Divine providence is often a confused idea.

In Calvinism, a sect of Christianity, the concept of divine providence narrowly defined as synonymous with predestination, which is that everyday we do and all that happens has already been determined (pre-destined) by God. In other words, everything is absolutely determined by God’s Will, and thus free will is but an illusion. As well, if we cannot understand the love and righteousness in everything that happens, then this is only because of our own lack of perception and wisdom. Yet this idea is not merely confined to Calvinism. Many Christians seem to believe it, even though their Christian leaders do not. And the idea is quite prevalent in Islam.

The famous Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas, defined the concept of divine providence as the loving care and wise foresight of God in regards to the world and humanity. But it should be noticed that this general definition does not necessarily imply predestination nor absolute determinism. For example, spiritually imagine how God can lovingly care for everyone and also have wise foresight about what is right and best for the world, but this does not necessarily mean that everything happening is always determined by God.

Imagine God caring about us all and with foresight knowing what is spiritual best for us to do, yet not absolutely forcing anyone to follow this wisdom. God knows what is right and best, and God can even speak this wisdom through the mouths and writings of spiritual disciples, but nothing is forced and nothing is absolutely determined to be. God can point us towards the water (since God knows we need the water, and God knows where it is found), but it is up to us to listen to and follow the directions, and it’s up to us to actually drink the water.

So imagine a world of freedom, rather than determinism. Yet nonetheless in this world of freedom is God’s loving care about us all and God’s wisdom about what is best. Thirdly, realize that God sends forth this wisdom to everyone through the words and spiritual deeds of spiritual disciples, teachers and prophets. So God does not just leave us all on our own, but from loving compassion God gives spiritual and righteous direction to everyone, by way of God’s servants and regents. Thus, the Wisdom is given, but it is up to the freedom of each person to take any of this wisdom to heart and follow this wisdom which leads us to the Water.

Thomas Jefferson, one of the geniuses behind American human rights and democracy, used the term, divine providence, in relation to Justice. According to Jefferson’s meaning of this concept, Right Justice is known by God and is part of God’s Will. Justice is what God Wills, but this isn’t necessarily what is in the world at this time. In other words, God wishes for there to be Justice, just as God wishes for everyone to love one another and live in peace. This is what God Wills and this is the ‘destiny’ of the world – meaning that this is the Aim. As well, in Jefferson’s meaning of divine providence, the Justice that is divinely intended is Not necessarily here already. Jefferson did not think that God’s Justice was already manifesting in every event. Rather, he knew that many and many of the events happening in the world in his day were not at all part of God’s Will, nor of God’s Plan, and certainly not part of any divine justice. Jefferson believed that Justice was something to be evolved, something to hopefully come about in the future, but only if people struggled hard for it.

The famous Christian activist, Martin Luther King Jr,, believed in this same way, that true Justice was Not now happening in every happening, but instead he perceived a prevalent injustice in the world and in what often happened, and he did Not believe that these injustices were God’s Will nor predestined to be. So instead he believed that Justice was a Goal of God’s Will, but something that would not come about unless people actually demanded it, worked for it, and denounced the injustices (not simple-mindedly thinking that these injustices were given to us by God, or sanctioned by God, or a Plan of God).