The danger of conclusions drawn from circumstances

Yesterday I wrote about the short term supply chain problems affecting various economies around the world and causing specific shortages in terms of food in the UK.  I observed that people are quick to draw conclusions from correlations that support their particular political presuppositions so that some people are adamant that this has been caused by Brexit and others that it is solely a result of COVID-19. The reality is far more complex.

That’s the problem with looking at a situation and finding a correlation then presuming causation. Often our circumstances are much more complex with a number of factors affecting the situation.  It would be very unwise to draw conclusions about whether Brexit was right or wrong based on Britain’s current economic circumstances.  Such an approach ignores the following.

  • That a significant change such as Brexit would involve short term economic implications that might include both downward and upward pressures on the economy. The short term picture may not be a reliable guide to the longer term trends we can expect.
  • That we have been through a significant pandemic that has caused huge disruption to our way of life.
  • That the Government are also making economic decisions about taxation and spending regardless of Brexit that may be beneficial or harmful.
  • That the economy is subject to a longer-term economic cycle that includes growth and decline. I personally suspect that we were coming to the end of an extended period of growth and would have potentially expected to see a downturn at some point.[1]

What this means is that we should be careful about drawing conclusions regarding Brexit from those issues and challenges faced now.  This does not mean that Brexit was definitely the right thing to do. What it does mean is that we should determine the question by going back to the underpinning principles that were at stake in the debate. 

The thing is that we so often make the same mistake of drawing premature and questionable conclusions because we misread circumstances and fail to see the complexity of factors involved.  This happens in discipleship too doesn’t it.  A husband decides it is right to leave his marriage because he is unhappy and therefore his unhappiness must be caused by his unhappy marriage. He does not consider that it might be his unhappiness that is making the marriage unhappy.  A member of the church comes to see you to tell you that they want to marry a non-Christian they have met. Their reasons are two-fold. First, they are happy in the company of this person. Secondly, they have spoken to other Christians who dated and married unbelievers and who have assured them that it worked out in their case. Decisions are based on short term observations that may not give the complete and true picture.

It’s so important that we do not seek to second guess God’s will from circumstances. This is even more important than the initial example in this article. The right thing to do is not determined by what seems to work out well at the time. Rather, we should decide through a clear understanding of what God’s Word calls us to do.


[1] Interestingly it was my view back in 2017 that one of the reasons Theresa May was unwise to call the snap General Election was that she was calling it at the wrong time in terms of the political cycle (effectively mid term for the Tories) but also that by pushing the next General Election out to 2021-22 she risked facing her next national electoral test when we would be hitting a difficult point in the economic cycle for the Government. It was my view at the time that 2019/2020 would have been a fr more favourable time for the Conservatives to go to the polls and so it proved for them.