The doctrine of divine providence is asserted in the biblical thesis that “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). This “working together” of historical events under divine governance for particular purposes is a mystery in two senses.
First, it is a mystery in the sense that it is humanly inscrutable, exceeding even the furthest reaches of our thought, and is known only by faith. That is to say, it pertains to divine revelation. It is not the general, natural pronoia of the Stoics and Middle Platonists, but a special providence revealed by God’s particular interventions in the structure of history. Thus, Holy Scripture never attempts to explain providence. Although the Bible affirms it, it teaches no theory of the matter.
Second, divine providence is also a mystery in the sense that we are initiated into it. It is rendered accessible, that is, to our revelatory experience of it, the discernment of which is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is particular and personal, sensed through the coherent structure of events. Hence, Holy Scripture not only affirms divine providence, but also portrays the mystery through narratives.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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