The Providence of God (Contours of Christian Theology) Paperback – 15 Oct 1993
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"This series has been around for over a decade now and has established itself as providing learned yet accessible treatments of key topics in systematic theology. The authors are not only fine theological thinkers, they are also passionate churchmen with a love for God's people and a desire to see the church grow in her knowledge of grace. Each volume blends exegesis, theological synthesis and judicious dialogue with the history of theology to provide an excellent treatment of the chosen topic. Highly recommended for thoughtful Christians who want to deepen their knowledge of Christian theology."--Carl R. Trueman, Paul Woolley Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary
"Read everything in the IVP Contours of Theology series. Pure gold."--Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
In this book I offer a view of my own, though not one that is peculiar to me. The chief reason for this approach is to try to avoid the blandness and obliqueness that often come from setting one view beside another in a 'neutral' way. - from the Introduction by the author. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In this book Helm employs a variety of conceptual frameworks that work towards removing the fog that often pervades discussions of God's providence. I'll mention two of these frameworks. First, his term "no-risk view" of providence (the view associated with Calvinists, that God takes no risk in relation to creation, that all that has happened in the history of the universe is God's plan-A, so to speak) and the term "risk-view of providence" provide Helm the ability to clearly align the arguments and perceived benefits of both methods, arguing for the superiority of the no-risk view.
Second, Helm uses the concept of a "model," which he defines as: "A worked out way of thinking about one or other aspect of the divine-human relationship. It would do at least two things: it would provide a coherent way of thinking about that relationship which does justice to at least some of the main scriptural data on the matter, and would not go beyond those data by knowingly violating other scriptural data." With models, Helm organizes and succinctly summarize various ways in which no-risk theologians have conceived of God's relationship to creation, providing guards that protect God's sovereignty and human responsibility. Helm quotes various theologians (Edwards, Anselm, Augustine, etc.) to support and explain the models. (I particularly like Model 1: "Evil as Privation" and Model 2: "Divine Permission".)
Paul Helm displays his balance in his discussion and upholding of human responsibility: "The maintenance of human responsibility is crucial for a Christian understanding of providence. Without personal responsibility for human failure there is no personal sin, and personal sin is an essential precondition of the very idea of redemption." It is here that Helm endeavors to sketch out and discover criteria that can establish human responsibility, while remaining faithful to the no-risk view.
Later in this section Helm sanctions and links his readers to the philosophically astute work of Harry Frankfurt and John Fischer. Both men have provided grounds for discrediting the belief that libertarian free-will is necessary for human responsibility. In Fischer's case, (though this is beyond the present book) it is argued that determinism and free-choice are not compatible, but determinism and responsibility /are/ compatible. Helm provides a summary of these discussions, and his linking his readers to this discussion will help Calvinists articulate and defend their beliefs in a rigorous fashion.
Stylistically, this book's main strength lays in its conciseness. The book deals with complicated topics without wasting a word, and this commitment pays off in clarity. Helm, for instance, engages wonderfully with Molinism in a mere 6 pages, employing a key criticism (how does God know counter-factual statements?) that still has not been adequately answered by Molinists .
John Frame noted that the book seems slightly out of order. I'd agree with his judgement. There are times that the discussions could have reaped a higher benefit if ordered differently. (Frame notes specifically Helm's discussion of models being separate from their employment.) This gripe is overcome, however, as the benefit reaped is already great.