Monday, May 4, 2009

5/5- Calvin on Providence

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29,30)

Calvin: Moreover, to make God a momentary Creator, who once for all finished his work, would be cold and barren…But faith ought to penetrate more deeply, namely, having found him Creator of all, forthwith to conclude he is also everlasting Governor and Preserver — not only in that he drives the celestial frame as well as its several parts by a universal motion, but also in that he sustains, nourishes, and cares for, everything he has made, even to the least sparrow [cf. Matthew 10:29]…It would not be believable that human affairs are cared for by God unless he were the Maker of the universe, and nobody seriously believes the universe was made by God without being persuaded that he takes care of his works. (1:16:1)

Providence and Predestination are two important doctrines if we want to understand Calvin’s life and thought. In his 1539 edition of the Institutes Calvin puts them together- both having to do with God’s sovereignty. But in his last editions he places providence under the topic of creation and predestination under salvation. Providence has to do with living and non-living things, believers and unbelievers. Predestination’s focus is mainly on the elect.
There are classically three parts to providence- 1) God’s preservation of creation; 2) God’s governing of creation, and 3) God’s guidance of all things to achieve His purpose.
God balances infinite power with infinite love. He is the heavenly Father who is able to care and does care in an able way. Calvin, as I’ve pointed out many times, had a hard life. Yet Calvin was able to still have confidence in the love of God. He was convinced that the scriptures, not nature tells us about God’s care.
Calvin was against the Deistic and Islamic notion that God was aloof from the universe. God cares for the world, and for all of His creation. He governs the world, and us- guiding us toward His purposes. There’s an old hymn that says, “God is working His purpose out.” This is a Calvinistic notion. He is molding us and shaping the universe still. Calvin does not fall into the idea that God is all things or is not separated from things. He balances God’s care with his hatred for idolatry (the chief sin for Calvin), and his emphasis on the sovereignty and transcendence of God.
God cares and is able to care. In a tough economy, in facing fears of disease, war, instability, we should cast our care on God. Prayer is possible because God loves us and God is powerful enough to answer our prayer through providence.

Prayer: Lord you preserve, govern, and guide us. Not a sparrow falls without your knowledge. Even the very hairs of our heads are known to you. You know us better than we know ourselves, and care for us better than we care for ourselves. Help us to trust in your great providential care.

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