God's Guidance: A Slow and Certain Light
Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Publisher: Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1997
View: Traditional with Wisdom leanings
Note: Originally published as A Slow and Certain Light: Some Thoughts on the Guidance of God
The subtitle of the first edition accurately describes the flow of this book. It consists of some thoughts on God's guidance without trying to be a systematic, exhaustive presentation. Once she has proven that God is our guide, Elliot assumes the traditional view of guidance. Yet, you will hardly notice that she holds the traditional view unless you are looking for it.
Instead, you find a book full of insight and depth. The first half of the book is really about obeying and believing God. It is saturated with jewels of well-stated truth crafted by an excellent writer. Only the last chapter ("The Means") gives clear clues that Elliott holds to the traditional view. Even there the wisdom that fills the pages makes it a book that can be read with enrichment by all.
In her examples of discovering guidance she does not often explain exactly why she knew a certain decision was the right one. This is not a case of mysticism being propounded as certain revelation. The examples give a sense of confidence that God will be our guide without emphasizing how the decision was made. When the method is evident, the approach differs little from obeying God's moral will and seeking wisdom to serve God in the best way possible.
In Elliot's view, supernatural means of guidance are not promised, but may be given whenever God sees the need. This includes visible signs, audible signs, angels, dreams/visions, prophets. She acknowledges the "possibility of miracles anywhere, anytime" (p. 85). She notes that when miracles were given they were not usually requested. She strikes a beautiful balance. "Supernatural phenomena were given at the discretion of the divine wisdom. It is not for us to ask that God will guide us in some miraculous way. If, in his wisdom, he knows that such means are what we need, he will surely give them" (p. 86).
What we are to expect from God are natural means of guidance. We are to do our duty and "Do the next thing" (p. 87). We should expect that God's guidance will come in God's timing. She emphasizes the helpful role of "human agents" in decision making (p. 95). This includes both dutiful submission to those in authority and receiving counsel from the wise. Our gifts and abilities help us to make good decisions. "What is in my hand? What is my function in the Body of Christ? Have I something to give? Can I see a place where it is needed now?" (p. 99). Desires can give us insight since God is working in our lives and "my real wants are becoming more like his."
In her comments in the final chapter, much of her insight harmonizes well with the wisdom view. She refers to 1 Corinthians 10:27 with its instruction to follow our desires when invited to a meal (p. 100). "Paul was writing to Christians, and he assumes that if they went, they went with God. It was nothing to pray and fast over" (p. 99). Circumstances are controlled by God, but they are not signs to read, but are to be evaluated by wisdom. "[W]e have to use our heads. I hope that in studying the divine principles we have not forgotten the importance of the human principle of common sense. The intelligence we have is a gift from God" (p. 104).
Further, she notes the connection between wisdom and circumstances. Jesus withdrew when He heard that John had been arrested (p. 105). He preached a sermon when He saw the crowds (p. 106). Concerning Abraham's servant she says, "No angel, no vision, no word was given. The man was doing his duty, using his head, keeping his eyes open, and trusting in the Lord" (p. 108). When making a difficult decision she was "forced to sit down again, weigh all the evidence, count the cost, note the risks, and take them all to God in prayer" (p. 111). However, Elliot seems to take one of the immature actions of the traditional view when two options seem morally equal. "Choose the harder of the two ways (p. 115)." This seems to go against Paul's wisdom to avoid unnecessary trouble (1 Corinthians 7:28).
It may sound paradoxical, but people from both views of guidance can read this book with equal benefit. Both will receive insights that will harmonize with their understanding of guidance. Elliot holds the traditional view, but does not emphasize its weak points. Rather her focus is strongly on God's moral will and wisdom.