The Divine Watch-Setter

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Those coming from a theistic perspective a likely to view this event pretty differently from those coming from a naturalistic perspective. As the sermon was approaching its end last Sunday, an alarm went off. After the guy next to me checked his watch and it wasn't his, I realized it was mine. I promptly hit something on it to stop it. I forgot to check it later to see what had happened, because I usually don't have the alarm turned on or set for any time in particular. Apparently some buttons had gotten pressed while it was occupying space in my pocket along with the four pens (of different colors) and a mechanical pencil that make their home there. Well, on Thursday as I was doing a walk-through to make sure we'd gotten all we needed packed into our van for our time in NH and NYC, I was about to head downstairs, thinking we were good, and I heard my alarm go off on my office desk. I went in and got my watch and the four or five other items I have left there to be put into my pocket before we left. The alarm had been set for 11:49 am. There's no way that was a time I'd set if for, so both the time itself and the fact that the alarm were turned on would seem to be accidentally caused.

Naturalists just leave it at that. Theists who believe a purposive mind orders what appear to be mindless processes read this sort of situation very differently, particularly those who believe that this mind has purposes that involve human beings, even ones in favor of good outcomes for human beings. According to the theistic worldview, my alarm may well have been set for 11:49 am and turned on, both my processes outside the direct control of any human being, so that my alarm would go off just as I was about to leave, prompting me to remember that it was there and not leave it at home for five days.

2 Comments

There's actually a third option that can account for mindedness and satisfy both the Christian and non-religious: your unconscious orchestrated the event. So, for instance, Freud enumerates manifold examples of mislaying, misremebering, and apparently purposeful forgetting in his "Psychopathology of Everyday Life." No doubt a psycho-analytic account of mis-setting your watch could be made. And, of course, if you disagree perhaps you're just repressing something (tongue fully in cheek).

You do raise what is an interesting question for me, though. Of that which occurs, what exactly should we assign to divine agency (in the sense you use in your post)? What is the legitimate criteria for saying God caused this, but that over there was due to natural forces or human agency?

In the end, as a Calvinist, I'd attribute everything to some level of divine agency, but there are different senses of something's being caused by God. Some things that are intended by someone for evil purposes are also under God's sovereign control. In that sense, you can attribute anything to divine agency, but I don't think that's what you meant.

Notice my careful wording in the post. I do believe the sort of thing I said might have been going on here happens often. I didn't assume my speculation was correct. I think it's usually presumptuous to assign anything to divine agency in the more ordinary sense of God intending something for a specific purpose, a purpose that we know, unless we're absolutely sure, but I think that's rare. I do believe some people may be especially gifted for that sort of thing, but I also believe many people think they're gifted with that sort of thing but aren't. It's too easy to take a subjective feeling and interpret it to be a leading of God for me to place much stock in people's sense of things.

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