Are All Things Under God’s Providence?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we continue our dive into the ocean of truth. I think Mr. Minder for his question and I hope sometime soon to start up a thread in the Deeper Waters section of where that can be discussed. For now, we’re going to continue our look at the Christian doctrine of God as it is found in the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. This can be read for free at Our topic now is the providence of God and tonight we’re asking if all things are under God’s providence.

One of the objections is one I’d particularly like to focus on and that is the problem of evil. If there is a good God who is providentially looking out over the world, why is there so much evil? This is not a new objection. It was the objection the Manicheans raised in fact. If God is good, whence evil? The objection in the Summa says that either God cannot hinder these things and is not omnipotent, or else he is not omnibenevolent. Today, it is also asked that he might not know how to stop evil and thus he is not omniscient.

Aquinas points out the different between particular providence and universal providence. Particular providence resides over one particular matter. Consider a conveyor belt at an automobile factory. Suppose you are the guy in charge of the left headlight on the car. That is what you have particular providence over. If a car comes off the line and its tailpipe is damaged, well nothing can be done to you about that. If, however, one comes off the line and the left headlight doesn’t work, the boss will be talking to you.

However, the one who is over the factory has universal providence. It could be he’ll allow some defects to assure the goodness of the whole. He might like to have the best workers possible, but that might not be possible or else they might spend so much time on their job that a car will never come off the line. He puts up with the lesser evil of less than the best workers to bring about the greater good of getting more of the product off of the assembly line.

In the same way, Aquinas reminds us that God is so almighty that the only reason he would allow any evil is if some good will come out of it. Now suppose someone speaks of gratuitous evils? Well if that is their argument, they will have to first name such an evil and then demonstrate how it is that they know no good has come of that or evil will come.

A common one is the story of the young deer caught in a forest fire and cannot escape and is burnt alive. What good comes of that? However, how do they know no good has come? My wife, for instance, is an animal lover. She and several others would be spurred at that to be more watchful in our nation’s forests and take better care to prevent forest fires from taking place so that less animals would be harmed, which would be a good. (Note that I do recognize some forest fires are good as they help destroy the overgrowth)

Aquinas even points to examples of the lion having to slay his prey as being a good and to even martyrdom. Since there are tyrannical despots allowed to persecute the church, then that means the church gets to bring glory to God as everyone sees the reality of their faith. As Tertullian said, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.

If someone wishes to raise the problem of evil as an objection to providence, it is up to them to show the necessary contradiction. So far, no one has succeeded.

We as Christians then can rest assured that nothing happens that God does not allow. His providence is at watch and in the end, he will bring about the desired outcome.

We shall continue tomorrow.

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