Guidance: What the Bible Says About Knowing God's Will
Author: Oliver R. Barclay
This 60-page on guidance is amazing. When I was writing my dissertation on God's will, this was the only book that clearly articulated the Wisdom view of guidance. But I could not find anyone who had read it. It came out in 1956 and went through four revisions before being published in America.
Barclay recognizes that God can intervene to guide in a supernatural fashion as he sometimes did in the Bible. However, there is only one kind of guidance that is "actually promised in the Bible (13)." "Clearly New Testament Christians expected to be guided by 'wisdom,' by a sound judgment based on a truly Christian sense of values (13)."
Again he summarizes, "We must use our ordinary faculties to weigh up a situation and to reach a decision; but our whole outlook on life must be Christian and not at all 'common' before we start work (22)." Barclay realizes we are not omniscient, but trusts that God will give us wisdom (James 1:5). God can overrule any judgment through His sovereign control if He so desires (24). "The normal guidance in the New Testament seems to have been a matter of clear decisions based on evidence (for example, Acts 6:2-5; 11:28, 29; 15:14-22; 16:3; 20:3, 16; 1 Cor. 16:8, 9) (26)."
Inward feelings can be an important input for our decision, but Barclay argues that God never promised to lead through them, "but only by wisdom, judgment and advice based upon knowledge of and obedience to the Scriptures (37)." Circumstances guide when they "render a desirable course of action impossible or morally wrong or else when they opened unexpected opportunities for doing good (43-44)." They are not "a sign in the Gideon's sense (45)," but only facilitate an option which wisdom will rightly select.
Why did this booklet not cause the stir that Decision Making did when it was clearly presenting the same ideas? First, because it was not a sustained argument, but individual short essays on guidance topics that did not force the reader to critique their own view.
Second, the book never questions the idea of an individual will of God. The author simply ignores it. The reader may like his arguments without leaving the very foundation of the traditional view. So they may be more open to wisdom, but not see wisdom as determinative. The reader may conclude that wisdom is only one of the many signs pointing to the individual will that they have been seeking. Finally, Barclay does not include in his argument the verses which show God giving freedom where God gives no command. He assumes this kind of freedom, but never proves it to the reader.
If you can find this booklet, I recommend it highly. The next time I get some stiff criticism I'll try to forward on some of the mail to this excellent writer.