Meagre Thoughts on Providence: Arminianism, Calvinism, Open Theism

On a classic Christian understanding of divine providence God is most assuredly working everything for the good for those who love God (Romans 8:28). Accordingly, God works all things according to his plan in conformity to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11).

Whatever view you take of it, you need to make most sense of human agency, sin and evil, and God’s holy and good character and nature.

On the Arminian view, we should not say that God is strictly the cause of everything that happens. But we also do not want to say God is surprised or could be thwarted by evil. In stark contrast both to Calvinism and to Open Theism, God on Arminianism is neither the cause of nor is He surprised by the evil that happens (or will happen) in the world. Rather, he simply concurs with and permits evil in the world.

In my opinion, Calvinist providence in terms of causal foreordination or metaphysical pre-determinism (a philosophical-explanatory construct not to be confused with the biblical teaching on the divine fore-ordination and predestination of events) makes God the author of sin, by which I mean source of sin, and a contributory factor to human evil. That is inconsistent with the goodness and the love of God.

The Open Theist view, however, I just don’t think to be grounded in scripture. I take it to be a form of Theological Revisionism which caves to the problem of freedom and foreknowledge as pressed by the Calvinists through their secular philosophy.

Only an Arminian view, then, which talks of God as permitting the free acts of the creatures that are foreknown by him is able to hold in tension the biblical teaching about God’s goodness and his love, and his sovereign government over all affairs without strictly causing them to happen. In my view, God doesn’t need to predetermine everything in order to be sovereign. Maybe creatures are free and are interacted with by God as free precisely because God is sovereign, and that is what he has sovereignly chosen to do.

I see no inconsistency in that.


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