My brother and I grew up with the principles of Decision Making and the Will of God as a sort of theological background music for our lives. We heard our father give the talk about decision making enough times as youngsters that we could reprise the basic outline at will. And we enjoyed showing our friends where we were mentioned by name in “Daddy’s book” (as examples of the blessings of marriage).
Neither of us actually read Decision Making until we got to college and found ourselves surrounded by thoughtful young Christians, on our own for the first time, and faced with myriad important decisions that would shape the rest of our lives. What major should I choose? What career should I pursue? Should I get married, and if so, to whom, and when? Although Mike and I were not necessarily any more certain than our peers about the answers to such weighty questions, we noticed that we were often significantly less anxious about them, because the theological paradigm we had picked up as if by osmosis liberated us from the fear of missing God’s individual will for our lives. And so we found ourselves, time and again, in the cafeteria, the coffeeshop, the dorm lounge, explaining the basic critique of the idea that God has a secret, individual will for the life of each believer that it’s our job to figure out, and describing the freedom and responsibility that we each have to make wise choices about our lives. As we learned how to answer our friends’ thoughtful challenges and intrigued questions, we gained a clearer understanding and renewed appreciation for the approach to decision making that was virtually second nature to us.
As I came to follow in the footsteps of my “Uncle Garry” and entered graduate school in Bible and theology, Decision Making and the Will of God undergirded my confidence in both the process and the particular conclusion of my vocational decision. With prayer for wisdom and the guidance of wise counselors, I had found a line of work that seemed a good match for my gifts, temperament, and passions, and was grateful that God soveriengly provided opportunities to pursue it. Moreover, I believed that this work need not be an impractical, ivory tower pursuit, but could make a positive difference in people’s lives. This was not simply a theoretical conviction for me, but something of which I had first-hand evidence. Over the years, as I on occasion had outlined the major theses of Decision Making for my friends, one of the most common responses I encountered was delighted recognition. While my friends did not necessarily recognize the names of the authors (especially the one in small print), more often than not at least one of them remembered reading the book and attested that it had given them freedom and confidence to more faithfully live out their Christian lives. Decision Making and the Will of God has thus been for me the foremost example of theology not as an abstract exercise, but as a tool for equipping God’s people to apply their faith to every aspect of their lives.
At the beginning of my career as a theologian, I am grateful for this model of a kind of theological writing that glorifies God and serves the church. It is a theology that is thoroughly rooted in the Word of God-ambitious in its scope, endeavoring to do justice to the whole counsel of Scripture, and responsible in its approach, eschewing simple proof-texts for careful exegesis. It is also a theology driven by the practices and problems of Christian living. It is not detached from the real-life concerns of the faithful, but is motivated by the intensely practical question of how one is to be faithful to God in the practice of decision making. These are the central reasons, I believe, that this book in the first edition has been so helpful to so many. It is my hope that this edition will provide encouragement, insight, and liberation for another generation of believers.
Rachel E. Maxson