What do I think of Gordon T. Smith’s work? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Until now, I had not heard of the relationship view of decision making. Unfortunately, it looked like the specific view stance to me, but with mysticism thrown in. Some of the practices could be good, like the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, but that doesn’t mean the position that it’s being used to promote on decision making is good.
Smith says he will take us through church history and show that the idea of seeking God’s will for your life has been there consistently. In doing this, he takes us to Origen, Bernard of Clairvaux, Ignatius of Loyola, and John Wesley. Note that this is not counting modern times.
I don’t give Bart Ehrman a pass when he does something similar and I won’t give Smith one because he’s a Christian. Not only is four an odd way to show a consistent path, but also many of these writers could just be talking about wise decision making. That’s an issue no matter where or when you live.
Smith encourages increasing an intimacy with Christ and properly understood, I have no problem with that. I do question the language though much like I question it when teenage girls say “Jesus is my boyfriend” or I hear Christian music today that could be sung to either your boyfriend or to Jesus and you can’t tell. It used to be a group I’m a part of, the Mentionables, that when we got together for a podcast would play a game called “Love song or worship song.” Lyrics were read and we had to guess which it was. I don’t think I missed one, but some of them were pretty hard.
Some ideas in this chapter are good, such as not making a major decision when you’re in a time of intense emotion. Of course, sometimes you have to, but if you can wait to make a major decision, say after a good night’s sleep or after you have had a good meal or anything like that, that is generally best. Few of us make good decisions when we are under duress. The idea is to try to train yourself in your mind so that you will rarely be under duress, but even then sometimes there are overwhelming emotions.
Ultimately, I contend that this view again just boils down to subjectivity. This view looks at peace and other criteria as signs that an emotion or impression of some kind is coming from God. The wisdom view doesn’t have this. While some could say that the interpretation of Scripture is subjective, and that is true, Christians by and large agree that we know Scripture comes from God and thus, we can all agree on the data that we have. When we look at other positions, we don’t know if God is the direct cause of a circumstance, a dream, an impression, etc. I realize there can be exceptions to this such as Muslims having dreams that draw them to Jesus, but in many cases, if we are not sure, that could be a good indication that they are not. We are spending a lot of time interpreting something when we don’t even know the source of it.
In the end, I still stick with the wisdom view, but will you? That is for you to decide. This is a highly accessible book for any to read and if you want to get the best case for all positions, this looks to be it.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)