What is providential history?

Updated: 4/28/2022
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There is no easy answer to this question. First, we have to know what the word "providential" means here. "Providential" means "related to something that reflects God's purposes". So we can say "providential history" is the history explained in the framework of The Bible, in which the historians try to make sense of the history in biblical terms and try to illustrate God is always there to control the fate or destiny of the humankind. In 2004, Mark Beliles and Stephen McDowell published a very influential Christian textbook entitled America's Providential History. The providential view of history could be identified as any historical view that sees

history governed by supernatural beings. In this sense, the oldest Greek historians held a providential views. But in the narrower sense, the providential view of history refers to those who believe the God of the Bible superintends over all of life and history to provide for and direct it according to His purposes. Because of the increasing tide of secularism, this view largely has been lost in the 20th century among academic

historians. But the providential view used to be popular among American historians. For example, Rev. S. W. Foljambe, in 1876 defined history as "the autobiography of Him

'who worketh all things after the counsel of His will' (Eph. 1:11) and who is graciously

timing all events after the counsel of his Christ, and the Kingdom of God on earth. It is

His-Story." This view presupposes the existence, sovereignty, and providence of the

God of the Bible, and is centered on Him and His purposes. The fruit of providentialism

is direction, hope, purpose, motivation, good will, and more. For e xample the

providentialist would see Washington's astounding crossing of the Delaware River

during the War for Independence as an act of God, confirming His purpose for liberty.

(Indeed, many historians have written that an amazing and unexplainable weather

development at just the right time protected the Americans and gave them an incredible breakthrough.) Such a view would give direction, hope, purpose, motivation, and humble hearts to the American soldiers and citizens. (And it did.)

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