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Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion? Paperback – January 30, 2002
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J. I. PACKER
“Bruce Waltke shows that God guides his servants not by dubious techniques of divination but by the discipline of purehearted decision-making. Waltke’s quiet, honest, Bible-soaked wisdom will be a godsend to puzzled people in this much-misunderstood area of Christian concern. This book is a beam of true light and a breath of fresh air.”
WALTER C. KAISER JR.
“What a rare combination — good biblical interpretation and judicious common sense, blended in the right mixture — all in one book. Waltke’s style is provocative, thoughtful, refreshing, and richly illustrated from living applications of the principles he advocates.”
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spoiledmilks [.] wordpress [.] com/2013/08/20/review-of-bruce-waltkes-finding-the-will-of-god-a-pagan-notion/
Waltke asks if we can we ever know God's will? He examines many practices that some Christians pass off as divine guidance: following hunches, casting lots, looking for signs, dreams, audible words from the Lord, etc. He doesn't completely discount these things. God could certainly speak to us in a dream, audibly, or by the flip of a coin if He wanted to, but this is not always the case. In fact, it is not usually the case. Waltke points out that the `wisdom' in James 1:5 isn't speaking about a `special revelation' on a certain decision, but wisdom is a way of life: purity, peacefulness, and gentleness (James 3:13-17).
Waltke spends chapters 2-3 talking about the ways pagans sought, through divinations, the will of the gods, and how God's will was (rightfully) sought in the OT. In chapter 4 he says that we don't need to do those things anymore. I won't talk about them much so as to not give too much more away, but he elaborates on God's program of guidance: Reading your Bible, prayer, developing a heart of God, seeking wise counsel, looking for God's providence (sometimes circumstances do/don't go in a certain way), if the situation makes sense, and divine intervention.
Totally. Waltke talks about the wrong ways to look for God's will and the correct, "common sense" ways to do it. The point isn't just to come to God when you're in a tough spot, get the answer, and then go on with life. It's to have an ongoing relationship with God. Life will always be filled with tough decisions, gray areas, and seemingly impossible paths. What do you do? Well, following Waltke's advice won't clear all of life's difficulties, but as you are conformed to Christ the more likely you are to know and make the right choices.
My only wish is that Waltke says after Pentecost in Acts 2, no one ever sought the Lord's will. I would have liked for Waltke to have elaborated more on different times in Acts when Paul (and Barnabas) sought the Lord. But the reason is probably that Paul probably didn't have to because he and Barnabas didn't try to "divine" the will of the Lord. They simply walked with the Lord, fasted, prayed, and used some common sense here and there.
Only by walking with Him will we have the heart of God and know what pleases Him.
The Book is simply divided up into two parts. Part one is the shorter of the two parts and consists of chapters on: 1) Is Finding God's Will a Biblical Idea? 2) How Pagans Divine the Will of God; and 3) God's Will in the Old Testament. In summary Waltke does an excellent job of demonstrating that much of what passes for "finding" God's will is sheer laziness and what the Bible condemns as the practice of divination. Waltke writes, "When we seek to `find' God's will, we are attempting to discover hidden knowledge by supernatural activity. If we are going to find his will on one specific choice, we will have to penetrate the divine mind to get his decision. `Finding' in this sense is really a form of divination."
Dr. Waltke gives a compelling case for Christians thinking in terms that are more Biblical - instead of trying to find God's specific will - "Far too many Christians rely on faulty logic to divine the will of God. Their thinking goes like this: `God has a plan, and therefore He intends that I find it.' That is a non sequitur, a conclusion that cannot logically follow the premise. Simply because God has a plan does not mean that He necessarily has any intention of sharing it with you; as a matter of fact the message of Job is in part that the Lord in His sovereignty may allow terrible things to happen to you, and you may never know why."
Rather humorously (yet on a serious note related to how faith is manifested in a variety of ways for all believers) he continues, "Instructively, the outcomes of faith for the first three heroes of faith celebrated in Hebrews 11 vary considerably. Abel believed God, and he died; Enoch believed God, and he did not die; Noah believed God, and everybody else died! The only thing they all had in common is that they believed God and it pleased Him."
Practically, Waltke states, "So when I wonder about what job offer to take, I don't go through a divination process to discover the hidden message of God. Instead I examine how God has called me to live my life, what my motives are, what he has given me a heart for, where I am in my walk with Christ, and what God is saying to me through His Word and His people."
He carefully evaluates many of the instances of Divine guidance recorded in the Old Testament and then shows what does, and does not carry over into the New Covenant. Which brings us to part two.
In part two Dr. Waltke breaks down how God guides us first through His Word, then through heartfelt desires, followed by the wise counsel of others, through our circumstances, and ultimately why we must rely on sound judgment based on all these previous factors.
Dr. Waltke says there are five primary factors to consider when seeking to be obedient and guided by the Holy Spirit in our decision making process:
1) Make your decision in light of Scripture (our decision should be affirmed by and never contradict the teaching of the Bible - e.g. - Acts 15; Acts 13:46-47; Malachi 2:16 cf. with Matthew 5:32 & 1 Corinthians 7 with Galatians 2:14).
2) Make your decision in light of your giftedness (In other words seek to operate in areas of your God-given strengths - e.g. - Acts 6:2-3; Rom. 12:3).
3) Make your decision according to your ability ("Know who you are. Evaluate your abilities and talents. Don't try to be what you're not, because if you do you will live in a constant state of anxiety" - e.g. - Moses in Deuteronomy 34:10-12).
4) Make your decision according to your circumstances (e.g. - Paul in Acts 16 & 1 Cor. 16:5-9 - he based his decisions on sound judgment in light of the circumstances he was in).
5) Make your decision according to an Overall Strategy (e.g. - Paul in 2 Cor. 1:15-18, 23-24; 2:1).
The essence of Waltke's thesis is summarized close to the end of the book where he writes, "He [God] never calls us in the New Testament to `seek His will,' but rather to seek His kingdom and do His will. We ought to stamp out of our vocabulary the nonbiblical and misleading expression `finding God's will.' Rather than talk about `seeking the will of God,' we ought to speak of following the guidance of God. This is not just semantically different, since He is calling us to draw close to Himself and to live holy lives. God's will for us is that we be holy; there is no mystery to His will. As for questions about changing jobs, getting married, going to school, and the like, finding answers will require growing close to God [author's emphasis in italics]."
Overall, I highly recommend this book for its theological and biblical foundations, it's dismantling of the notion of divining God's secretive will for us, it's emphasis on closeness and intimacy with God as a key to His guidance, and for the excellent illustrations, practical applications, and how Dr. Waltke shares how God guides biblical characters and modern followers of Christ today throughout the book.