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The Doctrine of Providence: A Confession of Faith

Charlie Wingard

Charlie Wingard

Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary Jackson and Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Yazoo City, Mississippi

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Before the end of the year, I hope to have reread Calvin’s Institutes. This morning I completed Book 1, which concludes with Calvin’s teaching on God’s providence.

To aid me in my readings, I am using David Calhoun’s fine devotional volume on the Institutes. I found these words especially helpful:

The doctrine of  providence for Calvin is not so much a matter of explanation of what happens as it is a confession of faith. It does not answer all our questions, but it enables us to live without answers until the time comes when we will live without questions.

Calvin’s understanding of the Bible’s teaching on providence has immensely practical application. “Gratitude of mind for the favorable outcome of things, patience in adversity, and also incredible freedom from worry about the future all necessarily follow upon this knowledge [of the promises and examples of scripture]” – words that prompt Calhoun to offer this sage pastoral counsel:

Make three lists: the things that have worked out well for you, the troubles you are now facing, and the things you are worried about. Express your gratitude to God for the things in the first list. Ask God for patience for the things in the second list. Cross out the things in the third list, and enjoy the “incredible  freedom from worry about the future” that is yours as a Christian.

The hymn writer expresses well the comfort that belongs to the believer who trusts in his all-sovereign King and loving heavenly Father:

Whate’er my God ordains is right,
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet am I not forsaken,
My Father’s care
Is round me there,
He holds me that I shall not fall,
And so to Him I leave it all.

___________

Sources:

David B. Calhoun, Knowing God and Ourselves: Reading Calvin’s Institutes Devotionally (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2016), 73,75.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill; trans. Ford Lewis Battles; vol. 1 (Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1960), 219.

Samuel Rodigast, “Whate’er My God Ordains is Right,” trans. Catherine Winkworth, in Trinity Hymnal,  no. 108.


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