|Classical Theories (§ 1).||Patristic and Scholastic Teaching (§ 5).||Critical Conclusion (§ 9).|
|Old-Testament Data (§ 2).||Early Protestantism (§ 6).||Subsidiary Problems (§ 10).|
|The Apocrypha (§ 3).||Protestant Scholasticism (§ 7).||Supplement (§ 11).|
|In the New Testament (§ 4).||Pietistic and Modern Views (§ 8).|
In the wider sense of the term providence denotes the exercise of God's wisdom, omnipotence, and goodness; while in the narrower sense it signifies the guidance of the world toward the end appointed by God. The doctrine of divine providence in the Christian Church has its origin in the union of the Old and New Testament religion with the philosophical speculation of classical antiquity. These two elements must first be discussed, and then the chief stages of the development of the dogmatic teaching, this being followed by a critical and systematic investigation of the whole development in its Biblical and dogmatic form.
Greek popular mythology represents the world and the life of man as being under the protection and direction of the gods, thus affording the foundation on which Greek philosophy erected its systematic treatment of providence. Heraclitus gave an imaginative form to the concept of a world-directing reason, an orderly development of things proceeding from the harmony of opposites by an endless process of transmutation. Trust in this divine process was made the highest good of man. Anaxagoras introduced the idea of the cosmos, the harmonious movement of tremendous masses under the direction of reason, which was the essence of both thought and power, and an element neither mingled with grosser matter nor endowed with personality. The theological explanation of the world remained, however, limited to inorganic nature; and Diogenes of Appollonia was the first to bring organic life within the scope of teleology. Socrates reversed the tendency of the ancient philosophers, making man the central point of his teaching and valuing the world according to its utility to man, his views resting on practical monotheism. The Greek dramatic poets, especially Sophocles, also taught the absolute justice and wisdom of divine providence. Following his teacher Socrates, Plato, in his theory of ideas, developed a complete system of teleological metaphysics, making the supreme idea the idea of the good, which is identical with world-reason and with divinity. A spiritual personality was of less concern to him than a moral direction to the world-process, but at the same time he maintained the existence of providence in matters both great and small, holding that whatever fate the gods bestow on the righteous is for his good ("Republic," x. 612 E). This position, represented by Plato chiefly in figurative terms, was taken over and given a purely intellectual form by Aristotle, who formulated and established scientific monotheism, though in his scheme there is no room for the concept of providence. Stoic philosophy, on the other hand, made the thought of providence a prominent factor. While Epicurus banished the gods from the world, the Stoics accepted the divinity as the life-giving principle, the original source of power, the directive reason, the allcontrolling providence- God and the world are one, and the world-order is controlled by providence acting through necessary processes, each link in the chain of phenomena being closely bound to
The Old Testament shows a long course of development of the belief in providence. Traces of earlier and lower ideas, common to all the Semites, are found late in the period of the kings. There was, however, a determined effort to secure the uncontested recognition of monotheism in Israel, an essential element of this belief being the doctrine of providence. The preservation and continued development of the order of nature depend upon the divine will. Atmospheric phenomena are regarded as due to the immediate activity of God (Job xxxvi. 27-28, xxxvii. 2-6, 10-13, xxxviii. 25 sqq.; Ps. xxix. 3 sqq., cxlvii. 16-18), all this ultimately being for the benefit of man. He draws man from the womb and guards him through out the life to which he himself appoints the limit (Ps. xxii. 10 sqq.; Job xiv. 5). The divine protection rests especially upon his chosen people Israel (Ps. cv.; Hos. xi. 1 sqq.), keeping them from all peril and nourishing them (Ex. xiii.-xvi.; Num xi.;
Allusion has already been made to Stoic influence on the apocryphal writers, who even borrowed from the phraseology of the pagan school. According to the Wisdom of Solomon, the divinity governs and directs all things (Wisd. of Sol., viii. 1, xii. 18, xiv. 3, xv. 1), ordering everything well and righteously (viii. 1, xii. 15). God's mercy, however, mitigates and delays punishments (xi. 23-26, xii. 2) which are in themselves only a form of fatherly correction (xi. 10). Ecclesiasticus, on the other hand, emphasizes the freedom of the human will (Ecclus. xv. 11-17), and, while recognizing the antithesis of good and evil (xlii. 24-25), declares all the works of the Lord to be good (xxxix. 33-34). The increasing power of a belief in immortality in Judaism lent essential aid to the problem of the theodicy which Ecclesiastes had surrendered in despair (cf. II Mac. vii. 9, 11, 14, 20, 23, 29, 36-38). The passages in which Josephus ascribes divergent views to the Pharisees and Sadducees regarding divine providence and the freedom of the will (War, II., viii. 14; Ant., XVIII., i. 3, XIII., v. 9) are obscure, but probably imply that the Pharisees believed that divine providence governed all things, so that every human act, whether good or evil, involved the cooperation of God. The sect accordingly maintained the tenets both of divine providence and omnipotence and of human freedom and responsibility; while the Sadducees seem to have laid preponderating stress on the human element, as the Essenes on the divine.
