June 30, 2008


Thirty Years of Light & Glory: The Perils of Providential History John Fea, June 2008, Touchstone)

For Christians who believe in divine providence, the study of history certainly presents a conundrum. As believers, we want to know God’s will for our lives. We spend time in prayer and meditation trying to discern what he is calling us to do in the circumstances of our lives. We often look back on our lives and reflect on the way the Lord has led us.

So if we try to discern providence in our own spiritual lives, what is wrong with trying to do the same thing with the most important events of the past? This is a tough question indeed.

Writers such as Marshall and Manuel must be willing to reconcile their certainty about God’s plan for America with St. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.” Books like the Light and the Glory often offer a simple and direct providential reading of American history that assumes an understanding of the secret things of God, things that sinful men cannot fathom outside of the Scriptures.

St. Augustine is helpful here. In Book 20 of The City of God Against the Pagans, he reminds us what Christians can and cannot know about God’s work in the world. We can be confident, from what the Scriptures teach us, in the hope of Christ’s return and final judgment. History will end with the glorious triumph of the Son of God.

But as we live with this hope, we must be cautious about trying to pinpoint the specific plan of God in history. We must avoid trying to interpret what is hidden from us or what is incomprehensible because our understanding is so limited. As Augustine writes,

There are good men who suffer evils and evil men who enjoy good things, which seems unjust, and there are bad men who come to a bad end, and good men who arrive at a good one. Thus, the judgments of God are all the more inscrutable, and His ways past finding out. We do not know, therefore, by what judgment God causes or allows these things to pass.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at June 30, 2008 11:50 AM

Kraynak deserves a link here as well!

Posted by: Benny at June 30, 2008 7:03 PM
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