The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

May 30, 2020

Some words of praise for Wayne Grudem's new book on God's will (a mini-review)

"Finding God's will" is a phrase that automatically evokes a reaction in many people, often fear or negativity. Furthermore, many in broader evangelicalism have (in my humble-but-opinionated opinion) bought in to the decidedly un-biblical view that God generally does not specifically direct people in such things as vocation, marriage, etc. (though to be fair, that view is, itself, reacting against another unhealthy view).

Enter Wayne Grudem's new book, What the Bible Says about How to Know God's Will (Crossway, 2020; Amazon link here). Grudem is a professor at Phoenix Seminary, widely-published in the realm of theology, though also with a rather decent commentary on 1 Peter in the Tyndale series (for the record, I defend Grudem's underappreciated position on what kata prognosin in 1Pet 1:2 modifies in my monograph Foreknowledge and Social Identity in 1 Peter; please forgive that slight rabbit-trail).

Grudem's book is rather short but accomplishes its goal of providing a solid overview on the variegated nature of decision-making (at one point he focuses on the "four dimensions of every action") and the acquisition of Wisdom for decision-making (he has a section on "Nine Sources of Information and Guidance"). Grudem also discusses "The Danger of Making This Process Too Complicated," a point neglected in many books! 

However, it is Grudem's appendix that I want to focus on, an excellent (though polite) response to Garry Friesen's influential book Decision Making and the Will of God. Friesen has downplayed "specific" divine guidance when it comes to the Christian's life (i.e., that we are to seek out God's specific will for us, personally, in specific areas). I had always been uncomfortable with this perspective since it seems to downplay the incredible amount of biblical texts, both Old and New, which stress direct, personal leading by God regarding individual Christians. Grudem stresses this point (the over-abundance of such biblical texts), but takes it one step further with a brilliant theological observation I had never thought of before. He writes,

"From beginning to end the Bible tells us of a God who relates individually and personally to his people. And now Friesen tells us, contrary to the experience of God's people throughout all of the Bible, that God no longer communicates personally and individually with any of his people except through the written words in the canon of Scripture. . . . This is quite strange in light of the fact that the new covenant in which we now live is seen to be better in every way (see 2 Corinthians 3; Hebrews 8-9)" [Kindle Loc approx. 702]

If I may expand on that: what's the big deal of having the indwelling Holy Spirit if we actually get less personal guidance from God than believers in the rest of the Bible?

Now, Friesen and others were reacting, in their day, to a very real issue: an over-emphasis on subjective experience in seeking God's will, along with the danger of being paralyzed with doubt and fear as to whether one has "guessed" right about God's will. However, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Grudem provides an excellent guide to (1.) understanding that God does guide each believer individually, if they ask, through a variety of ways, (2.) without leaving the believer in a morass of doubt and fear.

Grudem could have said a lot more on prayer in the role of seeking God's will. However, that and the fact that the book is slightly over-priced for its size (though $10 is hardly unreasonable) are my only critiques. This is an excellent book that I would recommend to any Christian, especially young college students.

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