(This is a repost from February, 2012)
I’m sure many of you have heard the phrase, “It was a God-thing” or something similar. What evangelicals usually mean by this phrase is that God was somehow directly or immediately at work through some instance in their life. For example, someone will say that they really needed to hear a certain song on Christian radio on the drive to work – and since it played, “it was a God-thing” (despite the fact that the radio station plays this song 437 times each day). One problem with this is the subjectiveness of it all. Why wouldn’t it be a “God-thing” to keep the radio off and pray? Or why wouldn’t it be a “God-thing” to carpool to work to save gas money? Couldn’t it be a “God-thing” to think about your schedule for the day? Or, might it be a “God-thing” to walk or bike to work for much-needed exercise? The subjective list goes on.
A section of Mike Horton’s The Christian Faith uncovers another error behind this way of thinking. Paradoxically, many evangelicals who talk about everything being a “God-thing” are Arminian when it comes to salvation, regeneration, and faith. It’s a “God-thing” to hear a Third Day song on the way to work, but choosing Christ and letting him into your heart or making him Lord of your life – that’s a “man-thing.” Oddly, many evangelicals use monergistic language for things like songs on the radio at the right time but synergistic language for regeneration. Horton says it well as he discusses God’s sovereignty in providence and secondary causes (causa secundae).
“Ironically, many today who would not affirm a classic Christian notion of divine sovereignty in salvation nevertheless often speak as if God does all things in their daily lives directly, without any instrumental means or ‘secondary causes.’ If one attributes a remarkable recovery from an illness to the skill of the physicians, well-meaning Christians are sometimes inclined to reply, ‘Yes, but God was the one who healed her.’ In more extreme cases, some believers even excuse their laziness and lack of wisdom or preparation by appealing to God’s sovereignty. ‘Just pray about it’; ‘If God wants it to happen, it will happen.'”
“To be sure, the truth of God’s providence is meant to assure believers that ultimately our times our in God’s hands, but God does not fulfill all of his purposes directly. In fact, it is his ordinary course to employ means, whether human beings or weather patterns, social upheavals, animal migrations, various vocations, and a host of other factors over which he has ultimate control. We are comforted by the truth that God works all things – even adversity – into his plan for our salvation. God provides, but we are commanded to pray for our daily bread and to labor in our callings.”
This quote is found on page 361 of The Christian Faith.