America's Providential History Teacher's Guide is designed to be used when teaching America's Providential History (APH) by Mark Beliles and Stephen McDowell. In addition to presenting much evidence of America's Christian history, APH also teaches Biblical principles of education, government, politics, economics, and family life—it provides instruction in a Biblical worldview. At the end of the questions for each chapter in Section 3 of this Teacher's Guide, further readings are given in America's Providential History, A Documentary Sourcebook (APH Sourcebook) (see Section 8 for information on ordering). Working through these three resources will provide a solid foundation for those desiring a Biblical worldview and an understanding of providential history. Thinking Biblically is necessary to bring Godly reformation to America and fulfilling God's call upon our lives.
Most Americans today are not familiar with the word providence, in use or meaning. The founders of America used this word often and understood well what it meant. In closing the Declaration of Independence, they expressed their "firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence." George Washington used this word scores of times in his writings. This was not done as a mere convention of the times, but out of a conviction of the reality of this doctrine at work in his life and in the events of history in which he was taking part.
For example, when his life was miraculously preserved in 1755 during the French and Indian War, Washington wrote his brother:
"But by the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although death was levelling my companions on every side of me."
Years later during the struggles of the Revolutionary War in July 1776, on the anniversary of their earlier escape, Washington wrote to Colonel Adam Stephen, who had been at the battle, reaffirming his belief in God's providential care: "the same Providence that protected us upon those occasions will, I hope, continue his Mercies, and make us Instruments in restoring Peace and liberty to this once favour'd, but now distressed Country."
Providence signifies the Bible doctrine of the overruling power of God that governs in the affairs of men. Providence is "the care and superintendence which God exercises over His creatures." The Bible declares that God "makes nations great, and he destroys them: he enlarges nations, and leads them away" (Job 12:23). "Dominion belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations (Psa. 22:28). God moves providentially in the lives of men and nations to accomplish His purposes in history. Our providential purpose is a part of God's overall purpose for mankind.
The doctrine of Providence entails God directing the course of history, but it is more than this. Theologian Wayne Grudem defines providence as: "God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes."
God created all things and He is preserving His creation. Christ "is upholding the universe by his word of power" (Heb. 1:3). "In Him all things hold together" (Col. 1:17). This means that "if Christ were to cease his continuing activity of sustaining all things in his universe, then all except the triune God would instantly cease to exist." "In Him we live and move and have out being" (Acts 17:28).
Ezra declared: "You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you" (Neh. 9:6). This should be our response to the recognition of God's providence.
God created the universe and continues to hold it together. He created us, gave us lungs to breathe and continues to sustain our every breath. Elihu said of God: "If he should take back his spirit to himself, and gather to himself his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust" (Job 34:14-15).
His providence is like the atmosphere, it continually surrounds us, but we rarely take note of it. Likewise, we often do not recognize the providence of God in our lives—we often take it for granted. We cannot see how much He preserves, directs, and is involved in our lives. Only if His hand were removed from us would we know of the all sustaining care of God. We would become aware of this immediately, just as we would experience immediately the effects of removing the atmosphere from around us—we would gasp for our next breath. His providence is seen in non-Christians as well. "No event in creation falls outside of his providence."
A Biblical view of providence discounts deism (the belief that God created all things but He abandoned His creation to run on its own). The founders of America were not deists. They did not see God as detached from His creation. Even non-Christians like Franklin saw God as intimately involved in all aspects of His creation, knowing the number of hairs on our heads, aware of every sparrow that fell to the ground, and directing the rise and fall of nations.
America's Providential History looks at that aspect of providence that deals with His governance in men and nations. The Bible teaches that God not only brings forth men in the earth at His appointed time and place and for His purpose, but He also determines the appointed times and boundaries of nations (Acts 17:26). As Nebuchadnezzar learned: "He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth" (Dan. 4:35).
God often directs the course of history by directing the course of individual lives. God's providence is manifested in all aspects of our lives:
This is not to say we do not have real choice, for we do, and our choices cause events to happen. God works in and through our real choices to direct events in history, leading to the furtherance of His purposes and kingdom. We must follow Him, obey Him, set our will to do all He has commanded us, for "If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God" (John 7:17).
God's providence and our responsibility to obey Him and follow Him at all costs are demonstrated with great power and clarity in the lives of His people that you will be introduced to in America's Providential History.