Providentialism is a belief that God's will is evident in all occurrences, and its application to the social order and world events. It can further be described as an article of faith that the power of God (or Providence) is so complete that humans cannot equal his abilities, or fully understand his actions. Another aspect of providentialism is the conviction that God's plan is beyond the control of humans, and that sometimes this may be expressed in sorrowful things happening to seemingly good people. It also may be understood as a mental acceptance of the provision that all that happens in the world is for the greater good, since "God created the social order and appointed each individual in his place within it."
Providentialism was frequently featured in discussions of European political and intellectual elites seeking to justify imperialism in the 19th century, on the grounds that the suffering caused by European conquest was justified under the grounds of furthering God's plan and spreading Christianity and civilization to distant nations. In the words of historians, it was an interpretive framework of occurring natural, political and social events at a time when religious and secular were not clearly divided.
Providentialism is also a term sometimes used to refer to the general philosophy of Quiverfull adherents. Quiverfull is a small movement among conservative evangelical Christians. Advocates oppose the general acceptance among Protestant Christians of deliberately limiting family size through use of birth control. Advocates believe God controls via providence how many children are conceived and born, pointing to Bible verses that describe God acting to "open and close the womb". Continual "openness to children", to conception during routine sexual intercourse, irrespective of timing of the month during the ovulation cycle, is considered by Quiverfull adherents as part of their Christian calling in submission to the lordship of Christ.
- Smuts, R. Malcolm. Culture and Power in England, 1585-1685. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999, p. 28.
- Winship, Michael P. (2000). Seers of God: Puritan Providentialism in the Restoration and Early Enlightenment. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-6376-7.
- Alexandra Walsham (Aug., 1994). "'The Fatall Vesper': Providentialism and Anti-Popery in Late Jacobean London". Past and Present (144).
- Hamilton, James Frederick. Democratic Communications: Formations, Projects, Possibilities. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2008, p. 35.
- Torode, Sam and Bethany; et al. (2002). Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 0-8028-3973-8.
- Linker, Damon (2010). The Religious Test: Why We Must Question the Beliefs of Our Leaders. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393067958.
- Guyatt, Nicholas. Providence and the Invention of the United States, 1607-1876. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
- Winship, Michael P. Seers of God: Puritan Providentialism in the Restoration and Early Enlightenment. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.