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Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky
Orthodox dogmatic theology

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4. The Providence of God

God's providence over the world.

“My father worketh hitherto, and I work(John 5:17). In these words of the Lord Jesus

Christ is contained the truth of God's constant care and providing for the world. Although God

rested on the seventh day from all His works (Gen. 2:2,3), He did not abandon the world. God

giveth to all life, and breath, and all things ... In Him we live, and move, and have our being

(Acts 17:25,28). The power of God keeps the world in existence and participates in all the activities

of the created powers. The constancy of the so-calledlaws of nature” is an activity of

the living will of God; by themselves these “laws” would be powerless and ineffective.

The Providence of God embraces everything in the world. God provides not only for the

great and the immense, but also for the small and apparently insignificant; not only over the

heaven and the earth, angels and men, but also over the smallest creatures, birds, grasses, flowers,

trees. The whole of Sacred Scripture is filled with the thought of God's unwearying providential


By God's good will the universe stands, and the whole immense space of the world God fills

the heavens and the earth (Jer. 23:24); “when Thou turnest away Thy face, everything is troubled

(Ps. 103:30).

By God's Providence the world of vegetation lives on the earth: God covereth heaven with

clouds, Who prepareth rain for the earth, Who maketh grass to grow on the mountains, and

green herb for the service of man(Ps. 146:8-9). Nor does He leave without His care the lilies

of the field, adorning them and other flowers with a beauty which astonishes us (Matt. 6:29).

The Providence of God extends to the whole of the animal kingdom: “The eyes of all look

to Thee with hope and Thou givest them their food in due season. Thou openest Thy hand and

fillest every living thing with Thy blessing(Ps. 144:16-17). God cares even for the smallest

bird: “One of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father(Matt. 10:29).

But it is man who is the chief object of God's Fatherly Providence on earth. God knows the

thoughts of each man (Ps. 138:2), his feelings (Ps. 7:9), even his sighs (Ps. 37:9). He provides

what is needful even before He is asked (Matt. 6:32) and bends His ear to the supplication of

those who ask (Ps. 85:1), fulfilling what is asked if only the request comes from a sincere and

living faith (Matt. 17:20) and is for the good of the one who asks and helps one's search for the

Kingdom of God (Matt. 6:3 3). God directs the steps of the man who does not know his own

way (Prov. 20:24). He makes poor and enriches, He brings down and raises up, He causes

wounds and Himself binds them up, He strikes and heals (Job 5:18). Loving the righteous, He

spares sinners also: “Not unto the end will He be angered, neither unto eternity will He be

wroth(Ps. 102:8). He is longsuffering, in order by means of His goodness to lead sinners torepentance (Rom. 2:4). This all-embracing, ceaseless activity of God in the world is expressed in

the Symbol of Faith when we call GodAlmighty.”

As for the seeming injustices of life, when we see virtuous men suffer while the impious are

prosperous, Chrysostom exhorts us in the following words: “If the Kingdom of Heaven is open to

us and a reward is shown to us in the future life, then it is not worth investigating why the righteous

endure sorrows here while the evil live in comfort. If a reward is waiting there for everyone,

according to their just deserts, why should we be disturbed by present events, whether they

are fortunate or unfortunate? By these misfortunes God exercises those who are submissive to

Him as manful warriors; and the weaker, negligent ones, and those unable to bear anything difficult,

He exhorts ahead of time to perform good deeds” (“To Stagirius the Ascetic, ” Homily I, 8,

in his Collected Works in Russian, vol. I, pt. 1, p. 184). In fact, we ourselves often see that the

best teachers and upbringers are the experiences and misfortunes which men undergo.

In essence, God's Providence over the world is a ceaseless and inseparable activity, even

though our limited minds receive this activity of God in the varied and changing world under different

forms and appearances. The activity of God's Providence is not, so to speak, an interference

in the course of the life given to the world at its creation; it is not a series of private intrusions

of God's will into the life of the world. The life of the world is constantly in God's right

hand: “The world could not stand for an instant if God were to remove His Providence from it”

(Bl. Augustine). “The almighty and most holy Word of the Father, being in the midst of all

things and manifesting everywhere His powers, illuminating all things visible and invisible, embraces

and contains everything in Himself, so that nothing is without participation in His power;

but everything and in everything, every creature separately and all creatures together, He gives

life and preserves” (St. Athanasius the Great, “Against the Pagans, ” ch. 42).

In this regard one must note yet another aspect which causes man to pause in reverent astonishment.

This is the fact that, while the Creator contains everything in His right hand, from the

very day of creation He gave to all organic beings, and even to the vegetable kingdom, a freedom

of growth and development, the use of their own powers and of the surrounding environment,

each in its own measure and according to its nature and organization. Even greater freedom did

the Creator give to man, His rational and morally responsible creation — the highest creation on

earth. With this variety of strivingsnatural, instinctive, and in the rational world also morally

freeGod's Providence comes together in such a way that all of them are held in themselves

and are directed in accordance with the general providential plan. All of the imperfections, sufferings,

and diseases which proceed from the collision of these separate strivings in the world,

are corrected and healed by God's goodness. This goodness calms hostility and directs the life of

the whole world towards the good goal which has been established for it from above. Further, to

the rational creatures of God, this goodness opens up the way to the ceaseless glorification of


No matter how much humanity violates its purpose in the world, no matter how much it

falls, no matter how much the masses of mankind, led by their evil leaders, are inclined to renounce

the commandments of God and God Himself, as we see at the present time — the history

of the world will still culminate in the attainment of the goal established for it by God's Providence:

the triumph of God's righteousness, following which there will be the Kingdom of Glory,

when God will be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

Beholding the majesty, wisdom and goodness of God in the world, the Apostle Paul cries

out: O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! … For Who hathknown the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counselor? Or who hath first given to Him,

and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all

things: to Whom be glory for ever, Amen(Rom. 11:33-36).

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