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Richard P. Hansen

Finding God's Will, or Hearing God's Voice?

Rejecting formulas to find guidance

Bruce Waltke is fed up. Christians "ought to stamp out of our vocabulary the nonbiblical and misleading expression 'finding God's will.'" God is not a divine sleight-of-hand artist with an elusive will that we must find like the proverbial pea in a heavenly shell game. God's will, after all, is clear! God wants us to be holy, to be mature, to be more like Jesus. God is all about forging our character and welcoming us into greater intimacy with him.

Who or what is to blame for this unwholesome fixation on God's will? In Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion?, Waltke blames disintegrating authority structures, lamenting the loss of guidance that family used to provide, but he especially fingers spiritual immaturity. Christians today, Waltke says,

are willing to try to follow a specific pattern of behavior their pastor draws out for them, but the abstract concept of "loving God" is harder to grasp. Consequently, they are leery of someone telling them to, in the words of Calvin, "love God and do what you please." They would prefer that someone tell them exactly what to do. That's why they resort to divination to seek God's will.

Conservative evangelical churches are often guilty as charged. As Waltke observes, far too many sermons promise "5 Steps to a Better _____ (you fill in the blank)," based on a view of the Bible as an AAA map to life—all road hazards clearly highlighted, of course—rather than as the essential book of stories we need to sustain us on the journey. In such a culture, perhaps it's natural that God morphs into a heavenly computer ready to spit out answers, but only with the correct passwords—in short, divination.

All techniques to "find" God's will—letting the Bible fall open to the first verse you see, laying out fleeces, analyzing signs and the like—Waltke labels as nothing more than pagan divination (hence his subtitle). An Old Testament scholar, he offers a thorough survey of divination techniques. (Did you know rhabdomancy means using arrows to get ...

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