Take the issue of guidance. Jesus promises: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matt. 7:8). As the twenty-third psalm promises, “He leads me” (v. 2). The verb suggests that our Heavenly Father, our Shepherd-King, will grant us the wisdom and discretion we need to make the right decisions in order to walk through this life in a manner that brings Him glory. Our Father loves us and isn’t about to stop loving us. His covenant ensures that His word is His bond. But He leads us “in paths of righteousness” (v. 3) and not in stray paths of unrighteousness. He will never lead us to acts of impropriety or to sin. Those come by not listening to His Word, not praying for wisdom, or giving in to choices that are less than the best.
perspicuity and providence
How practical can theology be? Consider two doctrines: perspicuity and providence.
Perspicuity is a theological term that expresses the truth that “ordinary” Christians may read the Scriptures for themselves, and by using the right means (sermons, Bible study aids, mentors, commentaries, and even Tabletalk) they may come to a “sufficient” (though not necessarily comprehensive) understanding of “those things which are necessary to be known . . . for salvation” (Westminster Confession of Faith 1:7). This point was, of course, contested in the medieval church when the Bible was largely unavailable, trapped in a language that only the clergy understood, and used as a ploy to keep the masses chained to the restraints of papal and church authority. The doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture encourages us to love the Bible, read it often and well, and grow in our practice of putting its precepts into visible, tangible action. It is a doctrine that teaches us to be like those noble believers in Berea, described by Luke as those who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
What is providence? It is not a term employed in Scripture, but it is a basic Christian truth. The Westminster Confession defines it this way:
God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose and govern all creatures, actions and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness and mercy. (5.1)
The confession’s chapter on providence touches on some rather difficult issues (the nature of God’s control of history and its relationship to free agency and evil, for example), but its basic thrust is to assure us that nothing happens without God’s willing it to happen, before it happens, in the way that it happens.
Briefly, this definition of providence is an expression of Paul’s statement in Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” To a mother who loses her first child, a sister who learns of a malignant tumor, a college graduate who fails his first job interview, and to people in a thousand other scenarios, God’s providence serves as a reminder that while we may not have all the answers, God does. And when all is said and done, that is what really matters most. It is a doctrine that brings with it an abundance of calm and serenity in the midst of life’s storms. It doesn’t get more practical than that. All of us are theologians to some degree. The real question is, Are we good theologians? Are we using our knowledge of God in every aspect of our lives for His glory?