Once upon a Christian chat room many years ago, a chatter came in with a highly speculative "what if" type of question about a particular doctrine. I'll never forget the wise response of one of the older, wiser Christian brothers in the chat room at the time:
"I don't spend my time entertaining speculation, it's impossible to affirm accuracy and is a poor way make use of my time".
I really liked that response. As a Christian, to spend time dabbling around in the flazillions of possible "what ifs" you're truly wasting precious time on that, when you could be spending that time on those things the Bible is very clear about.
Lately, I've encountered all kinds of speculation. With the recent disappearance of the little girl in my local area, all kinds of people are speculating on what could have happened, who the mystery woman is shown in the video, who might be involved, etc., so on and so forth. It's what happens every single time a crime is committed, is yet unsolved and makes headline news. I suspect (dare I even say speculate?) part of the reason folks do that is because we're hard-wired to lean toward order. By that I mean, we like things to make sense, for the round peg to fit into the round hole, and for 2 plus 2 to equal 4 every single time. We are afterall created in the image of God and He is a God of order and not confusion. When things are out of order, when things don't fit and don't make sense, we don't like it so we begin to speculate in hopes of coming up with the right answer that ties it all together.
I think we all probably remember the Speculation Machine that was well fed during the whole Y2K scare ten years ago. There were some folks that made a shiney fortune off the massive speculation that took place. Still another example of this kind of speculation that turns into big, fat dollar signs is the eschatology and/or prosperity, and/or "name it and claim it" section of the local mainstream Christian book store. These "mainstream" teachings are all over the map (and the vast majority of them are just dead wrong) and all depend completely on "what if" questions being asked.
There's another kind of speculation I deal with quite a bit and that's the kind that comes from kids. With kids however, the reason behind it isn't always the same as the reason adults do it. Recently one of my kids asked "what would you do if a coyote ate you"? A classic "what if" scenario from the imagination of a kid. The thing is though, they don't really want to know the actual answer to that. They don't really want to know that I'd likely scream, pray, bleed, scream some more, bleed some more and then eventually die. I mean, if a coyote actually ate me, it would require that I would eventually cease to be alive, so all those things would have to take place. No, a kid asking that question doesn't want to know those things, when they ask an off the wall question like that. What they really want is for me to take that "what if" scenario and weave a fantastical tale of danger, excitement and adventure and tell them how I'd fight for my life and all that sort of thing. They want to be as entertained by an imagination-stimulating answer, as they are by asking the fantastic question in the first place. Kids are just more into the whole "wild imagination" way of thinking than most adults are - but with that said - it may also answer why some adults engage in speculation as well. Some adults just like to be entertained the same way.
Speculation isn't always bad, though. In forms of entertainment such as a "who done it" novel or a psychological twisty-turny mystery movie, it's a very entertaining way of getting you to use your logic, reason and analytical skills to figure out the answer. There are several tv shows on these days that rely on that very theme to keep viewers coming back every week for more answers. It can be quite fun and harmless, in moderation.
It can be hard to resist the temptation to speculate though, in any given situation. When it's part of the entertainment package in a movie or book, then I think that's okay. But when it comes to real life and real answers, I do think it's a big waste of time that can easily derail us into places we shouldn't be going in the first place. Finding that balance and keeping our own imaginations in check is a very good thing.
Now... what would YOU do, if a coyote ate you? (just kidding!)