Depending who you read, there are around 7 unique views of providence. All these postulate certain biblical criteria that have to be met — in other words they are built around other key issues like God’s foreknowledge, human freedom and Christology, etc. The two broad camps are Calvinist and Arminian, with the open theist conversation being more recent.
I’ve been reading Thomas Oord’s “The Uncontrolling Love of God,” but also have listened to Greg Boyd speaking on these issues, and have found much that resonates. Yesterday I found Terrance Tiessen’s summary of Boyd’s position.
Greg Boyd is a nice place to begin, because he has been researching the problem of evil, and more broadly, what we do with evil and God’s providence in the OT, for quite some time. His sermon series on “The Shadow God,” working from that little phrase of Pauls’ in Colossians 2:17, was helpful for me in approaching the OT. One has to find SOME way of reconciling the OT picture of God with Jesus, or else one splits off the Father from the Son.
Tiessen summarizes Boyd’s approach by listing four Christocentric criteria – these Boyd proposes as essential in evaluating models of providence.
Since “everything Jesus was about centered on manifesting the reign of God against forces of evil that oppose God,” a model should “render intelligible the reality and scope of evil in the world and the need for God to battle against it” (184-85).
God’s struggle against evil, as revealed in Christ, is distinct from pagan views because God relies primarily on wisdom rather than on power (185-86).
Taking the cross as paradigmatic of God’s way of overcoming evil, a model of providence should adequately portray God’s reliance on other-oriented love and his willingness to be affected and influenced by humans (186-87).
In principle, God has already won the battle with evil, bringing ultimate good out of the evil that led to Jesus’ rejection and crucifixion, so a model of providence should demonstrate God’s ability to bring good out of evil and thereby accomplish his overall purposes for creation (186-87).
These criteria are a helpful place to start. Note how they already assume a particular theological frame. Tomorrow I’ll post the seven views Oord lays out, and then the two views that I like the best.