Introduction

John Piper has been a faithful pastor and author for several decades and has greatly influenced the Reformed Evangelical community. In his most recent book, Providence, Piper unpacks one of the central themes of his life and ministry, namely, the all-encompassing providence of God over all things. At 711 pages, this book is not for the casual reader or the faint at heart. This book, however, is a reflection of a lifetime of study and meditation on one of the grand themes of Scripture and a centerpiece of Christian piety and comfort; the sovereign control and governance of God over all things.

Overview

This massive book is divided into three parts, nine sections, and 45 chapters. Piper begins by defining providence in part 1 by examining Scripture and historic confessions. His aim was not to be novel. Piper wrote, “My aim in this book is not to develop a new meaning of providence that the church has not embraced in its historic statements of faith. Instead, I aim to gather from the Scriptures some very old kindling of truth, pile it up in plain view, and put a match to it.”[1]. In part 2, Piper does a biblical-theological survey from creation to glorification in order to display from Scripture the ultimate goal of providence, namely, “the glory of his grace.” In true Piperian language, Piper wrote that “God’s purpose is to exalt his glory through the exercise of his grace. His aim is the greatness of his name and the gladness of his undeserving people. That is, his aim is God-exalting, soul-satisfying praise of the glory of his grace.”[2] Part 3, which is by far the longest part of the book, examines the providence of God in various aspects of life. Piper examines the providence of God over nature, Satan and demons, kings and nations, life and death, sin, conversion, Christian living, and the final achievement of providence in the eternal state. He aims to show that nothing is excluded from being under the control of a sovereign and wise God.

Analysis

This is an incredibly powerful book. John Piper has once again written a book that is ruthlessly biblical, theologically rigorous, pastorally sensitive, and practically useful. Piper leaves no stone unturned in Scripture or theology when examining the nature and scope of God’s sovereign and wise providence. Piper is ruthlessly biblical, including a survey of the theme of providence from the entire bible before taking a more systematic approach to examining providence from multiple different angles. Piper is sensitive to church history, quoting generously from creeds and confessions and great champions of the faith while remaining grounded in Scripture above all else. Piper is pastorally sensitive, offering multiple forms of application for those wrestling with sin, experiencing a trial, or formulating a biblical worldview. This book is also incredibly timely. While a study of God’s providence is always relevant, much of what is discussed in this book is desperately needed today. As believers, an understanding of God’s sovereignty over rulers is essential to remaining grounded in the midst of a tense political climate. An understanding of God’s sovereignty over conversion gives us boldness for evangelism and missions. An understanding of God’s sovereignty over sin and suffering gives us the courage to face trials and temptations in our lives.

My favorite chapter in the book was chapter 25, “We are Immortal til Our Work is Done.”[3] This short chapter is the conclusion to the section regarding the providence of God over life and death. In this chapter, Piper tells two incredibly moving stories to illustrate faith in God’s providence over life and death. The first is of Henry Martyn, a missionary to India and Persia who died at age 31. He is paraphrased to have said, “I am immortal till Christ’s work for me to do is done.”[4] What a powerful perspective! This is a statement I have repeated to myself multiple times since reading this chapter. The second story is of a missionary plane containing a husband, wife, and seven-month-old baby shot down, leaving the mother and baby dead. Piper quotes from the address that the bereaved husband and father gave at the funeral, at it was incredibly moving. In this speech, the man called the bullet that killed his wife and daughter a “sovereign bullet,” refusing to believe that anything that happened was random or accidental. But he praised God for the lives of his family and offered forgiveness to the shooter in light of the forgiveness he received in Christ. It was a deep faith in the providence of God that gave this heartbroken man the strength to walk through unimaginable grief with hope and forgiveness. Piper concluded this chapter by writing, “Let us encourage each other with the glorious truth that life and death, now and forever, are in the hands of God. His merciful, all-encompassing providence is our strength while we live and our hope when we die. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21).”[5]

If I were to offer a critique of the book, it would be in the area of length. While this book is incredibly helpful, I cannot help but think it could have been much shorter and still had the same effect. There are numerous chapters that, while helpful, could have been omitted without losing any of the essential content of the book. Nevertheless, I assume that the author intended this book to be this lengthy to be as comprehensive as possible and leave no question in the reader’s mind as to God’s providence over all things, so I suppose I can’t complain.

All in all, this is an incredibly valuable book that was a blessing to me, and I trust it will be a blessing to many others in the church. I expect to return to this book time and again for edification, encouragement, and equipping myself to trust in God’s pervasive providence. I am grateful to God for the ministry of John Piper and how that is reflected in this book, and I would encourage all reading this review to take up this book and read. It might not be an easy read, but it will be strengthening for your soul.

I am grateful to Crossway for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. To get your copy of Providence by John Piper, click here.

[1] John Piper. Providence. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway). 2020. 32.

[2] Piper, Providence, 57.

[3] Ibid., 371-381.

[4] Ibid., 377.

[5] Ibid., 381.

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