Decision Making God's Way: A New Model for Knowing God's Will
Author: Gary T. Meadors
Publisher: Grand Rapids, MI, 2003
View: Wisdom View
The subtitle calls this book a "new model" for decision making. Meadors says, "This book treats the biblical passages and ideas that most books on God's will include; however, the model presented is unique" (9). I have high respect for this book and its conclusions, but I do not consider it "unique". I believe that three books in his bibliography hold a similar viewpoint: my Decision Making and the Will of God; Blaine Smith's Knowing God's Will and Bruce Waltke's Finding he Will of God: A Pagan Notion? In addition several other books in print hold a similar viewpoint. This is clearly the wisdom view. Although, its position is not unique, its manner of presentation is closer to being unique.
His thesis is clear. "Knowing God's will is not a process of receiving immediate information from God about life's issues but one of discerning life's issues on the basis of the revelation that God has already given to us. The Bible is the only accurate record of that revelation" (201).
Meadors has done a masterful job of pointing to Romans 12:1-2 as the key to decision making (chp 2). The mind renewed by God's revelation, Scripture, is the key to decisions that please God. He hammers this home forcefully. From a renewed mind comes biblical values. Values are of three types: biblical commands, community values and individual preferences (56-58). He assumes the idea of freedom under the individual preferences. In that sense, it would be better to call the third category freedom issues rather than "values" since they are not biblical values like his first two categories.
Meadors's special emphasis is the need to form a biblical world view which he defines as "the mental framework, or conceptual system, that gives meaning to all the components of our world and us" (51). This is a strength and a weakness. The strength is that every decision does not have a proof text that answers the question. An over-riding biblical mind set that has been transformed by the renewing work of Scripture is powerful when facing decisions. "The acquisition of a biblical worldview and values set transforms the way we think and make decisions in the face of life's challenges" (73).
The weakness is that it probably strikes most believers that only a seminary professor can make biblical decisions. Even the chart that summarizes the decision making process fills a page with details that can overwhelm the reader. When you apply this method you need to include: critical self-awareness, your role and obligations in God's kingdom, your human obligation (married, kids, single), personal desires, circumstantial providence, the counsel of informed people and friends, researched opinion about your current issue, the views/approval of the community to whom you answer, your theological tradition and understandings, etc. This list is included in one box of the chart of his model (p. 65).
This strength/weakness is seen when the process of developing a world view is explained. It starts with epistemology (chp. 1) and includes a primer on hermeneutics (distinguishing direct teaching, implied teaching and creative theological constructs, chp. 6). These details are needed because the key to his system is a developed biblical world view and its attendant values. The world view issue of necessity raises issues of knowing and interpretation.
Coming in the world view door is a complicated way of saying "Use wisdom in applying the Scripture to specific situations." His examples on how to apply the method raise more questions than it solves (chp. 11). One is left feeling, "Yes, he is able to do it, but I'm not sure I'll ever be that biblically and theologically astute."
I loved the message of this book. It is the wisdom view for theologically sophisticated believers. It is filled with insights on epistemology (chp 1), on the term "God's will," on debatable issues, on the role of conscience (chp 8), the role of the Spirit (chp 9), the concept of Spirit filling (178) and most profoundly how God's Word is God's will.
The book seems to have an assumption. If you do apply a proper world view and biblical values to a decision, you will always come to one conclusion. After thinking out loud about a decision he asks, "Does God have a will in all of this? I think so. It is a will that is found in the reflection and application of values that reflect godly living" (141). I think it would be better to say that you will come to wise and godly conclusions, but there may be more than one equally good option.
I think Meadors is saying that if you do end with two equal options you should go back and use the process in more detail. The result will narrow the choices to one. "There is no decision or issue in life that is not addressed by biblical values" (132). This may be the reason he does not emphasize the scriptural concept of freedom where two things can be equally acceptable to God. He rejects the idea of "finding" God' will (92) since it is not lost (Scripture), but sometimes uses the terminology ("God's will is found in godly discernment" p. 131). It is best to drop the "find" language and simply say, as he usually does, that your decision should be the application of God's will to our particular decision.
Meadors comes to the same conclusion as Decision Making about impressions, feelings, and thoughts that pop into the mind. They are part of the process of decision making, but they do not have authority. They are only valuable when Scripture shows them to be godly and wise. He uses the helpful description of the many voices that attack us as "ourselves talking with ourselves" (163) about the issues. We are not looking for the one right voice, but sifting through options and judging each one by Scripture.
Meadors discusses many specific passages related to decision making and I find myself in agreement with nearly all of his interpretations. He does not believe that the miraculous gifts or miraculous revelation is given today. This conclusion is neither necessary to the wisdom view, nor excluded by it.
The author concludes that "If you have understood the model presented in this book, you should feel overwhelmed with your responsibility to gain a greater understanding of the Scripture and how to extend the application of its teaching to the issues of life" (224). I resonate with Meadors's heart, but I'm afraid that readers may be just "overwhelmed." Yet the details that Meadors emphasizes in a world view are just the details of what it means to be biblically wise. I do not recommend this as the first book to read on the wisdom view. I do recommend it to everyone who understands of the wisdom view and would like some theological meat on the wisdom bones.