Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D. C., the successor to Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, founder of 9Marks Ministries, and speaker at bi-annual “Together for the Gospel” conferences, has written a great post on “The Bondage of Guidance,” in which he bursts the bubble of those who don’t realize that waiting for God’s “still, small voice” to direct all of your decision making, is really a form of mysticism which can undermine the sufficiency of Scripture. Many have heard this practice prescribed from pulpits for so long, that even those who confess faith inthe sufficiency of Scripture are among its chief proponents and practitioners.
Subjectivism reigns among modern American Christians. Otherwise orthodox believers who grew up being taught the memory verse, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105, KJV), even having grown up singing these words with Amy Grant, yea, and even the generations prior to ours, regularly turn from the objective divine guidance recorded for them in the Bible, praying for wisdom and acting on their “sanctified common sense,” and wait with Elijah to mystically hear God speak directly to them in the “still, small voice” to guide them in their daily decision-making process.
Nothing will do our systems better than to give them a good flushing out with some Bible-based objectivism. Read Dever’s post (linked above), and then go over to the blog of my buddy, Gage Browning’s church, Grace Community Presbyterian Church and read the helpful discussion of this same post in their post, “What To Do, What To Do . . . “
But first, here’s an excerpt from Dever’s sage counsel on seeking guidance from God’s will:
I do believe that God’s Spirit will sometimes lead us subjectively. So, for instance, I am choosing to spend my life here on Capitol Hill because my wife & I sensed in 1993 that that is what God wanted us to do. However, I realized then (and now) that I could be wrong about that supposition. Scripture is NEVER wrong.
There is also some interesting and relevant discussion about the general tendency of American Christianity toward gnostic-like mysticism in yesterday’s episode of the White Horse Inn to which I have linked in the sidebar. About twenty-one minutes into the program, host Michael Horton quotes the provocative words of a critic of American Christianity which we discount to our own discredit:
‘Whatever the stated doctrinal positions that stated American Evangelicalism shares with historic Christianity, Mormons and Southern Baptists call themselves Christians, but, like most Americans, they’re closer to ancient gnostics than to early Christians.
Dever is on spot. He’s great!
Post Tenebras Lux
Yes, he is! But I thought Andrew’s comment on your church’s blog was equally helpful. I should have quoted him in my post. He gives the “practical, relevant” how-to, if listening for the still, small voice misses the mark:
The reliable guidelines in this area are:
1) Don’t sin. It is clearly God’s will that we not sin.
2) You are free in Christ. (This is Dever’s point in the blog).
3) Pray for biblical wisdom, as taught by James, and seen in Proverbs, Psalms, and Job among others.
4) Move on in faith and with thankfulness, knowing that God works in all things for our good and His glory (see, for example Rom 8:27-29).
What is it that the Spirit of God is doing in us? He’s a “person” right? And He has a specifice task, doesn’t He? I don’t hear voices – inside my “heart” I mean. But He is doing something in there in my innermost being, isn’t He?
Yes, he’s really there, illuminating the Christ-centered objective revelation of redemption in Christ and the duties we are to perform in grateful response for his work, filling us and empowering us to perform them. And yes, there are occaissions when the Spirit may grant a subjective “sense” that one option is his will over against the other option. But the qualifications I would recommend on that fact are that subjective sense of “guidance” is usually the exception, rather than the rule, and one must keep in mind that one’s perception of such subjective “senses” could be misinterpreted.
The bottom line is that we can only have absolute confidence in the objective truth of Scripture and the fruit to be borne by our ordering our lives accordingly. Struggling to obey the commands, praying for wisdom, learning to love what he loves, and when it comes to decisions that are not riddled with moral implications which are explicitly covered in Scripture, enjoying the liberty to choose, trusting God’s providence that all that plays out is first of all according to his eternal purpose and for his glory and, then, one way or another, for our ultimate good.
I had a real hard time as a teen with indecisiveness about God’s will for my vocation. I lacked a real sense of “Yea, verily, thou shalt do thus and so. . . ” And when I finallly decided what I wanted to do, I seemed to be providentially hindered from doing it. We don’t all get, nor should we expect (I’m coming to learn) verifiable senses of guidance on major decisions. What I’ve come to learn is to ask, “What does God want me to do? What do I want to do?” If I”m striving to live for him in general, then I can trust that part of the Spirit’s subjective leadership on matters that are morally indifferent can often be discerned through my own gifts, abilities, interests and preferences.
Should I be a shoe salesman, or a construction worker? A math teacher, a pastor or a printer? Lacking some subjective sense as from the Spirit that I ought to do one or the other, what I’ll end up doing is what seems to be the best fit for me–or at least the one that is the most reasonably obtainable.
We shouldn’t sweat the small stuff and resort to mysticism to regularly discern things that Scripture doesn’t explicitly prescribe. Subjective senses may come and go, and be more or less accurately discerned, but Scripture is sufficient to inform us of all we need for life and godliness and the proper enjoyment of liberty on things indifferent.
Ummm..”yeop”…couldn’t say it any better.
Post Tenebras Lu