In theology, divine providence, or simply providence, is God's intervention in the Universe. The term Divine Providence (usually capitalized) is also used as a title of God. A distinction is usually made between "general providence", which refers to God's continuous upholding of the existence and natural order of the Universe, and "special providence", which refers to God's extraordinary intervention in the life of people.[1] Miracles and even retribution generally fall in the latter category.[2]

In the United States Declaration of Independence, it is cited, "with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor".


"Divine" evolved in the late 14th century to mean "pertaining to, in the nature of or proceeding from God or a god". This came from the Old French devin, with a similar meaning, and that from the Latin divinus, meaning "of a god", in turn from divus, with similar meaning, which was related the Latin deus, meaning god or deity. The word "providence" comes from Latin providentia meaning foresight or prudence, and that in turn from pro- "ahead" and videre "to see".[3] The current use of the word in the secular sense refers to foresight, or "timely preparation for eventualities",[4] or (if one is a deist or an atheist) "nature as providing protective care".[5]



Main article: Divine providence in Judaism

Divine providence (Hebrew: השגחה פרטית Hashgochoh Protis / Hashgachah Pratit lit. [Divine] supervision of the individual) is discussed throughout Rabbinic literature, and in particular by the classical Jewish philosophers. These writings maintain that divine providence means that God is directing (or even recreating) every minute detail of creation. This analysis thus underpins much of Orthodox Judaism's world view, particularly as regards questions of interaction with the natural world.[6]


Augustine of Hippo is often associated with the doctrine of divine providence in the Latin West. Augustine held that the universe is under the continuous control and unifying governance of a single Supreme Being, since God's governance takes place over a vast multitude of relatively independent individuals differing in nature, function, and end.[7]

Christian teaching on Providence in the High Middle Ages was most fully developed by Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica. The concept of providence as care exercised by God over the universe, His foresight and care for its future is extensively developed and explained both by Aquinas himself and modern Thomists. One of the foremost modern Thomists, Dominican father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, wrote a study of providence entitled "Providence: God's loving care for men and the need for confidence in Almighty God." In it, He presents and solves, according to Catholic doctrine, the most difficult issues as related to Providence. However, Jean Pierre de Caussade (7 March 1675 – 8 December 1751) was a French Jesuit priest and writer. He is especially known for the work ascribed to him known as Abandonment to Divine Providence, and also his work with the Nuns of the Visitation in Nancy, France.

Eastern Orthodox

The doctrine of providence in Eastern Orthodoxy is set out by St John of Tobolsk: "St. John Damascene describes it thus: 'Providence is Divine will which maintains everything and wisely rules over everything' ... It was not by chance that the iniquitous Israeli King Ahab was struck by an arrow that flew in between the seams of his armor. Truly that arrow was directed by the hand of God, just as was the one which struck Julian the Apostate; only for the soldier who let fly the arrow was it accidental. It was not by chance that swallows flew into the home of Tobit and blinded the righteous man. This happened at God’s command, in order to hold Tobit up as an example to succeeding generations, as we learn from the Angel who accompanied his son Tobias. Nothing happens by chance. It was not by chance that Caesar Augustus ordered the census to be taken in the year of Christ’s Nativity. It was not by chance that Christ met with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar and spoke with her. All this was foreseen and written down in the books of Divine Providence before the beginning of time.”[8]


See also: Lutheranism

In Lutheran theology, divine providence refers to God's preservation of creation, his cooperation with everything that happens, and his guiding of the universe.[9] While God cooperates with both good and evil deeds, with the evil deeds he does so only in as much as they are deeds, not with the evil in them. God concurs with an act's effect, but he does not cooperate in the corruption of an act or the evil of its effect.[10] Lutherans believe everything exists for the sake of the Christian Church, and that God guides everything for its welfare and growth.[11]

According to Martin Luther, divine providence began when God created the world with everything needed for human life, including both physical things and natural laws.[12] In Luther's Small Catechism, the explanation of the first article of the Apostles' Creed declares that everything people have that is good is given and preserved by God, either directly or through other people or things.[13] Of the services others provide us through family, government, and work, he writes, "we receive these blessings not from them, but, through them, from God."[14] Since God uses everyone's useful tasks for good, people should look not down upon some useful vocations as being less worthy than others. Instead people should honor others, no matter how lowly, as being the means God uses to work in the world.[14]


See also: Reformed theology

This term is an integral part of John Calvin's theological framework known as Calvinism, which emphasizes the total depravity of man and the complete sovereignty of God. God's plan for the world and every soul that he has created is guided by his will or providence. According to Calvin, the idea that man has free will and is able to make choices independently of what God has already determined is based on our limited understanding of God's perfection and the idea that God's purposes can be circumvented. In this mode of thought, providence is related to absolute free will. This concept remains prominent among many Protestant denominations that identify with Calvinism (e.g. the Reformed churches).


