compiled by Michael Jeshurun

The story is told of Robert Bruce, king of Scotland, that he was once running away from his enemies and hid in a cave. And while languishing there he beheld a persistent spider labouring to spin her web and that she tried SIX times before she got it right the seventh time. This encouraged King Bruce to not give up but try just one more time, which he did and won the battle. Whether this story is true or not, many of us can relate to such ‘chance’ happenings; where some insignificant act or event (like that of the spider) changed the course of our lives.

But can these occurrences be regarded as ‘chance happenings’ or are they ordained by God’s Sovereign Providence?

Spurgeon said long ago, “I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes – that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit, as well as the sun in the heavens – that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses. The creeping of an aphid over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence – the fall of . . . leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche.”

When Spurgeon was challenged that this is nothing but fatalism and stoicism, he replied,

“What is fate? Fate is this – WHATEVER IS, MUST BE. But there is a difference between that and Providence. Providence says, WHATEVER GOD ORDAINS, MUST BE; but the wisdom of God never ordains anything without a purpose. Everything in this world is working for some great end. Fate does not say that. . . . There is all the difference between fate and Providence that there is between a man with good eyes and a blind man.” [C.H. Spurgeon]

“That even the small events have their place in this plan. and that they must be as they are, is easily seen. All of us know of certain “chance happenings” which have actually changed the course of our lives. The effects of these extend throughout all succeeding history in ever-widening influences, causing other “chance happenings.” It is said that the quacking of some geese once saved Rome. Whether historically true or not it will serve as a good illustration. Had not the geese awakened the guards who gave the alarm and aroused the defending army, Rome would have fallen and the course of history from that time on would have been radically different. Had those geese remained silent who can imagine what empires might have been in existence today, or where the centers of culture might have been? During a battle a bullet misses the general by only an inch. His life is spared, he goes on commanding his troops, wins a decisive victory, and is made the chief ruler of his country for many years,—as was the case with George Washington. Yet what a different course history would have taken had the soldier on the other side aimed the slightest trifle higher or lower!

The great Chicago fire of 1871, which destroyed more than I half of the city, was started, we are told, when a cow kicked over a lantern. How different would have been the history of Chicago if that one motion had been slightly different! “The control of the greatest must include the control of the less, for not only are great things made up of little things, but history shows how the veriest trifles are continually proving the pivots on which momentous events revolve. The persistence of a spider nerved a despairing man to fresh exertions which shaped a nation’s future. The God who predestinated the course of Scotch history must have planned and presided over the movements of that tiny insect that saved Robert Bruce from despair.” Examples of this kind could be multiplied indefinitely.

The Pelagian denies that God has a plan; the Arminian says that God has a general but not a specific plan; but the Calvinst says that God has a SPECIFIC PLAN WHICH EMBRACES ALL EVENTS IN ALL AGES. In recognizing that the eternal God has an eternal plan in which is predetermined every event that comes to pass, THE CALVINIST SIMPLY RECOGNIZES THAT GOD IS GOD, AND FREES HIM FROM ALL HUMAN LIMITATIONS. The Scriptures represent God as a person, like other persons in that His acts are purposeful, but unlike other persons in that He is all-wise in His planning and all-powerful in His performing. They see the universe as the product of His creative power, and as the theater in which are displayed His glorious perfections, and which must in all its form and all its history, down to the least detail, correspond with His purpose in making it.

In a very illuminating article on “Predestination,” Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield, who in the opinion of the present writer has emerged as the outstanding theologian since John Calvin, tells us that the writers of Scripture saw the divine plan as “broad enough to embrace the whole universe of things, and minute enough to concern itself with the smallest details, and actualizing itself with inevitable certainty in every event that comes to pass.” “In the infinite wisdom of the Lord of all the earth, each event falls with exact precision into its proper place in this unfolding of His eternal plan; nothing, however small, however strange, occurs without His ordering, or without its peculiar fitness for its place in the working out of His purposes; and the end of all shall be the manifestation of His glory, and accumulation of His praise. This is the Old Testament (as well as the New Testament) philosophy of the universes world-view which attains concrete unity in an absolute decree, or purpose, or plan of which all that comes to pass is the development in time.”

The very essence of consistent theism is that God would have an exact plan for the world, would foreknow the actions of all the creatures He proposed to create, and through His all-inclusive providence would control the whole system. If He fore- ordained only certain isolated events, confusion both in the natural -world and in human affairs would be introduced into the system and He would need to be constantly developing new plans to accomplish what be desired. His government of the world then would be a capricious patch work of new expedients He would at best govern only in a general way, and would be ignorant of much of the future. But no one with proper ideas of God believes that He has to change His mind every few days to make room for unexpected happenings which were not included in His original plan. If the perfection of the divine plan be denied, no consistent stopping place will be found short of atheism.”

[Loraine Boettner – ‘The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination’]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s