Monday, June 08, 2009

Book Review: How Then Should We Choose?

Ever since I read Gary Friesen's book Decision Making & the Will of God back in the early '80s I have been liberated from the traditional view that God has a specific will for every individual that we have to learn by mostly guess-work (although that is not how the traditional view is usually presented). Friesen's view emphasises the biblical teaching of wisdom and affirms God's endowment of humanity with an intellect that can reason about what choices are appropriate within God's revealed moral will and a trust that God's sovereign will is worked out as God wishes it to be.

But not everyone agrees with Friesen's wisdom view and there has been considerable debate over the years about what it actually means to discern God's will in relation to the practical realities of life. Douglas S Huffman's book, How Then Should We Choose? Three Views on God's Will and Decision Making is a very timely book in which three authors present their views and critique each others in what is a lively, respectful, thought-provoking discussion.

Huffman presents an overview of the search for the truth about discerning God's will throughout history and some of the choices of perspective available. The following chapters have three different authors presenting their views which are:

  • The specific-will view (Henry and Richard Blackaby) which argues that the Bible teaches that God has a specific will for every individual which they need to discern.
  • The wisdom view (Gary Fiesen) which asserts that the Bible teaches that God has endowed humans with freedom of choice; God has revealed his moral will in Scripture and needs to be obeyed; God provides wisdom to those who ask in order to make good decisions; and the need to trust God to work out God's sovereign will as God decides to.
  • The relationship view (Gordon T Smith) in which a relationship with Jesus Christ is to be developed and provides the context for the discernment of God's will. Much of this view is similar to the specific-will view but places heavy emphasis on relationship.

Each chapter also includes the author applying the principles of their approach to a series of real hypotheticals and a critique of the view from each of the other authors.

Huffman, in the final chapter, provides an interesting attempt to construct a model on which the various views can be mapped and which articulates the similarities and differences of the views.

How Then Should We Choose? is an excellent discussion of the issue of discerning God's will. If you have ever had the need to know God's will in your life (and who hasn't!) and been confused by what you have heard, then this book is just what is needed. It won't tell you which approach is correct — but it will certainly give you a better understanding of the choices.

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  1. Christians are always talking about "gods will" and by extension "his" actions in the world, and "his" plan for humankind altogether.

    How then does one explain the murder of 300,000 human beings in a Tsunami.

    And the fact that billions of biological entities, including millions of human beings die every day.

    Especially as everything is supposed to be "created" by "god" and part of "gods" plan.

    But what if in Truth & Reality, The Divine is not at all like that, and far more wondrous besides.

  2. I've read Friesen's book and have actually taught a workshop based on it that I entitled GPS - God's Positioning System. Friesen asserts that there are two dimensions of God's will - his sovereign and his moral will.

    His sovereign will is largely unseen by us. His moral will is clearly recorded in scripture.

    IMO, when the Bible refers to discerning God's will, it is largely a matter of understanding his moral will, or the way in which he wants us to live.

    For example, when Paul told the Philippians that he was sending Epaphroditus back to them, he didn't indicate that he had received a special message from God with instructions to send him home. He said, "But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs." Phil 2:25.