Can Providence Be Suitably Attributed To God?

Hello everyone. Welcome to Deeper Waters where we dive into the ocean of truth. For all who were expecting a blog last night, I apologize. My wife and I had an exceptionally busy day and when we got home, it was just a time for us to relax. If you ever see a day without a blog, don’t panic. I could just be busy that day.

Having said that, we are going to start a new section in our doctrine of God tonight and that will be the providence of God. Our guide for this has been the Summa Theologica, written by the brilliant 13th century monk, Thomas Aquinas. This can be read for free online at Our first question will be if providence can even be suitably attributed to God.

Aquinas says it definitely can. Providence is God’s overseeing hand guiding all things to a fitting end. This gets us into the area of teleology, why something is the way it is. This does not apply to God because God does not have an end beyond Himself but rather He is the end of all things.

Thus, to say that God maintains providence over the world is to say that He is actively working in all things to bring things to an end befitting their natures. This also involves the exemplar cause, which is that after which something is made, much like blueprints are the exemplar cause of a building. The end of all things is in God in the sense of an exemplar cause as well.

But how can this be the case since God is eternal? Can he truly have providence eternally since all that he creates is temporal? If providence is a component of the nature of God, then it would seem that either things are eternal other than God, which we know is not true, or that God changed to become providential, which we also know is not true.

Aquinas deals with this by breaking it into two types of providence. The exemplar of order is eternal. That is, in God, there is always the idea of things being ordered towards their end and it is with this in His mind that He creates. The second is the execution of order which is temporal. God was free not to create but any creation he makes he has providence over.

Providence however includes both intellect and will, but God is not composite, so how can this be? Aquinas says that providence does lie in the intellect, but to have providence presupposes an end that one is willing. This still would not be a problem for divine simplicity anyway since in God, intellect and will are one and the same thing.

What we can get out of this is a reminder that we should believe in the providence of God. Too much of what we do in the form of worrying is forgetting that God is in control. Whatever is going on in your life today stop and relax and realize that God is still overseeing the universe. A passage like Romans 8:28-29 is highly helpful in this.

We shall continue tomorrow.

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