking about the same thing.

      I understand full well that the gravitational pull on Earth is different than all other places that are not Earth.

      • Lyndon, you have a gift. You can take the truth in God’s word and use it like a bespoke uses a thread, and fashion that truth into a form that many can understand and appreciate. I am one that appreciates your work. I don’t find any fault in what you have written. My questions were implied in what I wrote. I’ll try to be less cryptic. Revealed truth is just that, truth. Scientific data and theories derived from those data, no matter how well regarded, are merely theories and therefore subject to change with no notice. Conflating discoveries in science with revealed truth can tend to put one on par with the other. In a world where people seem almost anxious to believe in any sort of explanation that removes God from the fabric of reality, why use an ersatz truth to segway into real truth? Too much about the level of understanding of various scientific disciplines is incomplete. Physics has no unified theory of matter. Astrophysics cannot explain a large percentage of the matter in the known universe. It goes on and on. Why use a mystery to explain a mystery? God’s word explains life as one life from birth until death. Science explains life as a continuum from offsping to ancestor. Everyone that knows your struugle with health issues is grateful for the science that brought you back to health. Science can be used for good, but when so many seem to want to fashion a religion from it then it transmogrifies into something far different. Your knowledge of scripture eclipses mine so why should I try to quote scripture to you? I shouldn’t, but I’ll give you Hebrews 4:12.

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