How to Know the Will of God
Author: Knofel Staton
Publisher: Cincinnati: The Standard Publishing Co., 1976.
There is another edition with an outline and group discussion questions added to the same text.
The Preface immediately shows that this book is not the traditional view. "To demand that God tell us precisely each daily decision we should make may be to avoid the responsibility of deciding and acting out of the freedom of our love and faith (3)." He argues that "we have married Him to only one decision when He would have been comfortable with any one of many (3-4)."
Further, reading reveals that Staton clearly holds the wisdom view. It is surprising that his book did not cause more stir since it was published before Decision Making by nearly five years. The short length of the book may be part of the reason.
He questions methods associated with the traditional view and finds them lacking. These include "simultaneous experience" read as a sign from God (9), "circumstantial evidence" of reading providence (11), "traumatic experience" read as a sign (12), and putting out a fleece (13).
His concept of the area of freedom is pictured by an umbrella. God's revealed will (moral will) is called God's "universal will" (15). "The key to understanding God's universal will is simply to know His Word (18)." The umbrella figure argues for more than one option when it falls under the umbrella of God's universal will.
He summarizes by saying, "The freedom we have in Christ has boundaries. We could call it remaining under the umbrella of God's universal will. Under that umbrella, we are given many alternatives. God allows us flexibility with them as long as we do not violate His revealed will. Thus we can remain under the umbrella of His will, even though we may choose from several different alternatives (23)."
The remainder of this review will try to summarize how Staton argues for the wisdom view in nine ways listed below:
1. He argues for freedom by Galatians 5:1-2. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free" (23). He does not appeal to other verses in Scripture on freedom which would support his position better. Galatians is speaking of freedom from the Law.
2. He argues that Scripture does not present the "one and only" decision and "blueprint" of the traditional view. "God's will for our lives is not like a detailed road map ... It is instead like a compass (26).
3. He argues that multiple options are presented by Scripture under the universal will of God's umbrella. Psalm 37:4 is used to show God allows more than one desire to be acceptable to Him. Colossians says "whatever you do" (3:17).
4. He argues that God's nature will allow Him to give us freedom. "God is not so small that He can bless us in just one decision. Our God is much bigger than that (27)."
5. God designed our minds to be used for decision making. We are not robots taking commands. "God designed our minds; when we do not use them we are despising His design (28)."
6. Christ's example is not one of following the universal will of God as the reason why he helped sinners (Matt 9:10ff), let the disciples eat grain (Matt 12:1ff), told people to count the cost.
7. Paul's example showed the same freedom under the universal will of God. "He had the freedom to decide his traveling companions (Acts 15:38; 16:1). He changed travel plans (Romans 1:13; 2 Corinthians 1:15ff). He was free to appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:11). He voluntarily decided not to marry (1 Corinthians 7:8) (32)."
8. Scripture argues for the use of wisdom in decision making. Wisdom is not selfish. "This is why the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of wisdom (Ephesians 1:17-19) and why we are to seek that wisdom in making our specific situational decisions (James 1:5-8) (40)."
9. Scripture expects us to apply wisdom sources to our decisions. These include general principles from Scripture, our gifting, counsel from others, our feelings, our common sense, and trust (41).
Staton then demonstrates these principles in particular decisions including marriage, making purchases, vocation and education. He defends that we are free in these areas when we are obeying God's universal will. "In those areas of life god has not provided revelation, let us live as people of God willing to make our own decisions. God has graciously granted us ample equipment to use: His Word, His principles, His characteristics, charisma, His people, our own feelings, and our own common sense. Learning to discern takes some growing up, but let it be. We need more Christians who are mature (61)."
Staton argues consistently for the wisdom view and clearly separates itself from the traditional view. Many of his arguments for the position are the same or complementary with Decision Making. This book is out of print, but if you can find it, you will find another presentation of the way of wisdom.