When I was teaching at TEDS one of my students showed up to class late, and then proceeded to tell me her “story”: she knew God wanted her to come to class on time, she knew Satan was against her getting to class, and some demons had gotten into her tank and sucked out all the gas. When I suggested that maybe filling up the tank earlier would have helped, she looked at me like I had denied God’s ability to do miracles in our modern world.
I don’t think I have problems with miracles; I’m all for them. But, I admit that I have a problem with the sort of Christian who seems to know, always I mean, what God is doing and why God is doing what he is doing, and what specific purposes God is teaching them all the time. “God had my gas run out to teach me to trust him even when I don’t have my supplies.” Pooh pooh I think to myself. This student said God was giving her an opportunity to cast out demons and ride on in victory over the waves of demons and doubt. (Or words to that effect.)
Sociologists and psychologists call this “attribution theory.” It is pretty sophisticated stuff but the essence of it is this: some humans have a need to name everything so they can explain things to themselves, control the world through their “story,” and give for themselves a sense of meaning to this world — where not all things happen as planned. They attribute divine motives to human events.
And, I’ll admit these people annoy me. I think to myself: “How do you know what God is doing in this incident? How do you seem to know what God is always teaching you?” And, to make matters worse, I can get a little accusatory about it all: “Why are you so stinkin’ narcissistic?” Well, this is not nice on my part, and not much of a loving attitude, but it’s true and I might as well admit it.
It is not that I have what is called an “open” view of God. My view of God is that God is so big even all our possible plans are in his calculus of what would have and could have and might have happened. I think this is called “middle knowledge.” No, I’m not one who thinks these people are off base because they know the mind of God, a mind that can’t be known. Instead, I think along these lines: think about what God is doing and see how you fit into that plan instead of thinking about yourself all the time.
Frankly, this is a pleasing theological position. It seems so blessedly theocentric and christocentric and all that stuff that theologians think.
Until you read Psalms, esp those early psalms of King David who seems always to know what God is doing and how his enemies are enemies of God and how his deliverances are God’s deliverances.
And when I read these I wonder if maybe I shouldn’t at times be more patient with my brothers and sisters who, like me, are trying to make sense of the “story” they find themselves in. Even if they annoy me.