In chapter XVI of the Institutes Calvin writes about God’s providence, where God provides overseeing care of all of creation directing nature to unfold in accordance with God’s plan and guiding humanity especially to live in it and for it. He writes, “God the ruler and governor of all things, who in accordance with his wisdom has from the farthest limit of eternity decreed what he was going to do, and now by his might carries out what he has decreed. From this…. the plans and intentions of men, are so governed by his providence that they are borne by it straight to their appointed end. “ (Calvin, Institutes Chapter XVI, 8, p. 207). In crafting this argument, Calvin subdivides the chapter into sections which not only define his overriding principle but counter the objections by philosophers and an ancient reliance of fortune First, he discusses the relationship between Creation and providence claiming that God not only made the world but continues to provide for it, sustain it and guide it. While a fleeting knowledge of God might lead to an understanding of a God who created the heavens, it is through faith that we recognize God’s constant care of the universe. (Calvin, 197) It is God’s “special care” for creation. Second, he teaches dispels the belief in fortune and chance. He recognizes that humans have believed in fortune in “all ages,” but that such an incongruous with not only providence but creation itself for to do so is to “defraud God of his glory.” (Calvin, 200) He does recognize, however, that we do not know God’s “special plan” and may therefore assume events may seem random, but even in this, God had authority. (Calvin, 209) Finally, he shows that despite the apparent randomness of the world, the providence of God is revealed in scripture.
2. Reflection on why that portion is important and relevant.
In the overall scheme of theology, understanding God’s role in creating and purpose for the universe is central to how we live. If we believe that all of life is left to fortune, would we not become obsessed with superstition and be paranoid about every event? We would not live freely in God’s love but remain fearful. If we believe that God merely created the word and left it to run, would we feel abandoned? Is it not God’s love for ours for God, our faith, that holds us up that directs us to love and kindness for others? So, when we understand and have faith that God has not only created us but continues to guide our world, we can live in God’s love.
3. Lane: Does God’s providence leave any room for chance or uncertainty?
No. According to Calvin, there is NO room for chance. However, because we are unaware of God’s larger plan, we are unable to understand events which might seem like chance. It is important for us to know in our hears that God is carefully guiding the events in the world.
4. One question you have about the material
How do we as pastors make sense of genocide or suicide bombings in accord with God’s providence? How can we say, “oh that was part of God’s greater plan?” How do we deal with it from the pulpit?