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God’s Providence: Reformed Theology Conference Lectures

June 14, 2018 4 comments

Regarding the doctrine of Providence, here are two interesting conference series from ReformedResources (Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals),

  • Ian Hamilton and Alistair Begg, six sessions (three each), from the 2014 Princeton Regional Conference on Reformed Theology (full MP3 download set )

God’s Providence Defined  (A. Begg)
God’s Providence in the Lives of His Servants (I. Hamilton)
God’s Providence in the Death of Jesus Christ  (A. Begg)
God’s Providence and Our Worship (I. Hamilton)
Providence Personal Reflections (A. Begg)
Making Sense of the Mysteries of Providence  (I. Hamilton)

and —

The Meaning of Providence
The Means of Providence
The Dilemma of Providence
The Mystery of Providence
The Protection of Providence

The Scottish contribution (Hamilton and Begg) (reference this post, also with an interview link ) is less formal and easier to listen to, for a general audience.  The lectures are interesting (my first listen to these speakers) as a good base; I especially found the 4th one, which connects God’s Providence to our worship, particularly interesting as a topic for further exploration.  Here, Hamilton brought out the reason to include the Psalms in our worship (not a case for exclusive Psalmody, but a balance to include the Psalms):  worship should include the ‘minor note’ so predominant in the Psalms, along with the positive, praising and thankful ‘major note’.  Hamilton also noted a good response to the argument put forth by those who put excessive emphasis on the New Testament — why we should include the Psalms as applicable today in our New Testament age.  Paul, writing to the Romans (Romans 8:36) – in our New Testament age – directly quotes from Psalm 44:22, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’  Thus the Psalms are still applicable to New Testament Christians.

From my recent reading elsewhere, David Powlison (in ‘Speaking Truth in Love’) also referenced the point about the ‘minor key’ versus ‘major key’.

Consider the Psalms, the book of talking with God.  About ninety psalms are “minor key.”  Intercessions regarding sin and suffering predominate—always in light of God revealing his mercies, power, and kingdom.  In about one-third of these, the battle with personal sin and guilt appears.  Often there are requests that God make us wiser: “Teach me”; “Give me understanding”; “Revive me.”  In many more psalms, you see requests to change circumstances: deliver me from evildoers; be my refuge and fortress; destroy your enemies.  These are always tied to requests that God arrive with kingdom glory and power.  God reveals himself by making these bad things and bad people go away!  Then there are the sixty or so “major key” psalms.  These emphasize the joy and praise that mark God’s kingdom reign revealed.

In the 5th lecture, Personal Reflections, Alistair Begg shared much of his personal life experiences including the providence of God that brought him to pastor a church in Cleveland, Ohio.  As just a personal observation from these lectures, I note Begg’s frequent use of humor; at times the ‘laugh-track’ audience response seemed too frequent and distracting, recalling to my mind a post from David Murray (another Scottish Reformed speaker)– this link at Banner of Truth, Serious Preaching in a Comedy Culture.  Some preachers naturally like to use more humor than do others, but for my preference the laughter was too frequent at times, though the overall messages were good.

On that more serious note, the second set of lectures linked above, the five from the Westminster Confession conference series, provides the serious, doctrinal look–The Comfort of the Church: God’s Most Wise and Holy Providence.  It takes a while to get used to this style of listening; these are plenary lectures, formal papers presented (read aloud) by each speaker, seminary professors at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  The lectures are rich with references to the Westminster definitions along with many scripture references, on several aspects of providence.  (Note:  The papers from this conference can be accessed in print, the full set here.)  The fourth one, The Mystery of Providence, by C.J. Williams, includes an interesting presentation in typology.  Common “types of Christ” include Joseph and King David, but another Old Testament character I had not considered as a type of Christ, is Job.  Williams expands on the correspondences between Job and Christ:  original great esteem by God, then extreme suffering and humiliation, followed by great exaltation beyond the original condition.  Williams has since published a book, with foreword by Richard Gamble (another of the speakers in this conference set), on the Job/Christ type:  The Shadow of Christ in the Book of Job.

These two series are both good ones about the great doctrine of God’s Providence, covering the many aspects of God’s Providence from the doctrinal understanding as well as personal experience of Providence in our lives.

Various Scripture Thoughts for Today

June 3, 2010 Leave a comment

God’s Divine Providence, Fore-ordination, and Omniscience, as Shown in 1 Samuel 23

From S. Lewis Johnson’s “Lessons from the Life of David,” I’m now in 1 Samuel 23, a chapter that shows God’s amazing providence in the ways that He delivers David from Saul.  The incident at Keilah, where David inquires of the Lord if the men of Keilah will give him over to Saul, shows both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, with no contradiction in these two seemingly incompatible ideas.  But an appeal exclusively to God’s sovereignty, in the case of Keilah, would have left David and his men passively waiting around for Saul to show up and to be handed over to Saul by the Keilahites.  After all, God said they would hand him over to Saul, so leave it to fate.  But no, David understands the message from God and decides that it’s time to get out of Keilah.

This incident from David’s life also shows God’s divine foreordination and omniscience.  Our God not only knows everything that will come to pass, from beginning to end, past to future — He even knows the things that could happen given certain contingencies, and He knows what the men of Keilah will do given a set of circumstances.

In my daily Bible reading, I’m a few weeks away from 1 Samuel, back in Joshua 15 — a very tedious chapter filled with lists of land descriptions and names of the many cities and villages given to the tribe of Judah.  Yet amongst the many obscure names listed there are a few familiar names, including Ziklag, and Keilah.  I probably would have missed the reference to Keilah but for the SLJ bible study in 1 Samuel 23 today.

Another verse to add, from today’s readings, to go with the above theme of God’s providence and sovereign control:
Proverbs 16:33, The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

God’s Faithfulness and Promises
From some of my other recent readings, some great verses that show God’s faithfulness and His great promises:

(From list 7) — Isaiah 61:11:   For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.

The first part of that verse reminds me of Genesis 8:11 (list 2):  God’s mercy in bringing forth the new world after the flood.  The dove found the olive leaf, a sign of new plant life, that God was already causing the earth to bring forth its sprouts.  Isaiah 61-62 also tell us that, as surely as we can observe plant life, so we can count on God to fulfill what He has promised, that He will “cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations” at His second coming.  God’s promise to restore Israel to the land, and to give them great blessings and prominence among the nations, is just as sure as what we can observe in how the earth and gardens bring forth the plants.