In addition, as with all of my posts, I wrote it in order to help me think through an issue that is troubling me at the moment, and I greatly appreciate the insight of all Christians into this issue whether you agree or completely disagree. Maybe you can add something I have never thought of, or perhaps you understand where I have made an error in my thinking. Either way, I appreciate all feedback.
God and Your Job was a vehicle to present, in part, my understanding of the Biblical teaching on God’s will and Christian decision making, two inexorably linked subjects. The topic is a hot one for me as I have deep and thoroughgoing disagreements with modern evangelicalism on this matter. In my opinion, the modern church’s teaching on this question breeds deep confusion, pseudo-Christian mysticism, and genuine bondage to doubt and loneliness among many believers. In short, the almost universal understanding of these subjects presents a shallow and impoverished picture of God’s will, His sovereignty, and His love for and response to us.
Aside: If you would like to understand my view on the duel subjects of God’s Will and Christian decision making in full, please read ‘Decision Making and the Will of God’ by Dr. Garry Friesen, or listen to the lectures of the same title by Greg Koukl, founder of Stand to Reason. If you are genuinely interested in hearing those lectures or reading the book, I have both and would be more than happy to let you borrow either.
When Christians face a decision where no best choice is clearly evident, we are taught to respond in many different ways; We ask God to show the choice He wants for us; We wait to see if we “feel a peace” about one of the options before us; We interpret “open and closed doors” as indicators of God’s will; We look for “confirmations” in favor of one choice or the other; We even sometimes put out “fleeces,” a la Gideon, in an effort to get God to reveal His will on the matter.
The problem is that none of these responses appear to be taught in the Bible as a means of decision making, and the one approach that is clearly taught is missed completely. I am referring to what Dr. Garry Friesen has called, The Way of Wisdom, for lack of better term. Allow me to (very) briefly outline this teaching:
- God does not have an individual plan, His so-called “Individual Will,” laid out for every person that we only have to discover, piece by piece, as we move through life.
- God does have a “Sovereign Will,” but this is mostly unrevealed to us and we don’t need to know it anyway, as there is no way for us to thwart it or to intentionally bring it about. God’s sovereign will will come to pass, no matter what.
- God does have a clearly and thoroughly revealed “Moral Will,” which every person is obligated to obey.
- We should not expect (or even seek after) personalized guidance from God for any decision we are faced with. The key word here is expect; occasionally, as happened in the Bible, God does break in to provide detailed guidance to individuals.
- When God does provide guidance there several things we note from the Biblical narrative about the nature of these communications:
- It’s rare – We only a handful of examples of God speaking directly to an individual, spread out over a period of 6000+ years.
- It’s unexpected – The instruction from God was never requested by the individual who received it.
- It’s clear – The message is always unmistakable as anything other than a message from God.
- It’s supernatural – In every example, God breaks in to our physical world in some way to communicate and authenticate His message.
- It often goes against wisdom – If the directions from God did not otherwise appear to be an unwise course of action, there would be no need for Him to break in to provide the direction.
- We are told to seek after genuine wisdom.
- We should employ wisdom, expediency, and God refined desires in making decisions, as we are admonished over and over in Bible to do.
When these Biblical principles are taught to those who have absorbed what both Dr. Friesen and J.I. Packer refer to as the “Tradional View” (despite it’s relative newness), commonly several questions and objections are raised:
- “Are you saying that God doesn’t care what I do?”
- “Are you saying the Spirit can’t work in my life?”
- “If what you’re saying is true, what’s the purpose of prayer?”
- “Aren’t you putting God in a box?”
As I have written this post, it has developed into something different than I originally intended. I had originally planned to write exclusively about prayer, but as this piece has developed, I see that rather it’s going to be an introduction to several posts on my thoughts and understanding of the Biblical teachings on Prayer, the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers, What God wants from each one of us, and what kind of ideas about Christianity are we “allowed” to teach.