January 16, 2006

Novak at First Things:

One cannot act merely the fair-weather friend, trusting in Providence when things go sunnily, despairing when the skies fill up with ominous clouds.
The village atheist usually challenges believers in Providence to answer a couple of devastating questions. One of them is: “Well, if two opposing armies pray to the same God, how can Providence be faithful to both if it answers one, but not the other?”

It was to such a village atheist that Abraham Lincoln directed his famous lines in his Second Inaugural, in which he conceded, “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God.; and each invokes his aid against the other.” Lincoln then went on to provide the profound traditional reply: “The prayers of both could not be answered; the prayers of neither have been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes.” And then, to show the ageless continuity of orthodoxy he added: “shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him?”

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