In direct continuity with the Old Testament, as well as in consequence of personal experience and original revelation, Christ taught the Father as an omnipotent and holy will inspired by infinite goodness, as the king, judge, and moral law-giver, and as lovingly watching over all mankind. God is, indeed, "Lord of heaven and earth" (Matt. xi. 25), and protects all things, even the most minute and humble (Matt. vi. 25-30, x. 29-31; Luke xii. 6-7). Though the courses of nature are for the benefit of the good and evil alike (Matt. v. 45), yet God harkens especially to the prayers of the righteous (Matt vii. 7-11; Mark xi. 23-24; Luke xi. 9-13, xvii. 6, xviii. 1-7). There is, therefore, no reason to fear need or danger (
In the apostolic and post-apostolic age the words of Jesus, sprung from his immediate consciousness of divinity, were formulated into theology. This was especially the case with Paul, whose doctrine of providence is best set forth in Rom. viii. 28-39.
Early patristic literature shows the influence of Greek philosophic thought, since its interest in the doctrine of providence is mainly cosmological. According to Clement, denial of providence is not merely denial of Christian doctrine, but of the very existence of God, and merits punishment rather than refutation. Both Clement, Origen, and the later Greek Fathers sought, moreover, to solve the problem of theodicy, stressing human freedom and responsibility, and at the same time exempting God from all blame for the existence of evil by declaring that evil is not positive, but is mere negation. The interest of the Greek Fathers in the theory of providence was, however, by no means exclusively theoretical; they used it as a distinct motive for a living trust in God amid all the sufferings and calamities of earthly life. Western teachers likewise represented belief in providence as a part of natural theology. Augustine especially took an epoch-making position toward the entire problem, rejecting the concepts of both chance and fate, and holding that divine providence operates in all things, no matter how minute or obscure. His theodicy shows a combination of Christian and Neoplatonic concepts, evil being merely the negation or absence of good, and the imperfect and incomplete serving to exalt the perfection of the whole. Evil may, however, also be either a punishment of the wicked, or a means of testing, strengthening, and perfecting the good. God permits the existence of evil only that he may turn it into good, so that all exercise of human freedom subserves the plan of providence, nor can the wicked in any way thwart the divine will. All these concepts are elaborated in the De civitate Dei into a masterpiece of Christian philosophy of history; and a similar point of view is represented in the De gubernatione Dei of Salvianus, in which the history of the world is interpreted as the divine judgment of the earth. In their endeavor to explain the problem of the theodicy Anselm and Abelard took the optimistic point of view that the present world was the best possible, although Hugo of St. Victor regarded this position as limiting God's omnipotence. It was Thomas Aquinas, however, who gave the doctrine of providence an extraordinary scope. Creation and conservation are identical so far as God's activity is concerned, and differ only in respect to the secondary causes which mediate the divine activity. The will of God acts normally through secondary causes; when it acts directly and without them, a miracle is worked. In the governance of God, however, reason and method must be differentiated, the first being immediate and the second mediate. Not alone in his determinism but also in his teaching of predestination Thomas harks back to Augustine, regarding both foreordination and reprobation as special forms of divine providence; while in his theodicy, in which he likewise follows Augustine, he even states that God is, in a sense, the source of evil as well as of good, since "the perfection of the universe requires that not only should there be incorruptible things, but also corruptible ones." The increasing tendency of medieval thought to break with Augustinianism
