Book Review: Decision Making & the Will of God by Gary Friesen

How do you know what the will of God is? That is one of the most often asked questions in my years of pastoring. Most Christian people know God has a plan for their lives and because Scripture says God is perfect, they believe God has a perfect will for them. They assume that that perfect will is within the framework of moral living and within that framework there is a “dot” that prescribes what His perfect will it. Friesen describes that as the Traditional View and since I have been a holder of that view, I agree with him.

Friesen initially presents the Traditional view and how Christians “discover” and “confirm” God’s individual will. Certainly God has a sovereign will and a moral will. The sovereign will is known only to Him “that determines everything that happens in the universe.” We learn that will as God’s plan for history unfolds. The moral will is revealed in God’s “commands in the Bible that teach how men ought to believe and live.” We live the moral will of God as we obey Scripture. Yet the “individual will” is the question most seek, but also struggle with for personal decisions. How does a Christian determine that especially when it is a “perfect dot” will that God has designed for Christians? His comparisons and charts help explain that the traditionalist proves God’s perfect will through reason, experience, biblical example and biblical teaching. Of course, considering that, there “must” be a perfect individual will that we should seek.  Some will say, as Friesen explains, that the Bible, circumstances, inner witness, mature counsel, personal desires, common sense and specific guidance guide to that perfect “dot.” The question is, however, are these really objective measures that provide the Traditional View of determining God’s will? Or are several of them subjective, emotional or personal preference leanings?

In Part 2, Friesen evaluates the “dot” – God’s perfect individual will. He presents an argument that God had an individual will for many individuals in Scripture, however, not in the same way for believers today. Clearly, the “impressions” that people have, who purport to say that “God is telling them what to do” is very subjective and is merely an impression, personal interest or emotional response to life.

Instead of a “perfect dot” kind of approach to determining God’s will, Friesen presents the “way of wisdom.” This captures the moral will of God and provides freedom for the believer to choose what he wants to do.  Through understanding Scripture and following the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the believer can make wise choices in freedom about what he does and not live under the guilt of “missing” the perfect will of God.

Are there limitations on this freedom? Friesen explains five excellent principles to follow when Christians differ on decisions. First, learn to distinguish between matters of command and matters of freedom (Rom. 14:14,20). Secondly, on debatable issues, cultivate your own convictions (Rom. 14:5). Thirdly, allow your brother the freedom to determine his own convictions – even when he differs from yours (Rom. 14:1-12). Fourthly, let your liberty be limited, when necessary, by love (Rom. 14:13-15:2). And fifthly, follow Christ as the model and motivator of servanthood (Rom. 15:3-13). His section on “Pharisee” brothers fits very well to those who hold the Traditional View, as I have done.

While this book was written over 30 years ago, it is relevant to seeking how to honor the Lord in the freedom He provides. It is a fresh way to dump the guilt from “not choosing” the perfect “dot” regarding God’s perfect will.

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