WCF 5.2-3

The Westminster Confession of Faith

2. In relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and unerringly; yet, by the same providence, he orders them to come about according to the nature of secondary causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

3. God, in his ordinary providence, makes use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against, them, at his pleasure. (WCF 5.2-3)

Chapter five of our confession is about the providence of God and it presents to us the most amazing teaching on how God’s pre-planning and His creatures freewill work with one another so that God’s sovereignty remains intact and our freewill is not chipped away at.

First, God has planned all things and He personally cares for and governs all things to come to pass according to that plan. Think about it like this. When you have someone work as a supervisor when building a house, the architect’s design might be seen as more of a suggestion than something to follow down to a T. This isn’t the case with our creator, no he is both architect and supervisor and nothing that he has planned won’t come to pass as planned (it’s as the confession states, all things come to pass immutably and unerringly). All this to say, He is the ‘first cause’ and what He pre-planned will come to pass perfectly (Acts 2:32).

Second, this begs the question, if He has planned and all will come to pass as planned, is creation just sets and humans just puppets in His play? No, though He designed the sets and wrote the play and the storyline will work out perfectly, we creatures are not puppets, we’re free agents that freely choose, yet as we choose freely, God’s pre-planned storyline is worked out perfectly according to His foreknowledge and decree from eternity pass (Gen 50:20). In other words, by God’s providential care, He achieves His perfect plan through ‘secondary causes’, which is His creation. This is what theologians like to call “concurrence”, which means ‘a flowing together’.

Third, because God is ‘the first cause’ and achieves His perfect plan by and through ‘secondary causes’ we might briefly think about how this happens. The confession states that essentially God will achieve His set plan by ‘ordinary providence’, which is to say God achieves His plans through pretty ordinary means.

If He wants somebody saved, He will save them through the preaching of the word, which He has told us to do (Matt 28:19-20). If He wants somebody healed, He has given doctors and medicine and has told us to pray and He really does use the prayers of His people to achieve His will (Mk 11:24). If He wants farmers to have a good crop, He has designed the eco-system in such a way that it will rain (Hos 2:21-22). But what the confession is saying here is that God has not bound His plan to only be achieved by ‘ordinary providence’ or ‘secondary causes’, no He is able - if He so wishes - to work outside of the normal parameters that he has set up. This is what we call miracles and God is free to preform them whenever He see’s fit, but in stating that, miracles are part of his providence to.

This is a big wide world that we live in but as Christians we can live with the great comfort at our God will achieve what he has set out to do. If he uses ordinary means, secondary causes or miracles, there isn’t a rogue atom in the universe that is alien to his plan and providence.

Published: May 30, 2024

Updated: May 30, 2024