In my journey as a Christian, I have always had two causes of concern when it comes to trying to discern the will of God. On the one hand, I am concerned about passive rationalization in which we simply think “it happened, therefore it must be God’s will.” One has no real criteria to rule things in or out of God’s will except what occurs. On the other hand, I am also worried about the reverse problem that I refer to as active rationalization, but can be colloquially referred to as the self-fulfilling prophecy, where a person thinks something is God’s will but it is fact their own action that made it happen but they are lead to think it was God’s action rather than their own that made things happen. In this case, the criteria for determining God’s will is whether it fulfills a goal we have that we actively seek to make happen.
What if, however, discerning the will of God is more like prospecting, where people neither just sit around and accept whatever is nor are they always out and about trying to make something happen, but they listen, pay attention, and seek to prospect what God is willing to happen, sometimes in possible future that ‘synergistically’ involves our actions to bring about and sometimes in an inevitable future that God ‘monergistically’ brings into play? Through the midst of prospect, we neither accept something simply because it is the way things turned out nor are we quick to accept something as God’s will because it fits with our designs and goals.
As an analogy, what might this look like? A man and a woman who simultaneously are attracted to each other and want to be close to each other and yet don’t want to force each other into a place the other doesn’t want to be in. And so, they don’t just simply accept whatever happens happens and do nothing, nor do they try to force each others hand, but they each prospect with each other to see if the will of that other person is to be with them.
You know what else this way of discerning God’s will would look a lot like? Critical realism or, as NT Wright has popularized it, an epistemology of love.