The traditional Roman Catholic teaching on providence was not deliberately revised at the Reformation, and yet this period marked a decisive turning-point in the history of the development of the doctrine. The reason for this was practical, not theoretical. Belief in providence was no longer centered in an explanation of the universe, but in a realization, which must be practically experienced, of the fatherly care and guidance of God. This knowledge is of faith, not reason; and such faith was held by Luther to produce a theodicy by giving a practical solution to the problem of evil which, while not explaining every mystery, raises the Christian above the world by rendering him certain of the existence of a love that overcomes affliction, sin, and death. A similar line of argument was followed by Melanchthon and set forth by him in the Augsburg Confession. The Reformed Church gave to the dogma of predestination the importance which Lutheranism attached to justification by faith, but the very fact that this branch of Protestantism undeniably connected the doctrines of election and providence imperiled the eminently practical character of the Reformed belief in providence. In his treatise on providence Zwingli defines the doctrine as "the eternal and immutable governance and administration of all things," so that the free will of man is absorbed in the divine activity, man becoming merely.., tool in the hands of God, and faith being made renunciation of individual merit, the conclusion being that God does all, and man nothing. This determinism really ends in making God the cause of evil and wickedness, but Zwingli did not shrink from this deduction, endeavoring to solve the difficulty by saying that moral standards are applicable to men and not to God. The distinctively Christian side of his teaching appears only in his treatment of election. A very similar position was taken by Calvin, whose "Institutes" give separate treatment to the subject of providence and to eternal election, treating the latter in connection with the specific Christian teaching of salvation. In regard to the former, Calvin holds that all things are governed by divine providence, and that God "so uses the works of the wicked, and so turns their minds to execute his judgments, that he himself remains pure from all stain." His theodicy finds its best expression in his sermons on Job, delivered in 1554: " Since God loves us, we shall never be confounded; and so far are our afflictions from preventing our salvation, that they will be turned to our help, for God will take care that our salvation shall be advanced by them." The same thoughts are repeated by the French Confession (II., VIII., in Schaff, Creeds, iii., 360, 364); and the Heidelberg Catechism (Quest. 27, in Schaff, Creeds, iii., 316) likewise gives clear expression to this topic, insisting on the certainty of the believer that he is the object of the Father's care, and that no creature is separated from the divine love, God's will conditioning and ruling each and every act.
Orthodox Protestant scholasticism later made belief in providence a mere part of natural theology, thus depriving it of its real Christian significance. According to this teaching, belief in providence was an article of mixed faith, that is, it was accessible to man's natural reason, though it could be fully known only from the Bible. Providence was.considered to embrace three elements: foreknowledge, purpose, and execution of purpose, the latter forming the transition to providence in its relation to the world. Further distinctions were soon drawn between divine conservation, cooperation, and governance. The first of these implied continual creation; the second, postulating a difference according to the nature of the secondary causes, affirmed that "God cooperates unto effect, not unto defect"; and the third distinguished the modes of divine governance as permission (cf. Ps. lxxxi. 12; Rom. i. 24, 26, 28), hindrance (cf.
