Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Three Questions about Providence, by Terry J. Wright (Grove Doctrine D2)

Terry J. Wright, Three Questions about Providence: How, When and Why Does God Act? Grove Doctrine D2 (Cambridge: Grove Books, 2020)

As I’m on the editorial group for Grove Doctrine, I plan to promote (but not review) each of the books released in the series as and when they’re published. The second Grove Doctrine book happens to be my contribution to the series, a study of God’s providence. Here’s an extensive quotation from pp. 4–5, which explains what I’m trying to do in the book:

This book is neither an introduction to the doctrine of providence, nor an exhaustive account of it. . . .

Instead, my aim in what follows is to explore certain aspects of providence while taking into account some of the latest ideas and developments in the doctrine. To do this, I shall organize most of my thoughts and material around three broad questions: how does God act, when does God act, and why does God act? These questions are placed between a chapter on providence and the Bible and a conclusion that offers some final reflections on the ongoing importance of the doctrine of providence. As each chapter addresses matters that invite deeper reflection, I shall conclude each one with an annotated ‘Further Reading’ section to guide readers to appropriate recent resources. Much has been published recently on providence and divine action, and so I have chosen to limit these sections to books, or chapters or essays within books, published since 2001. . . .

My intention, then, is not for this booklet to function as a fully formed statement of my views on providence, though these latter will, of course, emerge here and there. Rather, I hope that this book amounts to a thought-provoking discussion of some of the live issues raised by providence, and one informed by the latest scholarship on the doctrine.

I include many conventional topics within my discussions, including divine action, secondary causation, prayer, history, politics, and lament. In the course of writing, I came to see that providence is ‘fundamentally an eschatological and not (solely) a theological concept’ (p. 20), meaning that

God’s actions now are God’s eschatological actions; God’s actions now are of and from the age to come; God’s actions now are those which take place in and/or through Jesus Christ and by the Spirit. . . . In practice, this means that everything God is doing now is to bring in the fullness of the kingdom through anticipating the age to come. (pp. 20, 21)

Three Questions about Providence is intended to function as a snapshot of some of the latest thought on providence, including my own. It is available for £3.95 from the Grove Books website (in both print and electronic formats), as well as through Christian bookshops.

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