Blogging the Institutes | 1.17.4 | Providence Does Not Rule Not Human Choice

Regarding future event, king Solomon easily reconciles human choice with divine providence. While Solomon derides anyone who would presume to do anything without God, as if they were not ruled by his hand, he also says, “A man’s heart devises his ways but the Lord directs his steps” (Prov 16:9). What Solomon means is that God’s eternal decrees by no means prevent us from proceeding to provide for ourselves and arrange all our affairs, all coming under his will. The reason for this is clear. God, who has fixed the boundaries of life, has at the very same time entrusted us to take care of it. He also has provided us with the means of preserving it. He forewarns us of the dangers which we often get exposed to. He supplies to us caution and helps along the way so that we’re not overwhelmed by what we’re unaware of.

Our duty is clear then: Since the Lord has committed to us the defense of our life, we must defend it. Since he offers assistance, we must use it. Since he forewarns us of danger, we must be careful and not be reckless. Since he supplies remedies for our difficult situations, we must not neglect them. Some argue that something dangerous will not hurt us unless the Lord wills us and that something that will kill cannot be resisted by any precaution if the Lord ordained it. But what if dangers are not fatal because the Lord has given you with the means of warding them off? Some people argue that danger is not be guarded against because if it is not fatal, we can escape it without any precaution. Yet the Lord enjoins us to guard against it just because he wills it not to be fatal! These kind of arguments deny what plainly in front of people’s eyes, namely, that the Lord has given people with the ability to make decisions and be cautious.

People can employ their ability to make choices in subservience to God’s providence to preserve their life. While, on the contrary, through their own neglect and laziness, they bring upon themselves the evils which he has ordained against them. A wise man, working for his own safety, dodges impending evils. On the other hand, a foolish man, through his own unadvised rashness, dies. In both cases, aren’t wisdom and foolishness instruments of God’s will? God has been pleased to conceal from us all future events, so that we can adequately prepare for them even if they are doubtful. We must be diligent to apply the remedies God has given us until these challenges are overcome, or to the point when we acknowledge that these remedies are not sufficient. Therefore, the providence of God does not interject itself into our lives simply by sheer divine power. Instead, God employs means in our lives as they it might assume a kind of visible “form.” In other words, when we act responsibility we make the providence of God “visible” in our lives.

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  1. Pingback: Blogging the Institutes: List of Posts | Raising Lazarus

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