22 September 2010

Bavinck on Providence

Here's how the grouchy Netherlander concludes his marvelous treatment of the providence of God in Reformed Dogmatics.
In this consoling fashion Scripture deals with the providence of God. Plenty of riddles remain, both in the life of individuals and in the history of the world and humankind. . . . But God lets the light of his Word shine over all these enigmas and mysteries, not to solve them, but that 'by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope' (Rom 15:4).

The doctrine of providence is not a philosophical system but a confession of faith, the confession that, notwithstanding appearances, neither Satan nor a human being nor any other creature, but God and he alone--by his almighty and everywhere present power--preserves and governs all things.

Such a confession can save us both from a superficial optimism that denies the riddles of life, and from a presumptuous pessimism that despairs of this world and human destiny. For the providence of God encompasses all things, not only the good but also sin and suffering, sorrow and death. For if these realities were removed from God's guidance, then what in the world would there be left for him to rule?

What an impoverished faith it would be if it saw God's hand and counsel from afar in a few momentous events but did not discern it in a person's own life and lot?
--Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 2:618-19

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