Special Providence

views updated May 14 2018

Special Providence

Classical forms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam claim that God guides or intervenes in human history. God's intentions are thereby manifest not just in the general laws of nature but in specific events like Abraham's call to worship God, Christ's life, and the revelation of God's word to Muhammad. Theologians in monotheistic traditions have generally understood God's specific will for empires or individuals as governed by God's will for the good of all creation. From this point of view, God's having a "chosen people" is for the benefit of all. God's special provident action is at the heart of the prophetic tradition in monotheism. It also plays a role in the ancient and contemporary practice of prayer in which one petitions God for some good. Ancient polytheistic religions in Greece and Rome were largely built around divinization (determining the disposition of the gods toward one's petition) and supplications backed by bargains, whereas monotheistic spirituality over the centuries has tended to shun the practice of trying to control God's will out of self-interest.

Three lively philosophical issues arise over special providence: the scope of providence (Is the future predetermined or predestined? Is freedom compatible with providence?); the relation between God's general and special intentions (Can God suspend certain general ethical prohibitions?); and the existence and nature of miracles. Some specific provident acts may be in keeping with, and thus allowed by, the laws of nature, whereas others seem to involve going beyond or against the natural course of events (e.g., a dead man being resurrected).

See also Divine Action; Freedom; Miracle; Providence; Skyhooks; Special Divine Action


flint, thomas p. divine providence: the molinist account. ithaca, n.y.: cornell university press, 1998.

hasker, william. god, time, and knowledge. ithaca, n.y.: cornell university press, 1989.

helm, paul. the providence of god. downers grove, ill.: intervarsity, 1994.

charles taliaferro

Special providence

views updated May 23 2018

Special providence (God's action in relation to particular circumstances and individuals): see PROVIDENCE.

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Special Providence

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