(On Jan. 2 we began a series on “God’s Will Hunting,” consisting of emails traded back and forth between E. Stephen Burnett and Isaac M. That included last week’s column Part 3: The subjects of Scripture, and this shows the entire series so far. We continue with part 4 …)
Good point with the Dan-Brown glasses. Someone once asked my brother if it was God’s will for him to be in the military. Now, think about it for a second. What will does he mean? Is this God’s moral will for him he’s speaking of? Probably not. He clearly knows its not in scripture for him to receive a command to clearly join the military. Sexual purity, yes, but not questions on whether to join the military. While he could use the Bible to gain wisdom on that decision, it won’t give him a clear answer.
Is the man then asking about God’s sovereign will? If so, then one would have to say that he’ll only know if he joins or not. But then, it was also God’s sovereign will for Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery, but we wouldn’t want them to answer “Yes” if we asked them whether it was God’s will for them to betray their brother.
You asked as to whether people make judgments on God’s word based on their perception of the audience of the Bible. Well, I’m not sure. In many ways, I do view it as an instruction manual (though that is an insufficient definition that excludes the most important aspects). Yet, people perhaps don’t want that. What I find most often, is people do not use the principles in the Bible to make sound decisions themselves. Often, we wish to get a clear answer about God instead of making a decision for ourselves, taking the responsibility.
Again, look at Solomon. He asked for wisdom so that he could make good decisions. When the two women came before him with the baby, he didn’t pray about a decision. James 1 tells us to ask for wisdom, and we are told God “gives generously”.
This leads me to my next point after talking about Solomon, and that’s examples. We rarely look to the scriptures for precedents in how we ask for God’s will.
Look at Paul. We often speak of open and closed doors. In 1 Corinthians he speaks of a door being opened with many adversaries, and he went through. But in 2 Corinthians he mentions a door “opened for me in the Lord,” but what does he do? He leaves it and goes somewhere else. But that throws a wrench in the paradigm of open/closed doors. Clearly God opens doors in our lives, but just because he opens them, it does not mean we have to take them.
Now before I go further, I want to say something. I believe God can definitely speak to us today in 21st century America. He can do it. I actually hold that he does. Now, God could deliver emails or send letters down in a space ship if he wanted to. Logically, there’s no reason why he couldn’t. But if you’re skeptical, it should probably be because you’re looking for scriptural precedent.
Here’s what I find in scripture: God’s speaking is always miraculous. It is most often unlooked for. It often goes against common sense. And finally, and this is big: It is always clear. No one in scripture misunderstood God’s direct word to them. They may have disobeyed, but they always heard it. And yet we can get seminars on how to listen clearly to God’s will. Nowhere in scripture does God speak through inward nudges. Nowhere does he speak through “checks on my spirit”.
And finally, I’ll end with this. You know, when I was younger, people asked me why I didn’t date. I said I didn’t want to. Nothing spiritual about it. No command from God. I just didn’t want to. Now, I wasn’t thinking as clearly about this as am now. I was still at the point where I was trying to divine God’s will. But we must be very cautious about attaching God’s sacred name to a decision of ours.
Greg Koukl pointed out that Christians often get offended when people exclaim “Oh God!”. We say “How dare you take his name in vain!” And then we get a “Word from the Lord” and tell someone whom they should or should not marry. Who’s committing the most serious sin in taking the Lord’s name in vain? Ours does much more damage.
Coming next week: God’s Will Hunting, part 5: Clarifying “two wills.”