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The “Why” Question in God’s Providence

February 2, 2010

When we reflect upon questions of providence, as Christians, we begin to realize the grandness of what we are attempting: We are pondering God’s activity.  For all the questions concerning God’s providence, the “why” question is where the reflections end.  Paul Helm articulates it this way:

What is impossible for us to do is to provide an intellectually satisfying answer to the “why” question.  For asking such a question can only call for the answer, “Because God willed it to be so.”  To the subsequent question, “Why did God will it to be so?” there is no further, illuminating answer.  This is one reason that the pattern of divine providence will, in this life at least, always be a mystery.

In dealing with the providence of God, therefore, we are dealing with matters of ultimate significance for which there is no further explanation.  This does not mean that God is arbitrary or capricious in his dealings with the created universe.  What it does mean is that the will of God, and the holy and wise reasons that he has for the exercise of that will, are the highest court of appeal (highest in the logical sense).  There cannot be a higher court, and so, unsatisfactory though it may be, we must rest content with the ultimate reference to the will of God.

Paul Helm, The Providence of God (IVP)

For Christians, Helm’s instruction is wisdom to heed.  Even further, however, while as Christians we confess to not have answers to the “why” questions, we can find assurance in God’s goodness as is displayed in the good news of his Gospel.  His Gospel informs us that while we do not know why he allows earthquakes, famines, disease, and all sorts of calamities, we do know that God does care.  We know because he has sent his Son to be slain for sinners and to reconcile those sinners to himself.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come,nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

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