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Faith vs. fatalism

A sovereign God gives us means to protect ourselves and others


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Faith in God’s sovereignty has one thing in common with fatalism: Both words begin with the letter F. I’m impressed with the way many Christians are responding to coronavirus pressure, but depressed by those who blithely equate social isolation and theological surrender.

Here’s a quick reminder of what the past millennium’s prime proponent of God’s sovereignty, John Calvin, wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book 1, Chapter 17): “For he who has set the limits to our life has at the same time entrusted to us its care. He has provided means and helps to preserve it. … Thus if the Lord has committed to us the protection of our life, our duty is to protect it; if he offers helps, to use them; if he forewarns us of dangers, not to plunge headlong; if he makes remedies available, not to neglect them.”

What’s the practical application? One Sunday in 1862 pastor and soldier Robert L. Dabney preached a sermon on God’s “special providence,” noting that in a recent battle “every shot and shell and bullet was directed by the God of battles.” Not much later Dabney found himself under fire and took cover behind a large gate post. A nearby officer kidded him: “If the God of battles directs every shot, why do you want to put a gate-post between you and a special providence?” Dabney replied, “Just here the gate-post is the special providence.”


Marvin Olasky

Marvin is the former editor in chief of WORLD, having retired in January 2022, and former dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism.

@MarvinOlasky

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