Sunday, March 25, 2007

Decision Making and the Will of God - Part 4

Read Part 3 here.

On the last page of Part 2 (Chs 3-7) of Friesen's book, he states the major point for Part 2 of the book:

"God does not have an ideal, detailed life-plan uniquely designed for each believer that must be discovered in order to make correct decisions."[1]

I will be looking at the last 3 chapters of Part 2 of the book: chs 5-7. These three chapters are in effect a continuation of Friesen's critique of the Traditional View of guidance.

In essence, chapter five deals with a critique of the Traditional View's answer to how we can find God's will for our lives.

Friesen highlights the fact that almost nobody holding to the Traditional View can ever claim that they are 100% sure of finding God's individual will for their lives. The fact is that among these believers, only the so-called success stories are told of how people found God's will. Yet, this approach to finding God's will has failed many believers, yet they do not speak up about those failures. This is caused by the pressure of not wanting to come across as unspiritual!

Of course, with the Traditional View, there is the inconsistency of not holding to this view when the everyday issues are considered. Which clothes should be worn? Which road should be taken to work? The fact is that if we have to wait on the Lord everyday for all these types of decisions, life would become quite impractical. So, in the Traditional View, certain types of important decisions will be made using this type of guidance; yet, ordinary decisions will be relegated to simply good judgement. This shows inconsistency with regards to the Traditional View!

Friesen continues to point out some problems with this view, such as the problem when equally valid options are considered, its inability when dealing with immature Christians, its ability to waste time in making important decisions and the use of fleeces among some of its proponents.

Chapter 6 is reserved for one subject essentially, and that is the subject of subjectivity. According to Friesen, the "traditional view does not claim that God's individual will may be learned from either of these sources [His Word and direct revelation]."[2] He further says that when the Traditional View says, "'I have discovered God's will about which school I should attend,' he is not claiming to have received supernatural revelation, nor did he find such leading from a direct statement of Scripture."[3] In an endnote to this chapter Friesen says that this is generally true of evangelicals, whereas some charismatics claim direct revelation, which would under scrutiny reveal to be only impressions of the Spirit.

It is at this point that I disagree with Friesen. It is not simply some charismatics, and it does not end up being simply impressions of the Spirit. From my experience of over 20 years being a charismatic, I have to conclude that it is most charismatics. Further, it is not mere "impressions of the Spirit" that charismatics claim as their guidance. Charismatics frequently claim that God has spoken to them audibly, in visions, in dreams and some even claim angels have visited them! This is not just simply fringe charismatic groups, but is mainstream charismatic! Perhaps the Traditional View speaks of "impressions of the Spirit," but what goes on among charismatics is way more than this view. In many circumstances, miraculous revelation is claimed, much like Marian apparitions are claimed by Roman Catholics!

Friesen missed the boat a bit in this chapter, and indeed in Part 2 of the book with labouring the point of inner impressions. This is for obvious reasons as I have pointed out in the paragraph above.

However, there are many who do not go as far as claiming miraculous special revelation who would use something like the phrase, "impressions of the Spirit." For this type of guidance he poses the question of what the source for such impressions are. He makes a whole list of sources for these types of impressions. This leads to a subjective swamp of doubt and insecurity. Friesen makes it clear that these impressions may be real, but they are not authoritative due to the fact that Scripture gives no guidelines on how to distinguish between the voice of self and the voice of the Spirit. In my opinion, even to claim with certainty that it is the Spirit of God, would still be predisposed to subjectivity.

Friesen raises the question of the interpretation of Scripture via "impressions of the Spirit." This is a good question, and here I agree with Friesen. Why would these impressions be deemed invalid for Biblical interpretation according to the Traditional View while holding on to it for guidance? If it does not work for Biblical interpretation, why does it suddenly work for guidance? I have heard many people who supposedly spoke prophetically on Biblical passages, but in doing so said the biggest bunch of nonsense I have ever heard! These people believe that they could by-pass accepted norms of Biblical interpretation, but when they speak "prophetically" on passages of Scripture, they speak error at best and heresy at worst!

Friesen asks the question why believers in the Traditional View need additional signs to help in their guidance if their inner impressions are so accurate. It simply proves the point that Friesen has been making. If God speaks in any form, would He not speak clearly and understandably? It amazes me so much that those who believe God still speaks today, would also believe that God is unable to speak right through any so-called barrier that these people could think up! What kind of God do they believe in? Definitely not the Sovereign God of all creation! Of course, as is pointed out in the book, all of these additional signs apart from the Bible are uncertain, and "[i]f the elements that make up the whole are uncertain, the whole will also be uncertain."[4]

A point that Friesen raises is that the Traditional View does not work when many people are involved in decision making, such as on church boards. Almost always, some will differ from others when decisions are to be made. This causes real tension since by definition some would have missed God's leading. Or, as I would think, was God unable to speak His own word clearly in the situation?

The last chapter of Part 2 of the book is chapter 7, on the leading of the Holy Spirit. In this chapter Friesen handles several passages that are in general use among believers of the Traditional View to prove that the Holy Spirit still leads us directly. These are:
1. Romans 8:14
2. Romans 8:15-16
3. Galatians 5:18
4. John 16:12-14
5. Nehemiah 2:12

Friesen handles these passages with clarity and conviction, and I concur with him on these passages, that not one deals with the subject of individual guidance by the Holy Spirit. After looking at these passages from within their own contexts, it is very clear that the Traditional View stretches these passages to cover more subject ground than what the original authors meant to say!

Friesen also deals with the concept of the "peace" of Christ or God to be used as guidance. However, as before, Friesen looks at what these passages (Col 3:15; Phil 4:7) mean within their contexts, and again show that although the peace of God in the believer is important, "its presence or absence is not to be construed as a sign of God's leading in biblically permitted decisions. Peace cannot function as such, nor was it so designed."[5]

Even though Friesen gave a critique of the Traditional View in Part 2 of the book, he does not deny inner impressions altogether. He simply shows that the Traditional View requires too much of these impressions.

Next, we will start looking at what Friesen calls the Way of Wisdom. This would be how Friesen believes we should find guidance for our lives.

[1] Friesen, p110.
[2] Ibid., p91.
[3] Ibid., p91-92.
[4] Ibid., p96.
[5] Ibid., p109.

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