The Modes of God’s Providence

Τρόποι τῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ προνοίας
Modi Dei providentiae*

All things are from God—good things, sorrowful things, and even the things that are unworthy of God. But the first come by God’s good pleasure, the second by divine dispensation (oikonomia), and the third by divine permission. God is well pleased to give good things when we conduct ourselves virtuously. For God wants us to live without sin and to conduct ourselves with piety and virtue. He send sorrows in his divine dispensation when we slip into sin and need to be corrected. But he yields to us when we resist turning back even after we are chastized. For God was well-pleased to save man, even as the angels cried out, saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and [God’s] good-pleasure among men (Lk 2:14). Likewise, God chastizes us by divine dispensation when we sin, lest we be condemned together with the world, as the Apostle says: Being judged, we are chastened by the Lord, lest we be condemned together with the world (1 Cor 11:32). Similarly, There is no evil in a city that the Lord did not make (Amos 3:6), namely famines and plagues, diseases, and the onslaughts of enemies. For all these things serve to eradicate sin. But God yields to those who do not wish to live without sin, or who do not turn back when they are chastised, and leaves them completely to themselves—those who wish to remain in wickedness, as it is written: God utterly blinded their eyes and hardened their heart (Jn 12:40), and, He gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do what is unseemly (Rom 1:28)—that is to say, he permitted them on account of their freedom of choice—and, I will harden the heart of Pharaoh—that is to say, ‘I shall permit it to be hardened on account of his disobedience.’

Ed. Konstantinos G. Phrantzolas, Ὁσίου Ἐφραίμ τοῦ Σύρου ἔργα, 5 (Thessaloniki: Perivole tes Panagias, 1994), 412-413. Cf. Assemani Gr.3:433-434. This short text is equivalent to Ps.-Athanasius, Syntagma ad quendam politicum (PG 28:1400-1401): “On Providence.” Cf. St John of Damascus, Exact Exposition on the Orthodox Faith 43 (2.29) (ed. B. Kotter, 101.25 – 103.81); this section in the Damascene, which likewise speaks of the distinction between God’s good pleasure and permission, contains the phrase, “it is is necessary to recognize that the ways of providence are many” (χρὴ δὲ εἰδέναι, ὡς πολλοί εἰσιν οἱ τρόποι τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ προνοίας).

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