Monday, May 10, 2004

On the Will of God; the aftermath...

Well I taught the Decision Making and the Will of God class on Sunday and it went very well. The demographics of the class include a lot of mature Christians. I predicted / hoped that this fact would work in my favor since they would be more likely to correlate what I had to say, while I was saying it, with the Word. This seemed to be the case as most of the questions that did arise were questions regarding clarification (vs. questions that attempted to counter my argument). I began by taking them on a thought experiment I first heard from Ken Samples at Reasons to Believe. Essentially, we took a look at the consequences of the idea that nature is all there is. If, as a strict naturalist would posit, we arose from the primordial soup and all the workings of our bodies are simply the result of a purposeless process that did not have us in mind, then even our minds would be the result of that process. I don't have time to go into the thought experiment here, but the conclusion is that if our minds are the product of random events, then we have no reason to trust what our minds are telling us. C. S. Lewis summed it up with,
Materialism gave us a theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid.
With that I briefly described the typical process that Evangelicals use in making decisions, i.e., assuming that God has some individual plan for our lives and that in order to make our decisions we must first uncover, somehow, God's plan. At this point I explained that the premise of the session was that the Bible does not teach that we get personalized guidance in the form of "being led by the Spirit," "having a peace about it," confirmations, open and closed doors, or the laying out of fleece. There were a few gasps at this but I had asked them to be patient and hear me out before they responded with comments or questions. I then took them to the proof-text for "being led by the Spirit," Romans 8:14. Before we jumped into that though I explained to them how literature has meaning and that meaning comes from the "Top - Down," that is, to best understand what a sentence means, we should learn as much about the paragraph, chapter, book, and big idea that encompasses the sentence. We should also learn about the intentions the author had in writing the text. On this little tangent I took them through J. Budziszewski's book series, What We Can't Not Know, Written on the Heart, and The Revenge of Conscience. I chose a proof-text from What We Can't Not Know that read, "Eat your neighbor and covet his mate," explaining that Budziszewski was contrasting the idea that our moral code was revealed from God vs. what it could have been if it simply arose from natural, random acts (hence my using the opening thought experiment). From there we took a look not only at Romans 8:14 but the entire section that it is contained in. I showed them that the text is speaking not of decision making but of righteous living. As the class was barely one hour long I had to rush through the material. I was able to leave them with scriptural references with which they could look up on their own to research to argument I was proposing. Not wanting to leave them hanging, though, I did briefly explain the model that the Bible does teach with regards to decision making - the Wisdom Model. I explained to them that the first aspect to understand about the wisdom model is that God has two wills - His Sovreign Will and His Moral Will. The former is essentially hidden, while the latter is completely revealed (in the Word). In applying the wisdom model we first look to God's moral will to see what He would have us do. In the example of marriage, we can see from God's Word that a Christian should marry: another Christian, of the opposite sex, who is biblically free to marry. These are basic guidelines that God has provided us with. Next in the process would be to apply wisdom to the situation. Wisdom is an essential part of biblical teaching. Personal desires and factors must also enter the equation. With that done the decision is then left... to us. God has granted us the responsibility to make decisions in our life but will not leave us stranded without guidance and wisdom - if we but ask. Finally, I made sure that they understood that encompassing the entire spectrum of the wisdom model is the fact that, as Christians, we understand that God's Sovreign Will rules supreme. No matter what choices we make, nor what circumstances occur in our lives, we rest in the knowledge that things are working out in accordance with His Plan. After the class I was warmly thanked, by many of the class attendees, for the presentation I had given them. I truly believe that they will take the material and apply it to their lives in a manner that will strengthen their Christian maturity.

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