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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K074-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Divine providence is God’s care, provision, foresight and direction of the universe in such a way that the universe as a whole and individual creatures within it fulfil God’s purposes. Belief in providence was affirmed by some Greek philosophers (especially the Stoics), and is a fundamental tenet of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In modern times, questions have arisen about the possibility of divine intervention in worldly affairs; this creates a difficulty for belief in providence, because it makes it hard to see how God can shape events so as to carry out his providential purposes.

Theories of providence differ with regard to the extent to which God has direct and specific control over earthly events, as opposed to guiding the course of affairs in a general way towards his overall goals. The strongest affirmation of divine control comes from Calvinism, which accepts a compatibilist view of free will (that is, that free will is compatible with determinism) and affirms God’s absolute control over everything that happens. Other views affirm libertarian free will for creatures; some place limitations on God’s knowledge of the future, and process theology places stringent limits on God’s power to affect worldly events. These limitations tend to give creatures a limited degree of independence over against God, and lessen God’s direct and specific control over events.

Citing this article:
Hasker, William. Providence, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K074-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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