A Tale of Two Providences -- By: John Sanders

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 33:0 (NA 2001)
Article: A Tale of Two Providences
Author: John Sanders

A Tale of Two Providences

John Sanders

John Sanders is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Huntington College, Huntington, Indiana.

This is a review of three books on divine providence: Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace, eds. Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware. Baker Books (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1995, 2000), 356 pages. God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God, Gregory A. Boyd. Baker Books (Grand Rapids, Mich. 2000), 175 pages. God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism, Bruce A. Ware. Crossway Books (Wheaton, Ill. 2000), 240 pages.

Debate on the doctrine of divine providence has been heating up in recent years. A spate of books, journal articles and conference papers has appeared for and against “freewill theism” in general and the openness of God model in particular. Throughout this essay I will interact with the broader topic while concentrating on these books. These three books tell the stories of two different views of divine providence: two from a strong Calvinistic (meticulous providence) perspective and one from an openness/Arminian (general providence) perspective.

Still Sovereign

The thirteen essays in Still Sovereign attempt to present a case for Calvinism and rebut many of the arguments found in two volumes edited by Clark Pinnock which sought to defend Arminianism.1 The book was first published in two volumes in 1995, but in 2000 a number of essays were omitted in order to republish it in a single volume. The editors, Schreiner and Ware, are to be commended for producing a fine collection of essays that are, for the most part, well researched and well written. The book is divided into three parts: biblical analysis (nearly two-thirds of the book), theological issues and pastoral reflections (very brief).

The purpose of the book is to “defend the classical view of God’s sovereignty” from the corrosive acids of our culture that exalts the human over the divine. Arminian theology, they claim, is pushed around by cultural forces and exalts the human over the divine such that the divine glory is stolen away from God and given to humanity because, for Arminians, humans are the “ultimate determiners of salvation.” (pp. 11, 49, 101, 237, 286 and 323). “The doctrines of grace are questioned” today (p.18). The “plain teaching” of scripture is distorted by Arminians who, as “rationalistic” logicians, impose their system onto scripture.

Several points need to be made regarding these general claims before surveying the chapters individua...

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