Providentialism was sometimes viewed by its adherents as differing between national providence and personal providence. Some English and American Christians came to view personal providentialism as backward and superstitious, while continuing to believe in national providentialism. National providentialism was described by the British historian Nicholas Guyatt as encompassing three broader beliefs: God judged nations on the virtues of its leaders, there is a special role for certain nations, and finally that God worked out a master plan through the role of various nations.
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 may be understood as the acceptance of the belief 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 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.