At the beginning of the 17th century, the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius formulated Arminianism and disagreed with Calvin in particular on election and predestination.[15] Arminianism is defined by God's limited mode of providence.[16] This mode of providence affirms the compatibility between human free will and divine foreknowledge, but its incompatibility with theological determinism.[17] Thus predestination in Arminianism is based on divine foreknowledge, unlike in Calvinism.[18] It is therefore a predestination by foreknowledge.[19] From this perspective, comes the notion of a conditional election on the one who wills to have faith in God for salvation.[20]


See also: The New Church

Divine Providence is a book published by Emanuel Swedenborg in 1764 which describes his systematic theology regarding providence, free will, theodicy, and other related topics. Both meanings of providence are applicable in Swedenborg's theology, in that providence encompasses understanding, intent and action. Divine providence relative to man is 'foresight', and relative to the Lord is 'providence'.[21] Swedenborg proposes that one law of divine providence is that man should act from freedom according to reason, and that man is regenerated according to the faculties of rationality and liberty.[22]

Latter Day Saint (LDS)

There is little theological literature on the term providence in LDS studies. As stated above, Reformed theology relates these terms to predestination, which does have more prominence in LDS theology, if only as a polemical term.

One particular text that could be interpreted as being related to such terms is in the Book of Abraham. As Abraham is shown the heavens, he is also shown the pre-mortal spirits of mankind.

And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.[23]

The "making of rulers" above is explained as foreordination (in the chapter summary) as opposed to "predestination".[24]

This differentiation balances free will (or free agency in LDS theology) against divine intervention. LDS scholar Richard Draper has described the church's position thus:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rejects the belief in predestination – that God predetermines the salvation or the damnation of every individual ... The LDS position is based in part on the teachings of Paul that God "will render to every man according to his deeds" and that "there is no respect of persons with God" (Rom. 2:6, 11). These two principles provide a basis for understanding Paul's use of the term "predestination". The term apparently connoted "to be ordained beforehand for godly labor" In the sense that one's potential or calling has been recognized and declared, this interpretation conforms with the Greek term Paul used, proorizo, and does not denote an irreversible or irresistible predetermination.[25]

— "Predestination", The Encyclopedia of Mormonism

However, this does not imply a passive God. LDS theology favours a more active, interventionist God. In a General Conference, Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles articulates this, "Our lives are like a chessboard, and the Lord moves us from one place to another"[26] Rasband continues by citing a well-known text from in the Book of Mormon[27] in which Nephi finds his nemesis unconscious from inebriation in front of him, he concludes, 'Was he fortunate to just happen upon Laban? Or was it by 'divine design'?"[26] Although the text itself limits the interaction of the divine to the "Spirit" to commanding Nephi to "Slay him."[27]

God also limits his involvement. Rasband interprets one particular passage from the Book of Mormon[28] as saying that God (through his Spirit) will only intervene based on righteousness.[26] Rasband concludes that, "When we are righteous, willing, and able, when we are striving to be worthy and qualified, we progress to places we never imagined and become part of Heavenly Father's 'divine design'."[26]


When Moses ('Musa') and Aaron ('Harun') arrive in the court of Pharaoh, the Pharaoh begins questioning Musa about the God he follows. The Quran narrates Musa, answering the Pharaoh:

۝[29]He answered, our Lord is he who giveth all things: He hath created them, and directed them by his providence[30]

Text of Scripture

Those who believe in the inerrancy of the original biblical manuscripts often accompany this belief with a statement about how the biblical text has been preserved so that what we have today is at least substantially similar to what was written. That is, just as God "divinely inspired the text," so he has also "divinely preserved it throughout the centuries."[31] The Westminster Confession of Faith states that the Scriptures, "being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical."[32]

