Book Plunge Part 3: How Then Should We Choose?

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.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge Part 2: Decision Making and the Will of God

What do I think of Garry Friesen’s contribution to this book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I said at the start, Friesen is the one I know of who’s opinion on this topic I am most inclined to go with. Friesen did what his dissertation work was on, decision making and the will of God. He used to hold to the more traditional specific-view will and found it just didn’t work. He then went back to the Bible and found that the traditional view just really wasn’t there. While some Christians were pleased with this work, including myself, many were scornful of Friesen and at least one Christian speaker declared him a heretic.

Friesen’s view is the wisdom view. In his view, all moral commands of God that apply to us today are to be obeyed without question. However, there are times that we don’t have a moral command and there are two or more options that can be chosen from and none of them violate a moral command of God. Which one do you go with? Friesen has the incredible idea of actually looking at the options and weighing the pros and cons and making a wise decision.

What strikes me is that this view is at all controversial. In any other position in life, we go with the wisdom model. However, when it comes to being a Christian, somehow it’s a more holy model to think that you’re supposed to hear the voice of God just like everyone in the Bible supposedly did, although we only talk about the exceptional people.

Friesen in looking at the text notices, especially in Acts, that this happens many times. There’s even a passage where there is an open door, and yet Paul chooses to not go through it. The first missionary journey was indeed called out by God, but when it comes to the second, Paul and Barnabas just decide to revisit the towns and before that they get into an argument and end up choosing separate partners.

Having said that, there are some mild criticisms I have of the chapter.

First off, Friesen says the prophets had no doubt that God had spoken to them. I would like to have seen this fleshed out a bit. Gideon seems to be doubtful of God in Judges and Abraham is called by God and yet lies about his identity. John the Baptist saw miracles around Jesus and while in prison asks if He was the one to come still.

Second, while Friesen does go to Acts, I wonder what he would say about Acts 1 where lots were used to determine the replacement of Judas. Also, I would think it would be great to go to Acts 15, the first church council where you would think a word from God would be determinative, but none is given, except one possibility. The text does it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us. I would have liked some interpretation from him on this passage.

Third, while Friesen points to prayer, I would like to know how he thinks prayer is supposed to work for us here. How does God interact? Does He clear the head of the believer to make a wise decision? Can God indeed recall to mind a Scripture or something similar? Overall, how does God interact with our lives?

Finally, as a respondent says, what about the Holy Spirit? Friesen says little about Him in this chapter if anything. What roles does the Spirit play in our lives?

It has been several years since I read his main book on this topic so it could be there, but I would like something to go on in this chapter still. I agree with Friesen on the Wisdom view. I just want to see it fleshed out some more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge Part 1: How Then Should We Choose?

What do I think of Douglas Huffman’s book published by Kregel? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This book is a counterpoints book with three different authors (Or in the first case a group of authors) discussing their views on decision making and the will of God. You have the traditional view, the wisdom view, and the relationship view. I haven’t heard of the last one until now so I will see what I think of it when I get there, but going on, I hold to the wisdom view.

The first view presented is the traditional view also known as the specific-will view. In this case, which many of us grew up with, God has a specific will for your life and you need to find it to get God’s best. This includes where you go to school, who you marry, and many other decisions. This chapter is written by Henry and Richard Blackaby.

There is a lot of wisdom here, but the oddity is that it comes mainly when they actually talk about using wisdom instead of their view. The case for their view I did find extremely weak. I suspect the reason many evangelicals hold to it is tradition and also, it makes the emphasis be on us. Our natural proclivity is to self-centeredness.

The Blackabys write on how God spoke in the past to people like Moses, and indeed He did, but most of us don’t have bushes catching on fire in front of us without burning up and even in the text itself, it regularly says that God spoke to Moses like He did to no one else. If the Blackaby view was true, why was Moses even needed at all? Couldn’t all the Israelites in the wilderness experienced the leading of God and known what to do?

That is a key weakness of the position. It looks at the exceptional times and presents them as the normative times. We know about what was said to Moses. We don’t know beyond what the text tells us what Joe Israelite thought, aside from the time where they begged Moses to NOT have God speak to them and this was after God spoke to them from the mountain.

I also notice that when examples are given, it is examples of someone who made the decision, but I don’t see what happens after they make it. Maybe what they thought God was leading them to do turned into a disaster later. I remember Greg Koukl talking once about how he was not looking forward to Christmas one year and he was driving praying for a good Christmas and the next thing he noticed, the truck in front of him on the back said “Xmas4U” on it. Yes! Confirmation! God heard his prayer! The traditional view worked! Koukl thought so.

So he went and had a great Christmas.

No. Wait. He says he ended up having a miserable Christmas that year.

The comparisons of how God speaks are also not the same. In the times of the prophets, they were certain God had spoken to them. Now if you have the experience of Isaiah where God calls you up into His heavenly temple, yes, you can be sure God is speaking to you. What do we have instead? Inner impressions and a still small voice supposedly. Those are way too vague.

How many times have you gone to bed very anxious about something and when you woke up the next day, the anxiety was gone? Happens to me several times. Should I be heeding that nudging every time of anxiety? Should I see that strong impression as God telling me something?

The traditional view has many people fearful of making the wrong choice so many times that they tend to get stifled in their pursuits. While the Blackabys do encourage going to Scripture, too many times we focus on our own experience instead of Scripture. I remember my ex went through a lot of times where she was paying attention to dreams wondering what God was telling her. I told her, “If only you spent as much time trying to understand Scripture, which you know comes from God, as you do dreams, which you don’t know come from God.”

Next time we look at this book, we will discuss the wisdom view. I’m on that chapter now and I do agree with much of it, but there are some criticisms. Stay tuned.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)