Argument from providence

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Apologists argue that in the course of history, there is evidence of God's intervention. This is known as the argument from providence or the argument from the upward curve of history. Events are supposedly guided by an invisible hand. Based on the view that humans are selfish or limited, they themselves could not have achieved all that has been done. Therefore, there must be another explanation, i.e. God.

"God’s working can be seen in history, through the working of Scripture, and through the working of individuals. God’s existence is the only possible explanation of these occurrences. [1]"
"[The majority opinion] asserts that there is a design, purpose, or pattern in history. This viewpoint has its origins in the religious traditions of the West--in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--but primarily in the Bible itself. Religious beliefs have concluded that history is an unfolding of God's plan for the world. Therefore it has purpose. St. Augustine elaborated this thesis in the 5th century, and in the 17th century the French theologian Jacques-Benigne Bossuet carried the idea further in his 'Discourse on Universal History' (1681). The rise and fall of empires depend, in Bossuet's thought, on the secret designs of Providence. [2]"
"Let us frankly own, then, that unless something Divine circulates in history, there is no history. [3]"

"[God] marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us."

Acts 17:26-27 Bible-icon.png
"On the face of it, Islam's ability to avoid this fate [of internal conflict] is astonishing, and demands careful analysis. [4]"


Possible divine intervention in history

Counter arguments

Argument from ignorance

Apologists have not ruled out other possibilities that might explain the alleged pattern. It is therefore an argument from ignorance.

Poor explanation

Employing God as an explanation is not helpful because he is a bigger mystery than the one we are seeking to explain. Explanations should always be based on familiar phenomena.

Which God?

Main Article: Which God?

The argument supports no specific religion or God.

Arguments that refer to Israel or the Jews might suggest the Abrahamic God. However, we cannot rule out polytheism or other Gods being involved.

Weak evidence that history is guided by providence

There is little or no evidence that history is guided by providence ,or that it has an ultimate purpose. Chance events happen occasionally, and sometimes these coincidences are misinterpreted by humans as meaningful, due to cognitive bias. There is nothing that actually requires explanation.

Social progress

For more information, see the Wikipedia article:

Social progress is a controversial idea because there is no agreed-upon common standard by which to measure progress. Usually, people use cultural context or political viewpoint to form a narrative that attempts to explain any given current situation. Sometimes, the concept of providence is used to form a subjective narrative, but it does not automatically make it a reality. Progress and purpose are generally human inventions, and there is little reason to think the universe or history is governed by these principles.

Human explanation of progress

If we assume civilization is progressing, humans have traits that explain how this may occur. For instance, we have culture and language which allows past lessons and common practices to be passed through generations.

"And so humankind has slowly reasoned its way toward a broader and more sophisticated understanding of morality, and more effective institutions for keeping peace. We make moral progress as we do scientific progress, through reasoning, experimentation, and the rejection of failed alternatives. [5]"

Since we already have a plausible explanation, it is unnecessary to resort to God as an explanation.


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. 3.0 3.1 [3]
  4. [4]
  5. 5.0 5.1 Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, 2011
  6. [5]
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