The mists of history

After the series of irenic posts by Halden on John Piper that Dan linked to in a previous sausage post, I was thinking about the kind of God that Halden excoriates there.

Yesterday I was reading Leithart’s posts on Ecclesiastes and came across the following post:

Choon-Leong Seow has some helpful comments about the “time for this, time for that” poem in Ecclesiastes 3. He points out that the thrust of the section is about God’s control of times and portions. As evidence, he notes that the word “season” us normally used “of predetermined or appointed time.” More fundamentally, while the section recognizes the reality of human action (describing man as “the doer” in 3:9), the accent is on God’s action: “The word ’sh ‘to do, work, make, act’ is used repeatedly of God, who is also mentioned several times in vv. 10-15: it is God who has made . . . everything (v 11); people cannot discover the deed . . . that God has done . . . from the beginning to the end (v 11); what God does . . . is ‘eternal’ (v 14); and God has acted . . . that people might be reverent before God (v 14). The only thing that the human is able to do . . . is to find pleasure in life (v 12), but even that is a gift of God (v 13).” The “everything” that God does in v 11 echoes with the “everything’ of v 1, and v 11 also refers to “time” (cf. v 1): “God is the one responsible for bringing about everything in its time.”

It strikes me that theologies which deny God has comprehensive control over history put God in exactly the place Ecclesiastes puts human beings: trying, and inevitably failing, to shepherd the wind. In Ecclesiastes, we are precisely called to put faith in the God who can shepherd the wind (i.e., control history), because we cannot. But if God cannot even see, let alone control, the future, what’s the difference, really?

It strikes me, too, that this is not the unique perspective of Ecclesiastes. The idea of God’s control over disaster, and even evil human choices, is a constant theme throughout scripture. Which leads me to a deeper issue: either I am deeply misreading great portions of scripture, or else Halden (and the many people who agree with him) is, or else neither of us are, and one of us is deliberately not believing what the scripture does say about God. I can’t think of another option.