**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
Charity in deliberation is rare these days. If you don’t believe me, just watch any politics “hot take” show or go to the comments section of a controversial article on the internet. Perhaps that is the reason Divine Providence is so refreshing. The authors, Raabe, Standley, and Stübben, intentionally set out to be sympathetic and understanding to one another’s viewpoints. What they accomplish is a book in which the differences in their viewpoints is far outshone by their generosity toward one another.
This is the first offering from Patristica Press, which was established by the authors as a response to the typical publishing house, whose priorities are not on the authors or the planet. To learn more, visit their site http://www.patristicapress.com.
In the book, each chapter is written by a different author, with responses by the other two to the specific claims made in the chapter, followed by a rejoinder by the author. In this way, the three are truly having a conversation with one another, unlike in many multi-author books where the authors seem to be talking over one another.
The book begins with Stübben’s section defending Calvinism, in which he argues against the “immorality” of God because it derives from the human study of ethics, to which God is immune. He also states that there is somehow goodness in suffering because nothing happens without God’s decree. The responses by Raabe and Standley lead Stübben to his rejoinder where he discusses more in-depth the idea of two wills of God, rejecting that God has two wills and saying that divine will and human freedom work together to accomplish God’s will.
Raabe believes the Arminian response is to provide “hope in God’s redemption,” (42). He argues that God limits how often he is deterministic toward humans. He gives humans free choice because that is the prerequisite for moral accountability (75). Standley and Stübben respond, leading Raabe to conclude that he believes codetermination causes confusion. This is his basis for asserting that decisions are made either by God or by humans.
The least well-known system, Open Theism, is taken up by Standley. Similarly to Arminianism, it believes humans are free moral agents. Unlike Arminianism, however, Open Theism rejects the concept of divine foreknowledge when human choices are in view (120). Standley claims God can only be just if people are free or if God cannot judge us for the actions we do not commit. True freedom only comes, argues Standley, if God does not foreknow your decisions. God is a God who responds, which is Standley’s basis for the efficacy of prayer in the Open Theist system. Responses by Stübben and Raabe show how Standley has read scripture from the viewpoint that the future is not settled.
This book is quite accessible for the complexity of the subject matter it addresses. It is replete with Transformers and Nicholas Cage references, as well as thoughtful anecdotes from the authors’ experiences. The authors each write with a high view of Scripture, filling pages and footnotes with references. Their efforts clearly demonstrate how one can conclude each of the three viewpoints in one’s reading of the Bible. I came in with a particular view, and although I was not convinced to change views by the end, I understood the framework of the other two systems more robustly.
I would gladly welcome a volume which combines this work with compatibilities of these doctrines with various views of soteriology and the study of hell. I would also like to see a deeper dive into what it would mean for humans not to have souls, as Stübben alludes to on 149–151 in his response to Standley.
I choose to recommend this book because God wills it and my freedom is aligned with God’s will! Or because I have the freedom to do so. Jokes aside, this book is recommended for all looking for a thought-out debate that will cause you to reconsider your own viewpoints on providence, while contemplating how to regard others’ views with as much grace as these authors have. Whether or not you read, you can rest assured knowing that each of the three authors will have a different explanation of how your misguided decision has to do with God’s providence.