During this long period of stereotyped dogmatism the real expression of the Protestant belief in providence must be sought especially in devotional literature and hymnology, which represent communion with God through Christ as the real source of a knowledge of God's providence. During the course of the Pietistic movement, the foundation of the orphan asylum at Halle was the occasion of a dispute over the nature of divine providence. Francke considered this establishment, with the remarkable answers to prayer and the cases of individual salvation connected with it, as a monument of most particular providence. His opponents sought to reduce the whole matter to the level of pure natural happenings, contending that. the introduction of human means excluded the op
The Christian teaching of divine providence must rest essentially on the form it takes in the Gospel; what stands there must be brought to full expression. The certainty of Christian belief must be purified of all those elements which in themselves have only a dogmatic interest, since, if they are not properly discussed, they endanger the Christian assurance of salvation. It is clear that the Bible does not bring divine providence into the sphere of theoretically scientific explanation of God and the world. The problem belongs in the forum of the subjective, practical, and teleological religious consideration of faith. The interest of early Protestant teaching on the subject lies in its practical break with the intellectualism of scholastic philosophy, and in its insistence on the personal and ethical nature of belief in providence. Though for a time there was a return to pre-Reformation concepts, there is a general tendency among modern German Protestant theologians to reject these intellectualistic tendencies and to find the most fruitful results in carrying out the lines of thought inititiated by Luther. To the quasi-scholastic distinctions of early Protestantism many objections may be alleged. Suffice it to say that the delimitations are unsatisfactory because of confusion in the categories to which they are assigned, errors in distinction of nature and character, artificiality in the classes postulated, and lack of sharpness of definition. Notwithstanding, moreover, the numerous attempts to derive the concept of providence from empirical views of the world, and to develop a socalled physico-theological proof of God's existence, it is clear that empiricism leads to polytheism or to dualism rather than to ethical monotheism. The conviction of divine providence is not built up through the teaching of retribution or thoughts of merit; but rests on the facts of moral consciousness, and on the practical recognition of the kingdom of God revealed by Jesus Christ, in which God's grace overcomes and heals man's moral and natural necessities. The atonement brings the conviction of the inexhaustible love of God for his children, the assurance that "all things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. viii. 28). This is not a theoretical definition of a principle, but a practical solution to be applied by life itself. The Christian is convinced that all the elements of life's experiences, however contradictory they may seem, are but factors in the construction of the supernatural divine kingdom. This belief shows itself religiously in the recognition of the universal activity of divine love, in the practise of prayer, and in the certainty that it will be heard by God; and it is manifested ethically in the fulfilment of the duties arising from man's practical position in the world.
Although this type of practical conviction is not capable of theoretical proof, and does not require such demonstration, nevertheless indididual problems arise which can be solved only by constructing a Christian philosophy of nature and history, i.e., the explanation of all development in both fields as the means to God's eternal end. Such questions, therefore, as the relation of providence to Miracles and Prayer (qq.v.), to the freedom of man (see WILL, FREEDOM OF THE), and to the actuality of evil and Sin (q.v.) must be mentioned briefly. The world as depicted by natural science is a construction of man's mind. Natural laws are, therefore, merely conceptual and subjective, not objective and real; they are only necessary psychological and logical formulas to enable man to arrange his knowledge of phenomenal reality; and they can claim no such metaphysical importance as though they represented the whole of reality or all the possibilities of existence. If this fact be
While the basis of belief in providence is the love of God as revealed in his gracious purpose, modern thought is not content with so simple and unrelated a position. The scholastic, formalistic, logical splitting-up of the doctrine is indeed no longer of interest, but other problems aside from those mentioned in the last two sections preceding are demanding attention and solution. Metaphysics, speculative theism, and even scientific views of nature may be driven out with a fork, but their return is legitimate and inevitable. Two further questions profoundly affecting the doctrine of providence will then require consideration: (1) The idea of the divine immanence: the traditional doctrine of providence has been derived from the postulate of transcendence. Now, however, the notion of the immanence of God has compelled two modifications of view, which are of serious import to the subject under discussion. One concerns providence as related to creation. Creation is conceived not as the absolute origination of the existing material of the world out of nothing at a metaphysical moment, but as the eternal becoming or change of manifestation of the Absolute Ground of all. Creation and providence are therefore two ways of conceiving of the world, as related either to its causal Ground or to its purposive ends. The other modification discloses God as more inwardly and actively involved in the processes of the world, both physical and psychical, accordingly more responsible for the working-out of the ideal aim of the universe than any but the more pantheistic views have hitherto maintained (yet cf. Rom. xi. 36; I Cor. xv. 24-28). (2) The evolutionary view of the world: broadly speaking, this is the universal method of providence. This involves teleology, effectiveness of divine action and control, and ends which are correlated with and consummated in the ideals of personality. With reference to man the sphere of providence is, on the one hand, the world in process of evolution, and, on the other, the development of human historical life. Of particular significance in this latter region are the principle of social unity, the influence of great personalities, and the redemptive power of suffering and sacrifice.
