The word concurrence is about two or more things working in cooperation with one another. Providence as concurrence is about how God works in cooperation with or through all of creation, the natural laws and the free will he has given to humans.
Concerning natural laws, God works in cooperation with the cosmos he has made. For example, God continues to sustain water as water, gravity consistently holds things down, and my chair does not vaporize or vanish underneath me. We can even see God’s concurrence with the natural laws within miracles. For example, if I pray and ask God to heal my arm, he will not heal it into a fully functioning fish fin, but he would restore my human arm. In short, God cooperates, or works in concurrence, with the natural laws that he has made, and in that sense, creation participates in his purposes.
Concerning human free will, we find God concurring with people by way of relationship.
God has willed a world that allows for people to have the capacity for genuine personal relationships, which also means that he has chosen a world which allows the free will choice of that relationship.
Basically, the relational conversation God is having with us: if you do this … then I will do this. For example, if you believe, I will give you eternal life. If you seek me, I will come to you… or on the flip, if you deny me, I will deny you. So, if we do not say “yes” to him, he will not force us to follow him, but I think God has allowed concurrence because he actually desires it from us. He desires us to participate in what he is doing.
Human free will is an important part of the doctrine of providence particularly when we try to understand the presence of evil in God’s world. Some struggle to understand the presence of evil because a good God who created this world cannot also be the source of evil. Concurrence allows us to look at this intellectual problem from another angle.
When we go back to original sin, we see it was not that God chose or even caused Adam and Eve to sin, but that God chose the situation where it was possible for them to know the true love of God and enjoy the benefits of participating in genuine relationship with him. It was therefore also possible for them to turn aside and go another way.
God freely chose a world in which Adam and Eve were also free because it serves God’s greater goal of genuine relationship. Concurrence helps us to understand that even though God is all-knowing about what humans would do, God was not the cause of evil.
In Genesis, we actually see God refraining from choosing in advance whether Adam and Eve would fall or not and instead choosing to cooperate with them in service of accomplishing that greater goal of personal relationship and participation in his presence. So, when humankind fell into sin, God concurred with the fall even though he didn’t cause it, and God continues to work in concurrence with us because it opens the door to his greater purpose being accomplished.
Freewill is actually an opportunity; an opportunity to learn of God’s love in a way that is real, not forced, and for us to cooperate with him.
- Think for a minute about this conversation God is having with humanity: If you do this … then I will do this. In one sense, it is saying that some things are conditional upon our actions. I think it is important to state that there are some things that are unconditional – like how God loves you unconditionally, in a way that cannot be earned. But concerning our level of participation in what he is doing, there are certain things we can do to walk more concurrently with God. What scriptures or teachings from the Bible come to mind concerning this? To get you started, consider:
Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 15
Matthew 6:1, 6 and 14-15
1 John 1:5-2:6
- If God is not the cause of sin and injustice, who is?
- The if/then conversation is about God providing opportunities for people to participate in his presence and work. What does this say to you about God’s intentions for your life?