Update: This material is being incorporated into the Ambassador series of classes. Most of it in Amb II (Wisdom) and some in Amb III (Character). Learn more about this growing/improving series of classes here.
This short course “Decision Making and the Will of God” is to help Christians develop a healthy and biblical model for decision making. If your decision making process resembles the following comic (e.g. seeking a “peace about it,” looking for “confirmations” on billboards or license plates, etc …), waste no time familiarizing yourself with these materials.
[used by permission]
We spend the first session examining the techniques for discerning the will of God in the current popular model. I also gave out a copy of an excellent article by John Piper, “The Morning I Heard the Voice of God” and gave some questions for the students to reflect upon. If you follow the link to the blog, you can choose to read or listen to the article.
In week two we finish up discussing the idea of “hearing the voice of God” apart from Scripture, and then turn our attention to defining what the Bible means by “the will of God” and “wisdom.”
In week three we explore how God’s will for our life is clearly stated in Scripture, as are tremendous freedoms and responsibilities. Then we apply the biblical-wisdom model for Christian decision-making.
Since it is so easy for us to go too far in our rejection of superstition and divination and conclude that our relationship with God is impersonal, please read Rethinking Prophecy for a balancing perspective.
Here are several of the sources I used for preparing this course. I freely admit to standing upon the shoulders of some fine men. I’m particularly grateful to Greg Koukl. His work inspired me to study this topic and prepare and offer this course.
If you listen to these teachings, you will definitely recognize Greg’s influence on my work. I use some of it pretty much word for word. I thank God for these teachings as they were the springboard for me into further study on this topic.
I differ with Greg in describing the “Wisdom Model.” As simple as his is, it’s not simple enough. I don’t agree that the moral will of God can be treated seperately from wisdom. I believe it all comes under wisdom. For example there are those rare occasions when wisdom leads us to lie (e.g. the Nazis knocking on your front door while you are hiding Jews in the attic) We see Rahab do this very thing in Joshua 2:3-6.
This little booklet was particularly helpful in the “God’s Individual Will for Your Life” section in session three. This is a great little resource for making you wonder why you are looking for something that was never lost. Here is a review from Greg Gilbert at IX Marks.
I can’t remember where I first read about this jewel. Dr. Waltke bravely dives in and exposes the popular practices to “find God’s will” as the practice of pagan divination. I particularly appreciated the insight into the nature of wisdom as a character trait as well as the ability to think soberly and apply knowledge.
Remembering late in the game that there was a chapter on this topic in this classic cost me a lot of work! As soon as I went through this chapter I knew I had to rework several parts of the course and add Packer’s quotes and examples. This chapter of Knowing God is short, but really packs a punch. Outstanding.
Many consider this the go-to guide for refuting the “traditional” model and presenting the wisdom model, and it has indeed defined much of the vocabulary in the discussion (for instance referring to the unbiblical quest for the “center of God’s will” the traditional view since it has now been around for over a century).
It was an interesting exercise to read Friesen’s reviews of each of the other works I’ve listed above (except Koukl). He places each of them in the “Wisdom View in Traditional Vocabulary” category because each of them believe that God does have an individual plan for our lives (but also that God has no intention of sharing that plan with us). I’m left scratching my head when I read this on page 41:
I’m using individual will in a precise way here. It is the term used by the traditional view to designate “God’s ideal detailed life-plan uniquely designed for each person.” No writer on biblical guidance equates this individual will with God’s sovereign will.
If you change “for each person” to “for God’s glory” in his original representation of the traditionalist definition, you have a perfectly appropriate definition of God’s sovereign will for individuals. When Dr. Friesen claims “no author on biblical guidance equates this individual will with God’s sovereign will” I’m left wondering what he thinks Packer, Waltke, and MacArthur mean when they talk about God’s will for our lives. Of course God’s sovereign will includes a detailed knowledge (and sovereign control) of our lives. Dr. Friesen gets his bearings and makes the following acknowledgement:
Obviously, God’s sovereign will is specific for each person and in that sense, individual. But God’s sovereign will can neither be found in advance nor missed. So that is not what the traditional view means by God’s individual will.
I couldn’t agree more. I’m just left wondering why he then goes on to spend the rest of his book acting as though he has not acknowledged this fact.
Perhaps it is his tradition (a non-reformed view of the relationship between man’s “free will” and God’s sovereignty) that does not allow him to think in terms of God as having “an individual will” for people’s lives. Yes, God has an individual plan for your life. No, God has not given us access to that plan by the various forms of divination practiced today.
Because of our common ground in the belief that we are to depend upon wisdom rather than various divination methods, Friesen’s book is helpful. I particularly appreciated some of his refutations of misapplied traditional view proof texts and his chapters applying the wisdom model.