This is an important argument in the King James Only debates. Edward F. Hills argues that the principle of providentially preserved transmission guarantees that the printed Textus Receptus must be the closest text to the Greek autographs.[33]

See also

Notes and references


  1. ^ "Providence". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  2. ^ "Creation, Providence, and Miracle". Reasonable Faith. Retrieved 2014-05-20.
  3. ^ "providence". Online Etymology Dictionary. 2019.
  4. ^ "providence". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). HarperCollins.
  5. ^ "providence". Lexico. Oxford University Press and 2019. Archived from the original on December 6, 1998.
  6. ^ See Leibowitz, Aryeh (2018). Hashgachah Pratis: An Exploration of Divine Providence and Free Will. Targum Press.
  7. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Divine Providence". Vol. 12. Retrieved 2023-05-11.
  8. ^ "Divine Providence by St. John of Tobolsk".
  9. ^ Mueller, J.T., Christian Dogmatics. Concordia Publishing House. 1934. pp. 189–195 and Fuerbringer, L., Concordia Cyclopedia Concordia Publishing House. 1927. p. 635 and Christian Cyclopedia article on Divine Providence. For further reading, see The Proof Texts of the Catechism with a Practical Commentary, section Divine Providence, p. 212, Wessel, Louis, published in Theological Quarterly, Vol. 11, 1909.
  10. ^ Mueller, Steven P.,Called to Believe, Teach, and Confess. Wipf and Stock. 2005. pp. 122–123.
  11. ^ Mueller, J.T., Christian Dogmatics. Concordia Publishing House: 1934. pp. 190 and Edward. W. A.,A Short Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther's Small Catechism. Concordia Publishing House. 1946. p. 165. and Divine Providence and Human Adversity Archived 2010-07-07 at the Wayback Machine by Markus O. Koepsell
  12. ^ Luther's Works Vol. 1 Lectures on Genesis Chapters 1-5 page 25, 47
  13. ^ "Luther's Small Catechism, The Apostle's Creed". Archived from the original on 2006-11-28. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  14. ^ a b "Luther's Large Catechism, First Commandment". Archived from the original on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2007-11-04.
  15. ^ Hindson, Ed; Mitchell, Dan (2013). The Popular Encyclopedia of Church History. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers. p. 46. ISBN 9780736948067. OCLC 796760525.
  16. ^ Olson 2018. "What is Arminianism? A) Belief that God limits himself to give human beings free will to go against his perfect will so that God did not design or ordain sin and evil (or their consequences such as innocent suffering); B) Belief that, although sinners cannot achieve salvation on their own, without 'prevenient grace' (enabling grace), God makes salvation possible for all through Jesus Christ and offers free salvation to all through the gospel. 'A' is called 'limited providence,' 'B' is called 'predestination by foreknowledge.'"
  17. ^ Wiley 1940, Chap. 14.
  18. ^ Wiley 1940, Chap. 26.
  19. ^ Olson 2018, ...
  20. ^ Elwell, Walter A. (2001). Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. p. 98. ISBN 9780801020759. OCLC 46998739.
  21. ^ S. Warren, Compendium of Swedenborg's Theological Writings, page 480
  22. ^ Swedenborg, E. Divine Providence, note 71-73
  23. ^ "Abraham 3". Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  24. ^ "I Have a Question - Ensign Dec. 1990 - ensign". Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  25. ^ "Predestination". The Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  26. ^ a b c d Rasband, Elder Ronald A. "By Divine Design". Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  27. ^ a b "1 Nephi 4". Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  28. ^ "Helaman 4". Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  29. ^ Arabic script in Unicode symbol for a Quran verse, U+06DD, page 3, Proposal for additional Unicode characters
  30. ^ Quran 20:50 George Sale translation
  31. ^ "Inerrancy and its Implications for Authority: Textual Critical Considerations in Formulating an Evangelical Doctrine of Scripture". Quodlibet. 4 (4). November 2002. Archived from the original on 2011-11-17. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  32. ^ Westminster Confession of Faith, I.viii.
  33. ^ Edward F. Hills, King James Version Defended!, pp. 199–200.


Further reading

Christian material

Jewish material