In the Introduction to the first edition of Decision Making, I made this observation: “Solomon’s lament that ‘the writing of many books is endless’ (Ecclesiastes 12:12) seems especially applicable to volumes on the subject of knowing God’s will.” If I had entertained any fantasy that my “definitive statement” on the topic of guidance would serve as the last word… well, let’s just say that Solomon’s reputation for astute observation remains intact. I don’t know how many books on knowing God’s will have been published since 1980, but I know that choosing fifteen of them to review is only a representative effort.
The continuing stream of books on God’s guidance testifies to two things, at least. One is the importance of the subject and the hunger that people have to understand how God intends for them to live. The other is that no human commentator is going to provide the final word on the subject. There is plenty of room for fresh insight as capable writers grapple with the Scriptures and the challenges of daily living. One of the things that struck me as I read each of these books is how much I learned from other authors on a subject in which I have some expertise even when (sometimes especially when) I disagree with them.
My intention in writing these reviews is constructive examination of biblical truth. The key word in that sentence is “constructive.” I have had some experience at being on the receiving end of criticism that was less than charitable. When Decision Making was first published, it was immediately dubbed as “controversial.” In some quarters, that was putting it mildly. While the book was assigned as a required text in Christian institutions from high school through seminary, it was actually banned on other campuses! Seminars were conducted and articles were written to refute this “alternative to the traditional view.” I received emotional letters from folks who were intent on setting me straight. One disgruntled soul expressed his frustration with this Parthian shot: “Everything you know is wrong!”
Of course, not all criticism that I received was inflammatory. Some of it really was constructive and correct! I think that this edition of Decision Making is better than the first one. And that is due, in no small measure, to the insights of those who pointed out weaknesses in the original presentation. So it is appropriate for me to begin by expressing my gratitude to the writers of these books, among others, for the things they have taught me about decision making and the will of God. And I commend them for having the courage to put their convictions in print.
Constructive critique is an exercise in applying the principles from the last two chapters of this book. I assume that all of the authors engaged here are “stronger brothers” and that the discussion of points of disagreement is a legitimate exercise. I think that those who expound the traditional view of guidance are wrong at certain points, and I will point those out. I believe that identifying those points will help all of us to think more clearly and critically about the subject at hand. And I expect that my brothers and sisters agree with me about that.
I am assuming that you have already read Decision Making and the Will of God, so I will content myself with pointing out the places where our viewpoints diverge and limiting my “corrective” comments to brief summary statements. My hope is that my commentaries on these fine books will help you to become more discerning when reading about God’s will and decision making.
And to those authors whose books are not included in these reviews, I didn’t mean to slight you. I couldn’t keep up with everything worthwhile that has been written about guidance. I would have included more, but my editor drew the line. And you know how editors can be…
The reviews that follow have been categorized according to my analysis of the authors’ governing views. They appear in this sequence:
- Traditional View:
- Traditional View with Wisdom Leanings:
- Synthesis of Traditional and Wisdom Views:
- Wisdom View in Traditional Vocabulary:
- Wisdom View:
- Non-evangelical or Miscellaneous: