Concurrence

Concurrence is the aspect of providence in which God works together with created things. Like preservation, which I considered in my last post, it isn’t clearly shown in the world around us and so I’ll give some Bible passages that show it, starting with inamimate creation and going on to animals and finally to human beings. Most of the passages are ones cited by Wayne Grudem in considering concurrence in Chapter 16, “Providence,” of the book that my family and I are reading in our after-breakfast Bible reading time, his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994).

Inanimate Creation

Some Bible passages which indicate that God works together with His inanimate creation are:
– “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?” (Job 38:31-33, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV; God is speaking to Job; the Pleiades, etc., are constellations; the whole chapter is relevant).
– “You [the LoRD] cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart” (Psalm 104:14-15).
– “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses” (Psalm 135:6-7).
– “He [the LORD] gives snow like wool; he scatters hoarfrost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold? He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow” (Psalm 147:16-18).
– “He [the Father who is in heaven] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45; the speaker is Jesus).

The passages indicate not only that God has set the rules by which natural phenomena function but also that He can direct their operation. However unlike Calvinists, who believe that God foreordained everything that happens, I don’t believe that God foreordained everything that happens in nature. If I did, I’d have to believe that He foreordained the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. On the contrary I think that He is as unhappy over it as we are. Why then did He allow it to happen? Because such events are part of the curse that the world fell under when Adam and Eve rebelled against God. Knowing that God can and sometimes does intervene, my family naturally prayed for the safety of my wife’s family in the Philippines when we heard of the typoon. However we did so knowing that God doesn’t generally interfere with how nature operates and that it is only when we’re with Him in the New Jerusalem that we shall be free of all such catastrophes. For an explanation of the difference between the Calvinist view and my view of providence, see my January 12, 2013, post, “General Rather Than Meticulous Providence.” Note that the Open Theism Information Site referred to in that post is currently not available.

Animals

Some Bible passages which indicate that God works together with animals are:
– “Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in their thicket? Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God for help, or wander about for lack of food?” (Job 38:39-41; God is speaking to Job).
– “These [creatures on the earth and in the sea] all look to you, to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust” (Psalm 104:27-29).
– “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matthew 6:26; the speaker is Jesus).
– “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29; the speaker is Jesus).

Human Beings

Some Bible passages which show how God works together with human beings are:
– “The LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia” (Ezra 1:1; illustration of how God sometimes influences rulers in their decisions, in this case prompting Cyrus to help the Jews to rebuild the Temple).
– “Kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28; recognition by David that God works together with nations as well as with individuals).
– “For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another” (Psalm 75:6-7; assertion by God that He will ultimately bring judgment on “the boastful” and “the wicked”).
– “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 6:9; comparison between what a person may plan and what God may cause to happen).
– “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5; affirmation by God to Jeremiah that He had plans for him even before he was born).
– “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11; part of the prayer that Jesus told his disciples to pray like which appeals to God for help in providing for their physical needs).
– “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 1:7; reminder by Paul to the Corinthians that the ultimate sources of their abilities, etc., was the Lord).

However God’s providential direction does not take away from the reality of our choices. As the Bible clearly shows, God has given us a free will to choose what to do and thus holds us responsible for what we do. Because Calvinists believe that God foreordains everything and yet realize that He isn’t responsible for our bad deeds, they hypothesize a special kind of free will in which both God ordains what we do and we choose freely to do those things. Thus, they say, we should be held responsible for doing those things even though God ordained that we would do them. However, as David recognized in 2 Samuel 16:10-11, we should not be responsible for doing those things which God ordains that we do. When Abishai wanted to punish Shimei for cursing David, David replied, “If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’…Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to.” We are responsible for our actions because we, not God, determine that we do them. However, as the Bible passages quoted above, He is always ready to work together with us

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