As much as I appreciate Henry Blackaby’s deep faith and love for God (I think I heard him speak one year at a conference in my teens), I was probably one of 2 Southern Baptists more confused than helped by his Bible study Experiencing God. It’s hard to critique the book for a couple reasons-a) like half of people in my denomination (much less my own church) have done some sort of study through the book, so any critique of the material may step on a genuine good experience they had while going through it. b) Even the people who didn’t get that much from it at least felt like it was important (I was sort of here). c) I got half price tuition to an SBC seminary, probably funded greatly by sales of Experiencing God in the last 10 years and also sales of books by the women’s Bible study Pope. So I wouldn’t want to seem ungrateful.
But Blackaby’s book makes the will of God seem uber-mysterious, to be frank. I got tired of trying to read the tea leaves, and my amount of Abraham-like directional theophanies was pretty low. (Abraham was Blackaby’s paradigm for discovering God’s will, if I’m remembering rightly.) I had decisions to make about life, and quite honestly, didn’t have access to the altar at Beer-sheba to follow in Dishonest Abe’s footsteps. Not only that, but one of his principles- “Discover where God is working and join him there.” didn’t really square with the kind of risk-taking for God that I found in many of my heroes: William Carey, David Brainerd, Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (I can see it now in Bonhoeffer’s mind–“God is moving in the Nazi prison camp, so I guess that will now motivate me to resist them so I can get thrown there…”)
Along the way, I discovered some better principles for doing God’s will and making decisions. (I haven’t always applied them, but that’s a different story.) I read through every Bible verse dealing with God’s will (including the context) and didn’t really find this nebulous tapping-into-the-Force kind of thing happening in Scripture that seemed so prominent in the Christian circles I knew. Plus, there was the problem of sin. If we miss God’s will today, won’t that put us on plan B for the rest of our lives? But I know a little about myself, and 1 sin seems to be quite the understatement. By now, 26 years into life, I’m probably not on plan B or C, but plan VJCKEH. So I’ll never have the life God wants me to have. At least not any of the top 20,000 options He made. And that’s just gross sins; we’re not even talking about non-moral decisions like school or majors, etc.
Which brings up the problem of infinite regress…how do I know what decisions are important enough to merit really needing to hear from God about? I mean, marriage, sure. People have to find the mythical “ONE” that God has for them (except for all those people whose spouses die or run off and then they remarry. Apparently they have a mythical “TWO” out there.) But to marry, you have to date the right people. and to date the right people, you have to know the right people. and to know the right people, you have to meet the right people. So today when you go to Taco Bell this afternoon, should you go at 12:30 or 1:30? Because if the person God wants you to marry is only going to be there at 12:30, and since you don’t know that, you better “use the Force, Luke” and figure out the right time. (If your spouse is even at Taco Bell at all, and not at Jimmy Johns.) I’m mean–who wants Spouse Option #239???… So now every decision, including what clothes to put on is a matter of cosmic destiny and you better have exact answers or you’ll screw up God’s plan. Can’t imagine why I was disturbed a little by books like Blackaby’s.
So I was going to review a different book. I guess we’ll get to that tomorrow. Let’s just say that while I was studying and thinking and living and coming up with my own paradigm for thinking through these things…other people were too. So we’ll see if “Just Do Something” by Kevin DeYoung is the type of book that will help people think clearly about decision-making or another wild goose chase.