Monday, June 11, 2007

Decision Making and the Will of God - Part 6

Due to the length of time that it has been taking to do this series on Decision Making and the Will of God, I have decided to combine more chapters at a time per post. My last post was on chapter 8 of the book.

Even though it is taking much longer to read this book than I had initially anticipated, I am enjoying what Friesen is saying in this volume very much. He is very balanced in his approach to the subject of "finding" the will of God. And, what I mean by being balanced, is that he only uses the Bible as the counterbalance on the other side of the scale. He constantly does exegesis of the relevant passages making sure that what he is proposing remains true to the Scriptures.

Many writers on this subject use page upon page of ditty little anecdotes to "prove" their point while hardly ever attempting to let the Bible speak for itself. Anecdotes prove nothing more than gullibility on the subject, since people have stories about just about anything in which they have "experienced" something to disprove our own "experiences."

Friesen continues to let the Bible speak on this issue, and I know that some out there will simply not like what Friesen has to say because of their own presuppositional biases.

Chapter 9 handles the subject of our God-given freedom and responsibility to choose. Friesen refers to Augustine who set forth a principle that says, "Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (and responsibility) to choose."[1] These are not Augustine's words, but this is what the principle comes down to.

Inside God's moral will, there is an area of freedom and responsibility. As a result, anything in which God did not pronounce a direct command or law, we have freedom and responsibility to choose the wise option. This freedom and responsibility as a unit is exemplified in God's command to Adam that he could eat from any tree of the garden except one. God gave a specific command concerning only one tree, from which Adam could not eat. Therefore, Adam could choose freely from any of the other trees without the need to be told which one to eat from next. This principle shows that within the given boundaries there is freedom.

After learning in chapter 9 about the freedom and responsibility to choose, we come to chapter 10 which answers the question, "On what basis does the believer make decisions?"

Whereas in chapter 9 we read that where there is no command, God gives us the freedom and responsibility to choose, we now find a further principle, "Where there is no command, God gives us wisdom to choose."[2] Friesen shows how men of God, in both the Old and New Testaments, had wisdom to make decisions in situations where God did not give direct revelation. Examples of verses in this regard are Eccl 10:10, Mt 10:16, Ac 15:28-29, 1 Cor 16:3-4 and 1 Thes 3:1.

Having built a case for the way of wisdom in chapter 10, drawing from the OT, Jesus and from the apostles, Friesen moves into chapter 11 looking more deeply at the lives of the apostles.

At the end of chapter 10, Friesen tells us that the real "clincher--the biblical data that provoked the radical reshaping of my understanding of decision making and the will of God--was the instruction of the apostles."[3]

Something that I have been battling with for some time now, way before I started reading Decision Making, is the idea that we should be seeking God's individual will for our lives on a daily basis, yet there are no examples, nor instruction to do so anywhere in the NT. Friesen picks up on this teaching and categorically states that it is not recorded even once, that the apostles ever tried to discover God's individual will for their lives. The apostles use phrases concerning their decision making that point to freedom in decision making.

I agree in this regard. We will be hard-pressed to prove from the NT that we are supposed to search for God's individual will for our daily lives.

As usual, Friesen builds principles in this regard: "In the area of freedom, the believer's goal is to make wise decisions on the basis of spiritual usefulness, Or, when there is no command, God gives freedom and wisdom to make spiritually advantageous decisions."[4 - Italics supplied by Friesen]

Naturally, Christians will ask how this wisdom is acquired. This involves the believer's attitude and approach.

A Christian's attitude must reflect the following:
1. Each Christian must become aware of the fact that no man is naturally wise,
2. He must have the conviction that God is the ultimate source of wisdom,
3. God will grant wisdom to those with certain characteristics, such as reverence for God, humility, teachableness, etc.,
4. The believer must have faith.

In the proper approach, the believer must understand the following:
1. He must ask God for wisdom,
2. Wisdom is found in the Scriptures,
3. Outside research must be done where appropriate.
4. Wise counsellors are needed,
5. Life itself can provide wisdom, and
6. Direct revelation may sometimes be used by God himself to direct us. [This is dealt with in chapter 15 of Friesen's book.]

What Friesen is telling us here is that wisdom ultimately comes from God himself. The principle that where God has given us no commands, He gives us wisdom to choose is aimed at here. That wisdom can then be acquired through the right attitude and approach.

Continue with part 7...

1. Friesen, p137.
2. Ibid., p160.
3. Ibid., p173.
4. Ibid., pp174-175.


Siew Kam Onn said...

What do you think of this online decision maker.
Do you think God's will could manifest itself there ?

William Dicks said...

I think that God will manifest his will here only in so far as God believes in divination. Of course, we know that God stands squarely against divination (Deut 18:10).

This online decision maker would be similar to the age old tradition here in Africa of throwing the bones and then reading their meaning.

The best, and most fool proof, way of knowing God's will is through rigorous and consistent study of God's Word, the Bible.

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