Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Decision Making and the Will of God

Gary Friesen with J. Robin Maxon, Decision Making and the Will of God. Multonomah Books, 2004. Revised and updated edition. Originally published in 1980. 526 pages. ISBN: 9781590522059

Decision Making and the Will of God was originally Friesen's dissertation for his Ph.D in Biblical Studies which he turned into a controversial book in 1980. It was controversial because it examined the traditional view (Bull's Eye theory) and found it biblically deficient. This edition published in 2004 is a revised and updated edition. It is a stronger book. I liked the first book, but the second book strengthens or at least makes clearer many concepts of the wisdom view. In addition, the second book uses fewer pages to describe the traditional view and more space on presenting the wisdom view. It is a much improved book.

Part one presents a brief outline of the traditional view. It includes two chapters. The first chapter presents a fictional story of seeking guidance and the second chapter describes the traditional view. The traditional view teaches that God has three wills: sovereign, moral, and individual. God's individual will includes four elements: 1. A detailed plan for all decisions in a believer's life. 2. The believer is able to find and know it. 3. Believers are expected to find it as part of the Christian life. Believers can miss it by failure to discover and obey it. The individual will of God is discovered through the Bible, circumstances, inner impressions, counsel, desires, common sense, and supernatural guidance. Often it is taught that God leads through inner impressions or experience of inner peace.

Friesen critiques the traditional view in part two of the book. He does not believe three wills are taught in the Scripture. He argues that the will of God is what is revealed in the Bible. He does not believe the Bible teaches the "dot" theory. The idea that there is only one spouse, one job, one place picked out to live. In addition, he critiques the idea that God leads us through impressions. He says, impressions are impressions, influence by many factors. He argues that "impressions are not direct revelation and thus cannot give certainty" (97).

Friesen describes the wisdom view in part three. He describes four principles: 1. Where God commands, we must obey. 2. Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (and responsibility) to choose. 3. Where there is no command. God gives us wisdom to choose. 4. When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good. In part four he applies the general principles to specific decisions: Should I get married? Who should I marry? Should I go into the ministry? What vocation should I choose and others. In appendix one he provides reviews of books on knowing God's will by Henry Blacaby, Jack Deere, Tim Lahaye, Elisabeth Elliot, Charles Swindoll, Dallas Williard, John MacArthur, J. I. Packer, M. Blaine Smith, Bruce Waltke, James Montgomery Boice, Sinclair Ferguson, Os Guinness, James Petty, and  Haddon Robinson. This edition includes a study guide for studying the book in a group.

Decision Making and the Will of God"s length might cause some people to avoid it since it is over 400 pages. I think it is well worth the effort if someone is willing to tackle it. A similar smaller book is Haddon Robinson's Decision making by the book. This revised and updated version has made a good book even better.

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