(This is the third installment in a series on God’s will and its relationship to Christian decision-making. To read the first two articles click here and here.)
Last time, we looked at the two concepts of God’s will found in Scripture – His sovereign will and His moral will. God’s sovereign will is His secret, predetermined plan for everything that happens in creation. His moral will is His commands and principles fully revealed in the Bible that teach us how we ought to live and what we ought to believe. These are the only two concepts of God’s will found in Scripture.
Remember that the prevailing view is that for the life of every person, God has an ideal, best-case blueprint that the believer may actually miss if he doesn’t correctly discern it. It states that it is the responsibility of the individual to correctly discern God’s will in important decisions so as to be “in the center of God’s will” and not “miss God’s best.” In other words, God has an individual plan for me, but it is my responsibility to make sure that it happens.
This prevailing view is incompatible with what we have learned from Scripture regarding the sovereign and moral wills of God. What it refers to as “God’s will” does not fit the characteristics of either biblical concept of the will of God. For example, the Bible teaches that God’s sovereign will is secret (it cannot be discerned) and it cannot be thwarted. Yet the prevailing view holds that the believer must discern God’s will and if he doesn’t he could potentially miss God’s ideal best for him (thwart God’s plan). On the other hand, the Bible teaches that God’s moral will is fully revealed in Scripture. Yet, the prevailing view holds that Scripture is merely one of several tools necessary to discern the will of God. These other tools would include inner impressions, personal desires, signs, circumstances, human counsel, and common sense.
But the prevailing view’s incompatibility with the biblical concepts of God’s will are not its only problems. It has several other devastating flaws:
1) There is no biblical mandate to seek God’s will in non-moral decision-making. Every proof-text used to show otherwise is defeated by its own context. All biblical exhortations to “know the will of God,” when studied in context, clearly refer to His moral will, which is fully revealed in Scripture.
2) There is no instruction in Scripture on how to go about seeking “God’s will.” This is glaring. One would expect this to be a crucial subject to be covered in the New Testament if we were required to discern God’s will in non-moral decisions, but there is nothing there. Instead, we are taught over and over what to believe and what to obey. Rather, many texts presuppose freedom in non-moral decisions (Rom 14, 1Cor 8, 1 Cor 7, Gal 5:13).
3) The prevailing view undermines the sufficiency of Scripture. The prevailing view teaches that we need something outside of Scripture in order to be “in God’s will.” This leads to the untenable position that the Bible is sufficient for everything but decision-making. In the end, the prevailing view draws people away from Scripture in search of extra-biblical revelation.
4) The prevailing view downplays the sovereignty of God and promotes the sovereignty of man. It portrays man as having the ability to thwart the will of God and places the lion’s share of the responsibility for accomplishing God’s plan on man’s shoulders. Clearly Scripture teaches that noone can thwart God’s will and He is the one who accomplishes His plan.
5) Practically speaking, it is impossible to live this way. All big decisions are the culmination of countless smaller decisions. If this is the case, there is no such thing as a decision too small to “seek God’s will.” Therefore, if you mess up any of these “smaller” decisions, you could prevent yourself from even being in a position to consider the “big” decisions. This would make it necessary to seek God’s will on even the smallest of non-moral decisions, such as what color socks you should wear and how much toothpaste you should use. Obviously, this is absurd and could not possibly be followed without life grinding to a halt as you wait for God to give you a word on issues like whether or not to stretch when you get out of bed.
6) The prevailing view leads to an inevitable, irreparable chain-reaction caused by “missing God’s will” in a single decision. For example, one man marrying “the wrong woman” could end up ruining the lives of everyone on earth. Imagine that it was “God’s will” for John to marry Sarah, but John misread the will of God and married Gertrude. John has not only missed God’s ideal plan for his life, but he has also caused Sarah to miss God’s ideal plan because she was supposed to be married to John. Now, if Sarah marries at all, she will inevitably marry “the wrong man” because the right man was John, but he married Gertrude. Likewise, John has ruined Gertrude’s chance at God’s best – it was “God’s will” for her to marry Bob. Like Sarah, if Bob marries at all, he will inevitably marry “the wrong woman” because “the right woman” was Gertrude, but she married John.
Try to concentrate. The only way at this point to prevent this mess from spinning out of control is for Bob to marry Sarah. Sure, they weren’t meant for each other, but at least the damage will be confined to these two couples; everyone else in the universe will at least have a chance to marry “the right person.”
Unfortunately, Bob is a Reds fan and for that reason, Sarah can’t stand him, so she marries Leopold instead, who of course was supposed to marry someone else. Now, the situation is irreparable. No matter who Bob marries, he’ll ruin her chance for “God’s best” and the chance of the person she was supposed to marry. This sets off a chain-reaction that reaches the farthest corners of the globe.
Now, consider the ramifications for God’s will concerning the children all these people were supposed to have. It was God’s will for John and Sarah’s DNA to combine to form three specific individuals. Those individuals now have no chance to ever exist. Instead, John and Gertrude will have children that God never intended, as will all the other couples whose lives have been destroyed by John’s inability to discern the will of God! One decision has led to countless wrong marriages and the birth of countless unintended people. And this example only takes into account one kind of decision – whom to marry! The chaos is compounded when all other decisions are taken into account.
The absurdity of this example demonstrates the absurdity of the prevailing view, for the example is but a logical outworking of it. The prevailing view seems to take God’s sovereign will and place man in charge of assuring its fulfillment. But if the accomplishment of God’s will rests on man’s ability to discern God’s plan and follow it perfectly, clearly we are all in serious trouble.
But as we have already noted, the Bible teaches that God’s sovereign will is secret, it cannot be thwarted, and He alone is the one who assures its fulfillment. What that means is that God does have a definite plan for everything that happens, but He does not need you and me to know what that plan is in order for Him to accomplish it.
So how do we go about making decisions biblically? We’ll see in the next article.