Difference between Providence and Sovereignty??

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Kiffin

Puritan Board Freshman
Are Providence and Sovereignty essentially the same thing?

In my head, Providence would describe God's overall plan of the world whereas Sovereignty would describe God's specific actions in the overall plan?

I don't know...help me out!
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
EJ,

God's providence is His divine plan or purpose. God's sovereignty is His dominion; His legal claim over all things. God is the most perfect and preeminent of all beings. He is before all things and rules all things. Therefore, He is sovereign.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
There are many currently free resources at Ligionier (Dr Sproul) that can help you understand this:
Learn Reformed Theology: Resources from Ligonier Ministries

Dr. Sproul's series, The Sovereignty of God is excellent (great also for a Sunday School class or Small Group).

Sovereignty describes God's absolute control over everything, always and forever. He is not dependent on anything outside of Himself, never has been, never will be. (This is why His creature, man, cannot initiate his own salvation by his, man's choice).

Providence is from latin, pro videre, seeing in advance, and also means God really establishes, ordains whatever comes to pass.

Westminster Confession of Faith

Chapter III
Of God's Eternal Decree

I. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass;[1] yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,[2] nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.[3]

....

Scripture proofs

[1] EPH 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. ROM 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! HEB 6:17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath. ROM 9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

[2] JAM 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 1JO 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

[3] ACT 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. MAT 17:12 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. ACT 4:27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. JOH 19:11 Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. PRO 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.
 

Kiffin

Puritan Board Freshman
Scott,

So, the WCF reference refers to his Providence and not his Sovereignty? I'll listen through the Sproul stuff, but they both still sound the same to me...
 

rbcbob

Puritan Board Graduate
As Scott pointed out our word “provide” comes from the Latin providere.

From Webster: pro-vide- to take precautionary measures … to make preparation to meet a need.

Providence has special reference to God's provision for mankind; especially for His children.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Scott,

So, the WCF reference refers to his Providence and not his Sovereignty? I'll listen through the Sproul stuff, but they both still sound the same to me...

The Westminster Confession explicitly and implicitly refers to both "sovereignty" and "providence."

The sovereignty of God is an over-arching concept. We would say it is a large part of the reformed "doctrine of God." That is every other doctrine, in reformed theology, is related in some way back to the doctrine of God.

Providence is a term used in several ways, but primarily in the sense of God causing things to happen according to His own will. It involves His knowing, ordaining whatsoever comes to pass (hence Westminster Chapter 3 above is an example of that)
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Sovereignty is a characteristic of God, not an action. Providence refers to his sovereign ruling over our affairs.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
JOHN BOWKER. "Providence." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. 1997. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O101-Providence.html

Providence (Lat., providere, ‘to foresee’). The belief that all things are ordered and regulated by God towards his purpose. A distinction is usually made between general providence (which occurs through the laws of nature) and special providence (which is related to individuals).
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
WSC
Q. 8. How doth God execute his decrees?
A. God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.

Q. 9. What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is, God's making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.

Q. 11. What are God's works of providence?
A. God's works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving And governing All his creatures, and all their actions.

Q. 12. What special act of providence did God exercise towards man in the estate wherein he was created?
A. When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death.

Sovereignty is an attribute of God, pertaining to his authority to rule and control.
Providence is the historic outworking of that sovereignty in fact.
We might further distinguish between those creational acts of bringing all things into being (basically ex nihilo) at the start, and the providential sustaining of those things in the course of their continued existence.
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
In my mind it may be oversimplified, but here it goes.

Sovereign is who God is over his creation (positional)
Providence is what he does for his creation (action)

Please correct me if I'm off on this one.
 

Kiffin

Puritan Board Freshman
If Austin's and Rich's definition are correct (which I like, since they are concise), then when we speak of God's sovereign act of salvation, it is sovereign, in one sense, because it can only be done by God's position as God, and it is providential because he is "doing" the act of saving in time.

Is my theological nuancing getting any closer? :think:
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
If Austin's and Rich's definition are correct (which I like, since they are concise), then when we speak of God's sovereign act of salvation, it is sovereign, in one sense, because it can only be done by God's position as God, and it is providential because he is "doing" the act of saving in time.

Is my theological nuancing getting any closer? :think:

Sure. Sovereignty means God's in control of everything. Providence is the things he does to sustain the world. One is something he is and the other is something he does.
 
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