Jim Spiegel is on a blog tour to promote his book Gum, Geckos and God (He is also author of The Benefits of Providence, a book I highly recommend). He asked if I’d like to participate in the tour and I thought that would be a great idea. So here are a couple of questions combining themes of both books.
In several of your other publications you defend a high view of divine providence. In Gum, Geckos, and God we see how you share this perspective with your kids. In what way do you think this doctrine is important for a child’s spiritual development?
I think it is extremely important for several reasons. First and foremost, it is biblical. So recognizing the sovereignty of God from an early age will help one to make sense of the many Scriptural passages—from Psalm 139 to Romans 9—which so strongly emphasize this point. Secondly, a high view of providence is a tremendous comfort during times of trial. As with any adult, if a child knows that God is fully sovereign over even a painful event, then they can know that it is not random or without purpose. And the sooner a child can begin to see God’s hand in their suffering, the sooner they will grasp the profound truth of Romans 8:28. And this is a huge boon to faith. Finally, the high view of providence encourages us to take a humble posture before God, which is essential to spiritual formation. The more readily we recognize that God is sovereign over our lives, the more ready we will be to surrender all aspects of it to him. A high view of providence encourages an attitude of self-denial. And children need to learn this as soon as possible.
Speaking of spiritual formation, how do you conceive of the relationship between God’s role and our role in sanctification?
This is one of those biblical paradoxes (or “mysteries” for those who don’t like the “p” word). I think Scripture is clear on both of these points: 1) God is fully sovereign over our spiritual development, graciously endowing us with whatever spirital gifts and fruit we have and 2) we are morally responsible for our spiritual development and must work hard to grow and become mature disciples of Christ. The Scriptural evidence for each of these points is vast, but Philippians 2:12-13 actually affirms both of these truths together, as Paul writes: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Clearly, then, a high view of providence should not tempt us toward fatalism, as some critics falsely charge. Rather, it should encourage us to be that much more diligent in doing good works and practicing the spiritual disciplines (e.g. prayer, fasting, bible study, etc.), because we have this promise that God himself is behind all of these good choices and acts. How encouraging!