October 01, 2003

Bookblog 2: Does God Have Three Wills?

"Many believers are investing a great deal of time and energy searching for something that is nonexistent." From Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen, Chapter Five, "Does God Have Three Wills?" page 83.

Does the quote above leave you feeling a little bit like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole (to quote my favorite zealot since John the Baptist)? It certainly does me? Well then "hold on Dorothy, 'cause Kansas is goin' bye-bye!" (I just love mixed metaphors with a Matrix motif!) In chapter five, Friesen systematically addresses three of the four arguments that are traditionally made in favor of God's individual will: the argument from reason, experience, and Biblical example. (The final argument, that from Biblical teaching, is addressed in chapter six.) Here's a quick review of his reasoning:

The Arguments from Reason

"The traditional view maintains that reason suggests several arguments for the reality of an individual will" (83). These arguments are God's orderliness and omniscience and God's nature as our Father, Shepherd, and King. Addressing the first, Friesen rightly reasons that "[g]iven God's nature as a Designer and His atrribute of omniscience, it is certainly reasonable that He could develop an individual will for each person...but the necessity of such an individual plan is not required by reason" (83-84). An individual will is not the only orderly way God could guide us; therefore we must consider other options. Addressing the second argument, Friesen points out that Godly fathers don't formulate a plan tht covers every detail of their children's lives, Godly shepherds don't point out which specific tufts of grass each sheep should eat, and Godly kings don't legislate every activity of their people. "God is indeed a guide. But His means of guidance may be...more general than specific... [and] may give increasing freedom and responsibility to believers in their decision making (85).

The Argument from Experience

While some believers have experienced great success following what they thought to be God's individual will, "such spiritual success is promised to the one who will obey what God has revealed in His word (Psalm 1:2-3; 1 Kings 2:3; 1 Chronicles 22:13)" (87). The most compelling argument against experience was stuck in an endnote: Because "it is simply impossible to judge the 'success' of an action or a minstry simply on the basis of its observable outcome, (94), experience is of no value in proving God's individual will. "The most that can be said about the applicability of experience to the question of God's individual will is that it neither proves nor disproves its existence (89).

The Argument from Biblical Example

Friesen makes four key criticisms of this argument:
1. The number of recorded cases of detailed, specific guidance is not sufficient to constitute normative experience.

2. Most of the recipients of specific guidance occupied a special place in the outworking of God's program.

3. The examples are not sufficiently comprehensive; guidance was only provided for a handful of decisions.

4. The means of communication of specific guidance in Scripture is always supernatural.
"From the examples that are given [in the Bible], one could argue that God may give a believer guidance that is more specific than that found in the Bible. But if He does, it will be through supernatural means" (91).

I found the logic of Friesen's arguments to be very sound, particularly in the area of Biblical example. We have such a tendency to make the experiences of the men and women of the Scriptures normative, when the evidence of the greater context supports exactly the opposite conclusion!

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