Decision Making by the Book
Author: Haddon Robinson
Publisher: Grand Rapids: Discovery House, reprint edition, 1998
I was not surprised to find that I resonated with this book. After all, I had earlier asked this articulate speaker to write the Foreword to the first edition of Decision Making and the Will of God. In his own book Robinson argues for God's sovereign and moral wills and against the traditional view's individual will of God. His title shows the same emphasis on God's word as the key to decision making. Along the way he gives a slightly different emphasis, which is helpful. His decision-making principles are:
- Make decisions in submission to God's sovereign will.
- Make decisions in submission to God's moral will.
- Make love and concern for the good of others the motive.
- Focus on your strengths and gifts.
- Consider circumstances, but don't be mastered by them.
- We must base our decisions on wise counsel.
His first principle is equal to my fourth principle: When you have done what is moral and wise trust the sovereign God to work the details together for good.
His second and third principles correspond to my first principle: Where God commands, we obey; that is the moral will of God. It can be summarized by the command to love God and others. Emphasizing love is a helpful focus because anyone following the moral will of God and wisdom will profit from asking, "In this situation how can I best show others love?" That question is an embodiment of doing what is moral and wise.
His last three principles are included in my third principle: In the area of freedom, the believer must be wise. Wisdom builds on personal strengths/gifts, considers circumstances, and seeks wise counsel. Robinson contributes additional wisdom ideas: (1) Avoid making a decision in a mood; (2) separate facts from problems; (3) pursue your choice; (4) set a time limit on making the decision.
Robinson, thus, specifically states three of my four principles in his own way. The one he doesn't include is my second one on freedom: Where there is no command, God gives freedom (and responsibility) to choose. Nevertheless, this principle is expounded in chapter 3, "The Freedom to Decide." He uses similar Scriptural proofs for this concept and concludes, "If we make our decisions within the boundaries of God's sovereign and moral will, we have a great deal of freedom" (p. 53). It may have been prudent for Robinson to put less emphasis on freedom because it is hard to describe that freedom without someone saying, "Oh, you mean God doesn't care what we decide," or "Oh, you mean God doesn't really guide us."
Robinson echoes Bruce Waltke when he argues that inward impressions do not equal the voice of the Spirit. "When we lift our inner impressions to the level of divine revelation, we are flirting with divination" (p. 18). "Informed hunches may be helpful, but it is close to blasphemy to raise inner impressions to the level of God's special revelation" (p. 135).
His discussion of circumstances matches Decision Making precisely and offers fresh illustrations. In particular he draws on three scenes from Paul's life when he faced opposition: assassins in Damascus (Acts 9), Roman prison in Philippi (Acts 16), assassins in Greece (Acts 20:1-3). "Once he fled. Once he stayed. Once he avoided the problem" (p. 112). Robinson rightly concludes that circumstances should be considered to identify the parameters of a decision, but not viewed as a secret message from God. "You cannot know, or even confirm, God's will by trying to decipher circumstances" (p. 107).
This book is written in a speaking style with many excellent illustrations and general discussions of the key passages. I recommend the book, and I know my mother would have appreciated its shorter length.