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Paradoxical Providence

Are you a Calvinist or an Armenian? The debate between these two theological positions has often been at the forefront conflicts between people who should know better than trying to put God in a box. It seems that some feel if they can just label a theological perspective they can be more in line with the will of God.

I have a question? Is light composed of waves or particles? Physicists tell us that light is made up of both. I believe they understand you cannot force light into one perspective or another. In fact, now there are theories that say there may even be more forms to add to the construction of light. Fine, but the paradox of light being both wave and particle still stands. God does not have problems with paradoxes.

I recently heard a preacher say in a sermon that Jesus’s physical presence did not exist before the incarnation at Jesus’s birth. OK, then how could Jesus be “the same yesterday and today and forever?” (Heb. 13:8 NIV)

We are finite creatures who are limited in our understanding by our experiences, by the wall of predictability, and our minute place in the ebb and flow of eternity. We are beings that strive to impose our will upon defining what orthodox and what is not. I have found in my own life this mindset (attitude or perspective) limits my closeness to God and makes it more difficult to see God’s works and presence that is always, always going on in and around me.

I have adopted a theology I call paradoxical providence. It is a position that acknowledges the limitations of my thinking and allows me to not be troubled by mystery and to not be threatened by the discoveries we human beings become aware of in our pursuit of understanding through science and life.

Is salvation an event or a process? Yes. Does predestination mean that everything is fixed, but then again do I really have free choice? Yes.  Must I be given faith, or can I grow in faith? Yes, both.  Do I have to exclude one position to trust another? No, I do not believe we do.

It is through experiencing spiritual direction and experiencing God in contemplation and Christian meditation that I have come to this perspective. The initial spark that led me to this path came after reflecting on a lecture I attended. The lecture was on providence. The lecturer gave us a verbatim of the interaction between a young chaplain and an angry old man in hospice care. The young chaplain was trying to get the old man to talk about his feelings. The old man cussed the chaplain out. The chaplain continued to try and reach the old man. The old man was having nothing to do with it. The lecturer asked us what we thought about the verbatim. All of us focused on the dialogue. What did the chaplain do right and what did the chaplain do wrong? The discussion last for about twenty minutes. The lecturer then dismissed us without comment.

Much later, when reflecting on this event I realize that all of us had missed the point. The issue was not what was right or wrong. The issue was the young chaplain’s desire and persistence. God’s providence is about God’s desire and persistence in human affairs. It was from this reflection that I realized how easy it is to be distracted by our own viewpoints and miss the wonder of what is taking place, the relational realities that are often found with the paradoxical providence that is the mystery of God.

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