For the views of classical authors on the subject, bides the works of Zeller, Windelband, Ueberweg, Erdmamz, and Weber on the history of philosophy, consult:
Xenophon, Memorabilia, I., iv., IV., 3;
Cicero, De natura deorum, book 2;
idem, De finibus, book 3;
Seneca, De providentia;
R. Schneider, Christliche Klänge aus den griechischen and römischen Klasaikern, pp. 231244, Goths, 1885;
E. Spiess, Logos spermatikos, Leipsic, 1871;
L. Schmidt, Die Ethik der alter Griechen, i. 63 sqq., Berlin, 1881;
E. Maillet, La Création et la providence devant la science moderne, pp. 195-235, Paris, 1897.
On the idea in Hebrew, Jewish, and apostolic circles consult: the works in and under BIBLICAL THEOLOGY; H. Zschokke, Theologie der Propheten des A. T., pp. 141 sqq., Freiburg, 1877; C. G. Chavannes, La Religion dans Ie Bible, 2 vols., Paris, 1889; G. Fulliquet, La Pensée religieuse dons le N. T., Paris, 1893; J. Bovan, É'tude sur l'æurvre de la redemption, vols. i.-ii., Paris, 1893-94; K. Marti, Geschichte der israelitischen Religion, Strasburg, 1897; E. Sellin, Beiträge zur israelitischen and jüdischen Religionsgeschichte, Leipsic, 1897; W. Bousset, Die Religion des Judentums im neutestamentlichen Zeitalter, Berlin, 1903; B. Stade, Biblische Theologie des A. T., Tübingen, 1905.
For the history of the development of the subject the reader is referred to the works named in and under DOCTRINE, HISTORY OF: also R. Seeberg, Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte, Leipsic, 1895-98; F. Loofs, Grundriss der Dogmengeschichte, 4th ed., Halle, 1907. For the Reformers note Luther's Catechisms on the first article of the Apostles' Creed and Zwingli's De providentia, 1529.
For the dogmatic treatment it is to be noted that as a rubric under systematic theology the subject necessarily finds discussion in works on dogmatics (see for titles DOGMA, DOGMATICS), which usually furnish also lists of works bearing on the topics. Consult further: S. Charnook, A Treatise of Divine Providence, General and Particular, London, 1683; G. W. Leibnitz, Essais de theodicie, 2 vols., Amsterdam, 1710; J. B. Bossuet, Traité de la connaissance de dieu ed de soi-même, Paris, 1722; J. Flavel, Divine Conduct; or, the Mystery of Providence, reprint, Philadelphia, 1840; O. Dewey, The Problem of Human Destiny; or, the End of Providence in the World and Man, New York, 5th ed., 1866; H. Wallace, Representative Responsibility, a Law of the Divine Procedure in Providence and Redemption, Edinburgh, 1867; M. J. Seherben, Handbuch der katholischen Dogmatik, i. 857-864, Freiburg, 1873 (Roman Catholic); R. A. Lipsius, Die göttliche Weltregierung, Frankfort, 1878; G. Kreibig, Die Rätsel der gattliehen Vorsehung, Berlin, 1888; J. de Maistre, Les Soirées de St. Petersburg, ou entretiens sur le gouvernement temporel de la Providence, 2 vols., new ed., Paris, 1886; W. Schmidt, Die göttliche Vorsehung and das Selbstleben der Welt, Berlin, 1887; idem, Der Kampf der Weltanschauungen, ib. 1904; W. Beysehlag, Zur Verständigung über den chridlichen Vorsehungaglauben, Halle, 1888; J. B.Heinrich, Dogmatische Theologie, v. 313-368, Mains, 1888
C. Pesch, Prælectiones dogmatica, ii. 166-173, Freiburg, 1899 (Roman Catholic);
O. Kim, Voraehungsglaube and Nalurwisaemchaft, Berlin, 1903;
R. Otto, Naturalistische and religiose Weltanschauung, Tübingen, 1904, Eng. transl., Naturalism and Religion, New York, 1907;
A. Thitius, Religion und Naturwissenschaft, Tüiibingen, 1904;
KL, xii. 1097-1113;
W. Lerch, Bedenken gegen die göttliche Vorsechung, Warnsdorf, 1908.
In connection with § 11 consult especially J. Le Conte, Evolution and its Relation to Religious Thought, part iii., 2d ed., New York, 1894; A. C. Fraser, Philosophy of Theism, Giford Lectures, 2 ser., pp. 82 sqq., London, 1896; A. B. Bruce, The Providential Order of the World, New York, 1897; idem, The Moral Order of the World, ib. 1899.
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