September 25, 2003

Bookblog 1: Decision Making and the Will of God

"Our problems in finding God's [individual] will do not lie with God; they lie with us and our failure to read God's [signs] and obey them." From Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen, Chapter Two, "Hitting the Bull's-eye," page 31.

Okay, okay, I've been promising this for a while now and blissfully not delivering. I'm sorry for that. But blame it on Garry Friesen; it's all his fault. =)

I intended to blog through this book chapter by chapter, but I found quickly that there wasn't much to say about the first chapter by itself, and here's why. Part one of the book, the first three chapters and 77 pages, is a presentation of the traditional view of God's will in prose form -- basically a short story about a seminar on God's will given by "Pastor Bill Thompson" to a group of young people. Hence the title of part one: "You Have Heard It Said." If you're familiar with the traditional view, then there's not much new for you in part one.

If you're not familiar with the traditional view, or have never seen it systematically presented, here's a summary based on the metaphor Friesen chooses to represent it. God has a perfect plan for your life that's like a road. Every decision you face, great or small, is a fork or an intersection in that road. In order to stay on the right path, you must follow the roadsigns -- things like the Bible's moral guidance, providential circumstances, the "inner witness" of the Holy Spirit, voices of mature counsel, your personal desires, and common sense. When several signs point in the same direction (particularly the three "main signs" of the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and circumstances), you can have 100 percent certainty that the direction you are pointing is God's individual will for you. Missing any sign can result in your getting sidetracked from God's perfect plan for you; miss enough signs and you might never recover that perfect plan and instead be forced to settle for God's "second best" for your life.

Does this sound vaguely familiar to you? If you've heard a sermon, read a book, or attended a seminar on finding God's will recently, I'd wager that this is a pretty accurate summary of the teaching you received. Of course, Friesen is presenting it here at the beginning of his book so that he can spend the next 360 pages knocking it down; remember that the original subtitle of the book was A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View. =)

Here's what Part one of DMWG has going for it: it's not what it could have been, a theological straw man. Friesen isn't making transparent, weak arguments here for the traditional view. In fact, at several points I found Agrippa's words to Paul floating through my mind: "Almost thou persuadest me." Probably due to my theological tradition (hi Karl!) I found the arguments from Scripture most compelling: "the examples of men who show that God had an individual will for them...[and] direct teaching about God's will" (42). Though most of the "proof texts" we often cite to support the concept of God's individual will are taken out of context and actually address God's moral will, I'm really looking forward to Friesen's addressing the many examples of people in the Bible who seem to understand a particular path God wanted them to follow.

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